Shock news: mammals adapt to changing climate

From Brown University it seems we need a new variation on the popular bumper sticker:

Over 65 million years North American mammal evolution has tracked with climate change

Rise and fall of groups of fauna driven by temperature

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — History often seems to happen in waves – fashion and musical tastes turn over every decade and empires give way to new ones over centuries. A similar pattern characterizes the last 65 million years of natural history in North America, where a novel quantitative analysis has identified six distinct, consecutive waves of mammal species diversity, or “evolutionary faunas.” What force of history determined the destiny of these groupings? The numbers say it was typically climate change.

“Although we’ve always known in a general way that mammals respond to climatic change over time, there has been controversy as to whether this can be demonstrated in a quantitative fashion,” said Brown University evolutionary biology Professor Christine Janis. “We show that the rise and fall of these faunas is indeed correlated with climatic change – the rise or fall of global paleotemperatures – and also influenced by other more local perturbations such as immigration events.”

Specifically, of the six waves of species diversity that Janis and her Spanish collaborators describe online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, four show statistically significant correlations with major changes in temperature. The two transitions that show a weaker but still apparent correlation with the pattern correspond to periods when mammals from other continents happened to invade in large numbers, said Janis, who is the paper’s senior and second author.

Previous studies of the potential connection between climate change and mammal species evolution have counted total species diversity in the fossil record over similar time periods. But in this analysis, led by postdoctoral scholar Borja Figueirido, the scientists asked whether there were any patterns within the species diversity that might be significant. They were guided by a similar methodology pioneered in a study of “evolutionary faunas” in marine invertebrates by Janis’ late husband Jack Sepkoski, who was a paleontologist at the University of Chicago.

What the authors found is six distinct and consecutive groupings of mammal species that shared a common rise, peak and decline in their numbers. For example, the “Paleocene fauna” had largely given way to the “early-middle Eocene fauna” by about 50 million years ago. Moreover, the authors found that these transfers of dominance correlated with temperature shifts, as reflected in data on past levels of atmospheric oxygen (determined from the isotopes in the fossilized remains of deep sea microorganisms).

By the numbers, the research showed correlations between species diversity and temperature change, but qualitatively, it also provided a narrative of how the traits of typical species within each wave made sense given the changes in vegetation that followed changes in climate. For example, after a warming episode about 20 million years in the early Miocene epoch, the dominant vegetation transitioned from woodland to a savannah-like grassland. It is no surprise, therefore, that many of the herbivores that comprised the accompanying “Miocene fauna” had high-crowned teeth that allowed them to eat the foods from those savannah sources.

To the extent that the study helps clarify scientists’ understanding of evolution amid climate changes, it does not do so to the extent that they can make specific predictions about the future, Janis said. But it seems all the clearer that climate change has repeatedly had meaningful effect over millions of years.

“Such perturbations, related to anthropogenic climatic change, are currently challenging the fauna of the world today, emphasizing the importance of the fossil record for our understanding of how past events affected the history of faunal diversification and extinction, and hence how future climactic changes may continue to influence life on earth,” the authors wrote in the paper.

###

In addition to Janis and Figueirido at Brown, the other authors are Juan Perez-Claros and Paul Palmqvist at the University of Malaga and Miguel De Renzi at the University of Valencia in Spain. Figueirido is also affiliated with Malaga.

Grants from the Fulbright program, the Bushnell Foundation (to Brown) and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation funded the research.

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57 thoughts on “Shock news: mammals adapt to changing climate

  1. This study clearly shows the effects of the GEICO Cavemen driving around in their SUV’s for the past 65 million years, causing unprecedented change.

  2. Isn’t it just as possible that by eating the vegetation, the animals over the past 65 million years changed the vegetation, which changed the climate?
    Don’t grazing animals create much of the grasslands they use a food, by helping prevent the regrowth of forests? Doesn’t overgrazing lead to the creation of deserts?
    Why do the authors assume a cause and effect relationship between life and climate, without first establishing which is the cause and which is the effect? Wasn’t this the mistake that climate science made with temperature and CO2 by studying ice cores? They assumed CO2 was the cause, only to discover later that temperature was the cause. By then the faulty science had been published.

  3. Ferd,
    Nothing wrong with publishing faulty science – it’s part of the method. What’s wrong is not expecting someone to try to falsify your work and attempting to “hide the decline” to put it in a nut shell.
    MIke

  4. What a crock. “Previous studies of the potential connection between climate change and mammal species evolution have counted total species diversity in the fossil record over similar time periods.” There is absolutely no way to use the fossil record to compare the diversity at a species level to the present level of diversity with any type of confidence to make their next great leap in assumption about climate changes.
    This narrative that the fossil record can be used in context with present day specie definitions has been kicking around for a while- first to support the marketing of the alarm that we are entering the next great extinction event and now climate change. Someone needs to put a stake in this nonsense.
    And the temperatures encountered by the terrestrial habitat was defined by the oxygen isotopes of deep sea creatures- C’mon.
    This seems to be more about how can paleontology get on the CO2 grant gravy train. Paleontology is such a great science and the intellectual battles over the interpretation of the fossil record have been fun to follow. Please allow me to have one part of the natural sciences that can be enjoyed without being a proxy war for the climate wars.

  5. Here is the most important lesson from Darwin- Evolution may be able to describe the past but it can’t predict the future.

  6. Speaking of adaptive migration, the Seattle Times carried this story on its front page: “Rare influx of Arctic snowy owls wintering here.” Apparently, this unusual influx of snowy owls is occurring across our northern states. The reporter did not mention global warming as a potential cause of the migration.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017100661_snowies27m.html
    My take is that either Hansen is correct and there is a huge 4C to 8C warming anomaly, or it is so cold in the Arctic that the owls are beginning to migrate south to safety. See: http://www.real-science.com/jimmy-works-arctic-magic and
    http://www.real-science.com/arctic-ice-extent-set-year-record
    Who is correct or are there other explanations?

  7. I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe that complex organisms possess the instructions in their DNA to modify their metabolic systems to deal with acute variations in weather and climate for both individuals and their offspring. Is that evolution? I don’t think so. I say creatures can adapt and individuals survive or die based on their ability to adapt but to assume that a short term thermal event has some magical ability to mutate DNA to the better of a species is utter nonsense and is, as of yet, unsubstantiated even in the Journal of Evolutionary MicroBiology.
    Know this.
    Human females already possess ALL of the eggs (therefore nucleii, ergo DNA) of their offspring when they are 3 months a fetus within the womb of their mothers…..seriously. A grandmother, when pregnant for her daughter, has within her womb a fetus which has already all the eggs of her grand children. Think about it. How do the eggs inside the 96.8 F fetus, inside the womb at 96.8 know how to mutate in accordance with 0.05 C change in global temp?
    Silly scientists!
    DNA is wondrously complex and nearly not understood at all.

  8. Pat, I disagree evolution can predict the future and from what I’m seeing it is going one way fast, downhill

  9. Gor blinking blimey, who’d ever have guessed? You could ‘ave knocked me down wiv a fevver when I ‘eard this amazing noos.
    Life – eh? Funny thing, life………. You’d almost imagine that after a billion or so years of evolution it might be getting quite good at it by now…..
    Ain’t it wonderful wot the scientists can find out nowadays.
    /sarc…to be read in the dialect ‘Cockney a la van Dyke’

  10. Evolution requires evolution of molecules.
    Please give me an example of this scenario:
    Molecule A expresses result Alpha
    Molecule A changes to Molecule B
    Molecule B expresses result Alpha AND Beta, where Beta is non inhibiting to Alpha.
    This is a present and real challenge to the scientific community for it is the basis of mutation and species improvement. No examples yet exist.
    Natural selection exists, it can be reproduced in the lab.
    Mutation exists, it can be reproduced in the lab.
    Adaptation of an existing species is well documented.
    Common descent is unsubstantiated theory.
    Evolution as distinct from the four mechanisms above is unproven. I don’t know what people mean when they say evolution. Do they actually mean natural selection or adaptation? Ok… look at the range of pet dogs, we know selection works but that is a narrowing of the gene pool….Do they mean life came from nothing… there is no evidence for that. Cripes!! Dawkins thinks that life was seeded here by aliens!!
    When we agree on what evolution is, science will have made a step forward.
    If on means

  11. Good thing too. Why if those brown bears had not turned into polar bears, we wouldn’t have any polar bears to whine about.

  12. “Joe says:
    December 27, 2011 at 10:14 am
    Adapt, Migrate or Die.
    This is high school biology.”
    Yes Joe, but’s let not forget that what passes for a ‘prof” these days can barely be equated to a high school diploma of yore,especially in the soft degrees!

  13. When one species can’t handle conditions in one location, it dies out and a more adaptable species takes over. That is evolution in a nutshell.
    Therefore: We need to stop messing with evolution by “protecting” species that are trying to make room for better adapters. Delete the absurd Endangered Species Act and all its anti-scientific relatives. At the same time, stop worrying so much about “invasive species”. They are simply the other side of natural adaptation.
    We certainly need to regulate hunting and fishing, because those are the ACTUAL causes of unnecessary extinction. But the habitat-oriented “protections” are strictly counterproductive.

  14. “Barny we better take that Brontosuarus steak off the BBQ, the smoke will pollute and kill everything”. ” Her her her! err sure fing Fred”.
    Yep Bedrock has alot to answer for LOL
    @Latimer Alder: That was terrible, how dare you conjure up images of stripped jackets and straw boaters. 🙂

  15. polistra,
    “one species can’t handle conditions in one location, it dies out”
    That is an example of a reduction in the information content in the gene pool… that is natural selection. Not evolution……If we presume that evolution is a increase in the information in the genome of a species.

  16. paddylol says:
    December 27, 2011 at 11:06 am
    “Speaking of adaptive migration, the Seattle Times carried this story on its front page: “Rare influx of Arctic snowy owls wintering here.” Apparently, this unusual influx of snowy owls is occurring across our northern states. The reporter did not mention global warming as a potential cause of the migration.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017100661_snowies27m.html
    I have seen this story splashed on the media with hints of AGW.
    Problem is, it is entirely bogus. Snowy owls winter EVERY YEAR in the south Vancouver (BC) area immediately north of where this ‘surprising’ influx is happening, and I would bet that they also occur on the US side there every winter too. The only thing unusual is the number this year and these peaks happen with regularity too.
    So this ‘news’ simply plays on the public’s ignorance of what normally happens.

  17. Stark Dickflüssig says:
    “Nope, sorry. 1970-2011 isn’t long enough for evolution to take place. And everyone knows that the universe was created in 1970.”
    While I think I agree with the intent of your post– there is actually have some really good evidence among the polyploids like salmon that we can see evolutionary changes in a matter of decades. Having more than two paired sets of chromosomes helps as does some other factors beyond this post. But not the type of change that could be seen or understood in the fossil record.

  18. I don’t know if I want to laugh or to cry when reading this paper.
    Didn’t these scientists note that there was ‘a 20 million year warming episode’ … warming!!!
    And the planet hasn’t cooked to death, no tipping points, nothing, just went on turning.
    As for ‘providing a narrative’ – goodness gracious me. Is that another example of post-modern ‘science’, where facts only matter if there are narratives, and other assorted ‘humanising’ curlicues attached to it?

  19. Talking of climate change and adaptation –

    “Effects of rising temperatures and [CO2] on the physiology of tropical forest trees”
    We also find little direct evidence that tropical forests should not be able to respond to increases in [CO2] and argue that the magnitude and pattern of increases in forest dynamics across Amazonia observed over the last few decades are consistent with a [CO2]-induced stimulation of tree growth.
    Royal Society, May 2008
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/363/1498/1811.short

    Based on models ;>)
    Why is it that almost everything said about global warming climate change is good for bad things and bad for good things? As Lord Monckton puts it.

  20. The brilliant Willis Eschenbach wrote a fantastic piece last year on extinction entitled “Where Are The Corpses?” I’m sure it’s available in the WUWT archives or you can download a PDF version from SPPI here: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/where_are_the_corpses.pdf
    This should be required reading for every college kid. I agree that the loathsome Endangered Species Act should be repealed or severely limited. It is little more than a political weapon for the environmentalist left. There are many examples of abuse of the ESA by the “greenshirts” at the EPA. The big problem with the ESA is that it is so open-ended and all too often the regulations are based on specious and nonsensical “science.” We all know the story of the useless Delta smelt and how water for the incredibly productive San Joaquin valley was shut off to “protect” this fish. There is the case of the farmer who was denied use of many acres of his land because an “endangered” rodent had taken up residence on his land. After a couple years the government-funded biologists returned and found the rodent had relocated. Apparently their food source had disappeared. The EPA “allowed” the farmer to resume use of his own land – but with no recompense. We also have the case of some beetle that lives on the sandy bluffs in Maryland. Homeowners were denied the right to reinforce these bluffs (their own property) because it could destroy the eco-system of these “endangered” bugs. As a result millions of dollars of human habitat could be lost to erosion. Perhaps my favorite example is the “sub-species” of a common lizard that has adapted to live in the sandy environment in the Permian basin in SW TX and SE NM. These critters look exactly like the lizards that climb up my stucco and window screens. I bet they would even interbreed if kept together in a terrarium. But the EPA is thinking of using this sub-species to halt oil and building development in this huge area (larger than most NE states).
    Where do we draw the line with the ESA? An owl destroyed the Pacific logging industry. Turns out the numbers of spotted owls continue to decline; not due to habitat loss but rather from competition from another species of owl. Lizards, tiny fish, insects and rodents – where does it stop? How about bacteria and viruses? Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I like most dogs better than I like most people, but I’m still pretty fond of people – certainly more so than I am of owls, lizards, rats, insects and tiny, useless fish. What good is it being at the top of the food chain when snot-nosed “environmental studies” grad students and nameless, faceless bureaucrats can deprive us of the use of private property, food and energy production to “protect” species that are so insignificant as to be unknown to most of us? It is interesting to note that many more previously unknown species have been discovered in the last decade than the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century. If a species cannot adapt and co-exist with humans it probably SHOULD become extinct.

  21. Dr. Dave says:
    December 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    Well. The eco-crisis industry fully accepts the theory of evolution except for the extinction part.
    P.S. That Spotted Owl story is much, much more bogus than you correctly hinted at, and ALWAYS was. Now it is getting very complicated as they plan to shoot that other owl species you mentioned to ‘save’ the Spotted Owl. And that species, the Barred Owl, is essentially the eastern version of the Spotted Owl, which has spread first west then SOUTH in an AGW defying pattern that the gang would rather not talk about.
    The Spotted Owl, wolf and grizzly bear are the most lied about species in the West, and, coincidentally, the most important poster children for the eco-crisis industry.

  22. It isn’t ‘evolution’ IF the organism already evolved to adapt to the change. Genes are the historical milestones we passed along the path of our survival. If we ever need tails we do not need to evolve to have them because we already have the genes for them.
    Given how these eco-frauds are driving civilization backwards – well you just never know, we may need them again…

  23. Al Gored says:
    December 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm
    “The Spotted Owl, wolf and grizzly bear are the most lied about species in the West, and, coincidentally, the most important poster children for the eco-crisis industry.”
    ==================================================================
    Interesting that they are all predators, huh? The Spotted Owl story could fill a book. Much like the CFC scam the endangered finding was based on “lies and made up facts”. The old growth forest habitat protection effectively wiped out a huge segment of the logging industry and that’s what I found absolutely amazing. The reintroduction of the Grey Wolf has been problematic in a lot of areas. Ranchers are simply expected not to shoot wolves and allow them to prey on their stock. How “back to natural” is that? I don’t think domestic cattle are the wolf’s “natural prey.” We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. Last July the EPA decided “more study was needed”, but this little lizard could quite possibly shut down a LOT of oil production. Seeing as they have survived alongside mankind’s petroleum production and cattle ranching in the Permian basin for the last 90 years I’m guessing they’re probably not about to go extinct due to habitat loss. Another little invention of the “environmental studies” biologist crowd is the concept of “local extinction”. So I suppose that means because I had magpies in my back yard the 10 years I lived here and I haven’t seen any the last few years they must have become “locally extinct.”

  24. Dr Dave;
    “Turns out the numbers of spotted owls continue to decline; not due to habitat loss but rather from competition from another species of owl.” Not even. The Barred Owl is actually a different, albeit more aggressive and adaptable, variety of the same species. They can and do interbreed.
    As for the wolves, I’m all for them. The elk (and any grazers) strip forage, including tree shoots near streams resulting in the collapse of fish populations, down to the ground if left to breed unmolested. They need to be skittish and culled. The ranchers are compensated for the miniscule losses they incur; don’t worry about them.

  25. Note the necessary kowtow to prevailing wisdom and funding criteria in the article:
    “Such perturbations, related to anthropogenic climatic change, are currently challenging the fauna of the world today…”
    Blech.

  26. Paul Westhaver says:
    December 27, 2011 at 11:47 am
    That is an example of a reduction in the information content in the gene pool… that is natural selection. Not evolution……If we presume that evolution is a increase in the information in the genome of a species.
    ================================================================
    Neither natural selection nor evolution implies anything about the increase or decrease in the total information in the genome of a species. It only advises about the results of CHANGES in the information which could and does include an increase, decrease or even the SAME amount of info.
    For example, a SNP (Single-nucleotide polymorphism) is enough to potentially change one species into another and reflects absolutely no change in total informational content.
    ——————————————
    In general, evolutionary changes can take as little as 25 generations as demonstrated for insects. The elapsed length of time this represents depends on generation time, eg less than one year in some tropical insects or roughly 500 years for humans.

  27. Paul Westhaver
    “Common descent is unsubstantiated theory”
    ??????????
    ALERT TO ALL!!! This response is anti-evolutionary screed. A chance to sneak it into a climate blog.
    First – understand what THEORY IS and ask yourself how such a thing which is nothing more than the verbalized substantiation of FACTS and then figure out how THAT can be unsubstantiated.
    Second. Where have you been living?

  28. Pat Moffitt
    December 27, 2011 at 10:44 am
    What a crock. “Previous studies of the potential connection between climate change and mammal species evolution have counted total species diversity in the fossil record over similar time periods.” There is absolutely no way to use the fossil record to compare the diversity at a species level to the present level of diversity with any type of confidence to make their next great leap in assumption about climate changes.
    ###
    I am pretty sure that this line is just the obligatory nod to the agenda. It seems every press release needs one.
    Relating the criteria for defining species in the paleo record, with that used for extent organisms, is ridiculous. I am reminded by the old joke, “Its a species of teeth”.
    The rest of the research appears to be on more solid ground. I will need to read the actual paper to be sure. But I think most students of evolution understand that environmental change is the number one driver of specification. Most of what is claimed is nothing new, even the five phases.

  29. Which came first, climate change or the evolution of certain mammals? With the exception of extreme natural events, it may be that the evolution of certain species led to climate change. In the relatively recent past, for example, man’s evolution, that of becoming a better hunter, led to extinctions of large mammals that subsequently led to changes in the environment that may have subsequently led to climate change.

  30. Such perturbations, related to anthropogenic climatic change, are currently challenging the fauna of the world today
    Right. They note several episodes of climate change over millions of years, yet this time the change just has to be anthropogenic. Sheesh. Pull the other one.

  31. Dr. Dave says:
    December 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm
    Not so much that they are predators per se but their role as ‘apex predators’ or ‘ecological indicators’ theoretically means that if they are there the whole ecosystem is AOK.
    Thus all three species are used as an excuse for other land management agendas. That is most clearly typified by the recently reintroduced wolf in the West. Predictably that population exploded and then spread far and wide, recently reaching California. As soon as one wandering wolf gets to a new area, the usual suspects are screaming that it is now ‘critical habitat,’ with all that goes with that.
    They also keep moving the goal posts. When wolves were first reintroduced the target was 10 packs or about 300 total. Last time I checked they were insisting that about 3000 were necessary. And they kept winning court cases based on junk science by getting the ‘right’ judges, until recently.
    Same but more localized story for grizzly bears and spooted owls.
    Brian H says:
    December 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm
    Barred Owls are Spotted Owls are closely related but not the same species and I doubt very much if they would or could interbreed in the wild for many reasons. Now that their ranges overlap that is more possible but I still have not heard of that nor would i expect that. if you have a link to substantiate your claim that would be very much appreciated.
    But, based on your simplistic and shallow comments on wolves and elk, I’m expecting that that was just something you heard about but some dubious source.

  32. Pat Moffitt
    December 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm
    There is an interesting question here – What if anything does species diversity tell us?
    ###
    A diversity of species is an indication of extensive specialization as organisms evolve to fill smaller and smaller niches. It is a indicator of the final phase of the specification cycle preceding an extinction event. Notice that the time before all major extinction events are characterized by extensive specialization. Any significant environmental change (which is bound to happen) will cause the specialists to expire, while the generalist thrive and diversify. Its worth noting, that most of the extent organisms are the survivors of some pretty major environmental changes called the ice ages.

  33. Pat Moffitt says:
    December 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm
    There is an interesting question here – What if anything does species diversity tell us?
    =============================================
    If you go with the normal assumptions, species diversity reflects the diversity of the micro/macro habitats present, the micro/macro habitat stability over time, and their productivity.

  34. BioBob says:
    “If you go with the normal assumptions, species diversity reflects the diversity of the micro/macro habitats present, the micro/macro habitat stability over time, and their productivity.”
    I would agree- stability over time is the first thing that came to my mind. What is interesting however is there are more species in No America now than there were 300 years ago– so any modern reference at least for No America cannot be used to compare to diversity in the past. The mechanism by which diversity is achieved has been changed (importation, invasive what ever we want to call them) and so has its meaning making present comparisons to the past problematic.
    There is also the productivity issue- depending on the metric -diversity does not always correlate with productivity. I have come to feel in the modern parlance species diversity is nothing more than a values judgement.

  35. Tom G,
    Adaptation is a laboratory demonstrable fact.
    Selection (natural or artificially induced) is a laboratory demonstrable fact. (It is a reduction in the gene pool not an increase)
    Mutation happens all the time, it is a fact.
    Common descent is one of those concepts that alludes to a single spark of like and how it became the vast diversity we see on earth today. There is just no evidence for it.
    Even Richard Dawkins says nobody knows how life started. Without that knowledge, it is impossible to be conclusive about the concept of common descent. If you know, please tells us. Before tossing insults, consult what I said and my references. They are mainstream.
    I have a fish fossil in my china cabinet that they say is 250 million years old. It looks a lot like a fish I’d see today. This represents a challenge to common descent since it would seem that fish, our cousins, haven’t changed much in 250 million years yet humanity came from a small vole to what we are today. I am not discounting it… but I say it is in the realm of theory since we can’t provided evidence or reproduce it in a lab.
    As far as evolution goes…. I am not quite certain as to what anyone means when they utter it.
    Do they mean adaptation, or selection or mutation or common descent of a mishmash of imprecise unscientific blather and hand waving. I am quite happy with evolution of thinking and technological development and the like but as far and what happens in a petri dish I prefer more explicit terms.

  36. BioBob,
    I would categorize any CHANGE as a variation in information content +/_ (Second law of thermo). Also, the mitochondria DNA that we all share seems to have come from a single female at a homosapien “bottleneck” when the species was very nearly wiped out. The vast diversity in hominids was nearly completely lost. Now we have only one kind of M=DNA… all from “EVE”
    again mainstream stuff..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

  37. It’s not only mammals.
    Only twelve thousand years ago, all of western Washington was covered with a mile or more of ice. Georgia Strait, Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and everything else was covered with ice.
    Obviously, there were no salmon, an anadromous species. There was no spawning in appropriate locations in streams on the mainland, and there was, um, no man-made pollution. Still, the salmon survived, elsewhere.
    As the glaciers melted, lakes formed, that, as they drained, formed much of the landform in the Puget lowlands. When the plug of ice in the Strait of Juan de Fuca melted, first at the bottom, as I understand it, the rush of water carved the valleys and even minor variations in the landscape we see now. The topsoil was nearly completely scoured away. Many present streams and rivers flow in relict glacier meltwater channels.
    Only after this occurred were the salmon able to gain access to rivers in western Washington and Southern British Columbia.
    I have faith in the ability of the salmon to adapt to changing conditions.

  38. Desert Yote,
    I read a great book call Grammatical Man by Jeremy Campbell. I did so before the human genome was decoded and prior to the now defunct claim that 98% of our DNA is junk.
    The book suggested a neat thought I seem to recall.
    The notion was that the information to enable adaptation may itself be encoded in our DNA, ie the rules for change and the means by which they occur, may be a manifestation of a deeper structure (plan) within the DNA. Our DNA may not be simply a biochemical template, but also a recursive algorithm and a database.
    There seems to be evidence for this in the way that the bird flu virus mutates in a fairly regular and predictable way returning periodically to preexisting forms.

  39. Paul W
    I had my say. It needs no reiteration and you won’t sucker me into an evolution debate with someone who has an agenda. Your points are scattered and should be taken to a blog which deals with evolution vs anti-evolution.

  40. Tom,
    The trouble here is that you rightfully are concerned that should science be so thoroughly discredited because of the abuse of the scientific method in defense of AGW that a complete dismantling of science including but not excluded to the Theory of Evolution may be at risk.
    That is you contribution. OK we get it.
    Unfortunately it is not I who advances the AGW fake science and/or its connection with adaptation. That was done by the author.
    How the mighty are falling….

  41. RE: Paul Westhaver says:
    December 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm
    The shark is the most perfectly evolved fish. That’s why it hasn’t had to change. Meanwhile the misfit fish was driven to the mudflats, and evolved legs to escape the sharks.
    The fittest may survive, but they don’t evolve. It is the misfits that change, because they absolutely have to.
    In other words, sharks are still sharks because they are so fit. However we humans are the fish that didn’t fit in. Survival of the misfits!
    This theory makes me feel a lot better about myself.

  42. “… some really good evidence among the polyploids like salmon that we can see evolutionary changes in a matter of decades.”
    Intriguing comment, Pat. Diploid rainbow, brown and steelhead, and triploid rainbow I know a bit about, having worked with them a while back. It was my understanding then and now that polyploidy implicitly confered infertile status throughout the range of salmonids, notwithstanding eg. Salmo salar. Enquiring minds need to know … 😎

  43. Paul Westhaver
    December 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm
    ###
    That the ability to “evolve” is an evolutionary trait is something I have felt to be true for a long time. One of the areas that I have studied the most, carnivore evolution, tends to lend credence to this notion. Its interesting to note that the same basic forms have appeared and disappeared many times.
    But I also think that the ultimate adaptation is towards generalists who are able to modify their behaviors to meet the challenges of a changing environment. My favorite example of this is C. latrans. Static environments encourage specialization which produces a lot of diversity. But when the environment changes, and it always does, it will be the generalist that survive.

  44. Pat Moffitt says:
    December 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm
    I would agree- stability over time is the first thing that came to my mind. What is interesting however is there are more species in No America now than there were 300 years ag
    ============================
    it would truly be a very good trick if you could prove more species in N. Am 300 years ago considering that nobody knows exactly which species actually WERE here then or how many they totaled up to. LOL. We still do NOT know how many total species are here NOW for that matter, let alone prior to western civ’s impact. Species come and go and for the most part we barely notice.
    Total productivity of a habitat may have little to do with species diversity.
    ———————————————–
    ————————————————
    Paul Westhaver says:
    December 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm
    I would categorize any CHANGE as a variation in information content +/_ (Second law of thermo). Also, the mitochondria DNA that we all share seems to have come from a single female at a homosapien “bottleneck” when the species was very nearly wiped out. The vast diversity in hominids was nearly completely lost. Now we have only one kind of M=DNA… all from “EVE”
    =====================
    Sorry Paul, but you insist “reduction in the information content in the gene pool… is natural selection.” and “evolution is a increase in the information in the genome of a species”. Both of these statements are simply incorrect without any kind of qualification. Simply WRONG ! Just learn from your errors and move along. Natural selection acts on the individual. Evolution is simply the aggregate result of natural selection. Both are concepts are indifferent to measures of increase or decrease of the species-genome itself.
    I fail to see what the thermodynamics has to do with the “gene pool” and also fail to see what the junk-science-theories of Homo sapiens evolution has to do with the evolution of hominids in general.

  45. Caleb,
    I liked your comment to me. I am puzzled by the operators that cause a creature to change in time. If there is an agent at work causing periodic mutations for instance, then there is nothing to cease them from doing so now… or in the shark… that is if you view change as a consequence of mutation and not selection. If it is selection, then that process is governed by the 2nd Law of thermodynamics.
    If the agent existed, then it exists, and ought to be observable, just as the cycle of the moon and planets Why would it cease for a shark, or a coelacanth.or a horseshoe crab….
    Cheers

  46. Al Gore(d);
    http://flyfishyellowstone.blogspot.com/2007/03/wolves-trout.html

    From the 1890s through the 1920s, in an effort to increase the elk herds and “protect the wildlife,” the park service went about the business of eradicating the wolf from Yellowstone. The last wolf pack was killed off in 1926.
    For half a century things were fine. The elk herds, lacking the wolf packs that historically preyed upon them, rapidly expanded. When winter arrived, knowing they had nothing to fear, the herds elected to browse the readily obtainable young cottonwoods and willows that lined the trout streams and rivers of the park. Ecologists began to note that there were always plenty of sapling cottonwoods and any number of mature, 70-year-old trees, but nothing in between.
    Then the trout started disappearing. Lacking the intermediate-sized trees and heavy underbrush that had been consumed due to the elk’s overgrazing, the exposed banks of the rivers were now washing away in the spring freshets and the summer thunderstorms. Those streams, once crystal clear, were now silted over and murky. The trout, being sight feeders, either starved or swam off in search of cleaner water. The fly-fishermen of the Lamar, Yellowstone and Firehole rivers were also disappearing, much to the frustration of the local outfitters and hotels.
    In an effort to reduce the overgrazing, the National Park Service, amidst a storm of local controversy, decided to capture 14 wolves from the wilds of British Columbia and reintroduce them into Yellowstone in 1995. Eventually three separate wolf packs were established within the park. With the wolves keenly aware of the elks’ tendency to browse along the riverbanks during the deep snow-packed months of winter, the wolves were inadvertently standing guard over the young cottonwoods and willows. Once the wolf packs began to thin the elk in these river valleys, the juvenile cottonwoods soon returned, the trout streams cleared, and there you have it: wolves = trout.

    http://www.owlpages.com/image.php?image=sequence-Unusual+Owls-Hybrids-1
    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/260150/killing-owls-save-owls-lou-dolinar

    in arguing against terminating the barred owl with extreme prejudice, some biologists say that the two species are closely related, since they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Some suspect they diverged from a common ancestor during the last Ice Age, when populations were split into East Coast and West Coast versions, with the West Coast branch (typically) becoming more laid back. Rather than the extinction of a species, it may be that all we’re seeing is a post-glacial restoration of the natural order of things.

    STFUKMRAFOAD

  47. Paul Westhaver
    December 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm
    I have a fish fossil in my china cabinet that they say is 250 million years old. It looks a lot like a fish I’d see today. This represents a challenge to common descent since it would seem that fish, our cousins, haven’t changed much in 250 million years yet humanity came from a small vole to what we are today. I am not discounting it… but I say it is in the realm of theory since we can’t provided evidence or reproduce it in a lab.
    ###
    Not to be too pendantic, but that 250 million year old fish is nothing close to a modern fish. The fact that it looks like one to you has more to do with your perception. Just because they have fins and a tail does not mean they are related. Even the extent sharks that everyone thinks have been around for millions of years are of a recent origin. The fact that they resemble ancient sharks super-fish-ally has more to do with how they make a living then anything else. Its one hell of a successful design. Probably the most ancient living fish, are of the genus Polypterus. The genus goes back to the cretaceous (which is pretty amazing if you think about it). Other ancient fishes include the paddle fishes and the sturgeons.
    BTW, what is that 250 million year old fish fossil you have?

  48. Stark Dickflüssig [December 27, 2011 at 11:14 am] says:
    “Nope, sorry. 1970-2011 isn’t long enough for evolution to take place. And everyone knows that the universe was created in 1970.”

    Thanks to the pop-scientists at NSIDC we now know that creation occurred in 1979.

    Justthinkin [December 27, 2011 at 11:41 am] says:
    ” … Joe, but’s let not forget that what passes for a ‘prof” these days can barely be equated to a high school diploma of yore,especially in the soft degrees!”

    Nail.Meet.Head. I believe this is the root of our problems.

  49. This study really eases my mind. I currently own a farm that has been in my family for a very long time. I would hope, one day, that my descendents will own and care for the land and then their descendents would do the same and so on…. I’ve always been worried though because the land is in Michigan and the entirety of this State was, during the last ice age, covered by glaciers a mile thick and eventually it will be again. I’m glad to find out that it is likely that my descendents will probably evolve the ability to outrun glaciers.

  50. Brian H says:
    December 27, 2011 at 11:45 pm
    What you pasted re Yellowstone has accurate elements but is the simplistic and historically false and revisionist story that the wolf and wilderness advocates spin. Here’s some starting points on the real story:
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/4002370
    http://www.gardnerfiles.com/Yellowstones%20Natural%20Regulations%20Policy%2021-a.pdf
    http://www.mendeley.com/research/role-native-americans-structuring-western-ecosystems-13/
    For more, google ‘Charles E. Kay.’
    Barred Owls. I said, “I doubt very much if they would or could interbreed in the wild for many reasons. Now that their ranges overlap that is more possible but I still have not heard of that nor would i expect that.”
    So thanks for that link. I am surprised that there is a documented case of hybridization, made possible by their recent range overlap. Given the differences in their calls and habitat I didn’t think that was likely. And I agree with the sentiments expressed in that piece you pasted.
    Finally, I am not sure what “STFUKMRAFOAD” means exactly but I’m guessing it isn’t sweet.

  51. Climate change changes what evolutionary change would have happened without climate change. Nuff said.

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