Waterfoul – Part 2: How it spreads

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-2-how-disease-spreads

waterfoul.jpg

The clarity of mind she felt when seeing the ducks on the news was unlike anything she had felt before. At least, that’s what her suicide note claimed. It was only local news. Just regional, nothing spectacular. But she understood. All her predictions were laid out on her tea-stained notebook, albeit with little useful help in guidance towards, say, a cure or preventative measures. She probably didn’t have a clue.

Her work log described foreboding results with what she considered was an abject failure; chimps ripping out each other’s intestines, mice de-worming each other… to put it mildly. But she claims in her writing that the genes involved with tuberculosis resistance in humans was the crux of her study, and insists humans would be safe from the effects.

Those studying her work corroborated the idea in principle, saying even chimps, a mere 2% difference genetically, lack our resistance to this particular bacterial disease, though chimps have greater malarial resistance to compensate.

‘If true, if all of it is true, we may be looking at little more than a pond infection. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen pond jellyfish clog up machinery, seaweed drowning hundreds of individuals. Let’s not jump to alarming conclusions’ Dr Jack Zhang said, seemingly to nobody.

The rest of the forensics team were idly watching the news looking for more up-to-date info:

The duck the old, gay men first observed disappeared, as if running away from a crime. Shortly after, the bird that should have drowned worked its way feebly towards the men’s general direction. When it managed to get up on land, within inches of the bench they sat, it simply shook its feathers and waddled away like it couldn’t even see them.

The men, however, were quickly distracted by the reeds beyond the far side of the pond. A swan, neck all contorted, emerged with an aggressive stance, feathers all ruffled. It made room for a water runway and set off into the air, one leg dropping from the sky, bouncing off a child’s pram.

The news continued. The family of the child didn’t even notice the decapitated leg nearby until the baby was firmly strapped in, crying. Presumably because it saw the leg.

The parents saw a duck with half its face missing approach them, and they quickly decided to leave. The husband was ready to release a hefty football kick of course, but considered it could have an infectious disease, and left with his family, a good distance between him and the bird.

‘All we need, is to find a one-legged swan. They typically go to the same brooding grounds, so we simply call the animal control officer, get a team assembled and stamp this fire out before it spreads.’ Dr Zhang, louder this time, head blocking the TV.

Confidence oozed from him. This is easily containable. If it even needs containing in the first place. Just a precaution. Then again, it ain’t tuberculosis, whatever it is.



1

The two men left their interviews, furious that the journalist started questioning their sexuality ON LIVE TV, as if that had anything whatsoever to do with a… zombie duck crisis. What is WRONG with people?? they both thought, more or less in verbatim.

It was time anyway, they had a flight to catch. In all their years together, they had never actually taken a proper holiday. Sure, they did a fantastic road trip from Arizona to Maine, and England was good too but it felt more business than anything. India, however. India was a whole new world. India would be a place to die happy.



2

‘You should really change her nappy before we leave, we don’t want a repeat of last time’ Lisa demanded

‘Me? I did it last time, I thought we agreed to alternate all disgusting chor… besides, she won’t let me do anything without going all mental at me ever since she saw that…leg’

‘Ok Lewis, ok fine. But if we aren’t willing to give things up and just do each other a favour sometimes, instead sticking to these bureaucratic counselling bullcrap rules, Japan is going to be another regret in our memories. Ok let’s just chill. It IS my turn.

But you better drive fast, ok?’

‘Works for me’



3

Dr Zhang was discussing the most likely locations based on the swan’s tag with the control officer when one of his hired goons came up the hill, swan’s wing in hand.

‘Yes! He can’t be far, unless he can fly with his beak.’

The hunt was on. Within minutes, they found a hobbling swan, twisted neck over a trash can, gobbling away at some sausage meat. The officer and his team made quick work catching it – but made sure to keep it alive, as per Doctor’s orders, and they headed back to base.



4

Night was waking. The crescent moon nowhere to be seen. Stars had their chance to finally impress. A shadowed figure approached the park bridge. She, or he, looked busy. Looking for something. Their nose was active, like a rabbit. Dressed in home-made rags, the barefooted individual directed their gait to a meaty smell towards a trash can.

The homeless soul took whatever scraps they could and stuffed them in pockets, took a few bites of this and that, and hobbled off more jovially than before, into the night.



Hope you enjoyed this first of hopefully an ongoing story!

Evolution can be WEIRD – Here are some preposterous examples.

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/science/@mobbs/evolution-can-be-weird-here-are-some-preposterous-examples

Previously, I showed some strange aspects of evolution, including convergence and ‘stupid design’. But sometimes, what looks pretty stupid actually serves a pretty niche purpose that has allowed the animal to thrive to this day.

Let’s take a look:

Bats that aren’t very batty

In New Zealand, there is a unique group of bats. You know, those flying rats that fly around catching bugs, in the air.
Except these bats don’t much like flying. They much prefer clumsily scuttling around the ground in the forest.


SourceThough it can fly, many believe, given time, these bats will eventually take to the ground permanently and become a kind of half-way transition species.

But why? Food, of course. These bats live in a habitat in which it’s simply more beneficial for them to stop wasting all that energy on flapping their big finger-wings and instead chill out on the ground.

The rise of a symbiosis between the bat and a particularly interesting plant is suggested to be the primary factor. The Dactylanthus, or ‘flower of the underworld’ is a unique, fully parasitic, yet flowering plant that can produce up to a full cup of juicy nectar in its 10-day flowering period. Perfect for these land bats.

In the meantime, the rest of the basketball-sized plant is underground, attaching itself to the roots of its host. It’s so dependent on its host that it doesn’t even photosynthesize, and will die as soon as its host dies.

Goblin Shark


SourceOk, this one freaks me out every time I see it. Just take a look at its hunting methods (about 35 seconds in):

So this ‘primitive’ shark, or as I think we all feel, ‘shark gone wrong’, has a mouth that can literally be thrown out of its face to catch things to compensate for its snout being in the way.

As terrifying as it looks, it’s actually pretty low on the danger spectrum. It feeds on small fish and molluscs, is barely twice the size of a human, can’t swim very well and has terrible eyesight. This explains the weird protruding jaw, since they cannot find prey with hunting prowess, they instead sit around and wait for things to come to them, before lurching forwards in a split second.

But they’re hunted by better sharks with substantial hunting prowess, so they’re kind of like the undergoblins of the sea. Gotta feel bad for ’em.

Duck-billed Platypus

A famous animal in itself, but the devil is in the detail of this adorable… mammal?

When first brought to England, nobody would believe that it was actually a rela animal, and was just a prank – somebody stitching together the bill of a duck, the tail of a beaver and the fur of an otter.

But it’s not just its ridiculous appearance. Platypuses are venomous. This isn’t unique, but it’s definitely surprising. The venom is secreted on a sharp spur on the back of their feet, useful for competing with males in mating season.


SourceThough they have feet, they’re not very accomplished with them on land. The webbing actually retracts when they’re on land, and they waddle around on their knuckles to prevent damaging that extra skin.

Platypuses are monotremes, or mammals that lay eggs. Again, this is not unique, but there are only five living species of mammal that do this, the other four being a variety of anteaters.

Unlike common sense, they only have a single duct for urine, feces and sex instead of multiple openings like real animals.
To make things all the more confusing, the skeleton of a platypus looks very much like a reptile:


SourceWe normally think of mammals being defined as animals that don’t lay eggs, or perhaps don’t have duck beaks, or reptile skeletons, but the main factors that all mammals have are ‘hair, milk, sweat glands, three middle ear bones and a brain region known as the neocortex.’ – three things that platypus succeeds at.

So why do they lay eggs anyway?

The most likely reason is because they took to the water. Millions of years ago, these monotremes were out-competed by marsupials of all kinds, but bearing a live child is bad news if you live in the water, where you would struggle to give them milk without them drowning. That’s not so much a concern with an egg.

While the land-lubber marsupials took over Australia, Platypuses continued to thrive offshore on Tasmania.

Source

Nosey Hummingbirds



SourceHummingbirds in themselves are pretty fascinating, with heart beats as high as 1300 beats per minute, 50 wing flaps per second, and a top speed of over 15 metres/second.

The sword-billed hummingbird is actually a wonderful example of an evolutionary arms race. With a bill longer than its body, life can’t be easy. But is it worth it? Who is the hummingbird racing against?

There are some flowers, such as the Passiflora mixta with particularly long corollas. This means there has to be a very specific symbiosis between animal and plant if they want to get mutual benefits. This is good because not all animals behave the way the flowering plants would like, but making its prize further and further away ensures only the most passionate enthusiasts can seek their reward.

This hummingbird has a beak so long that when resting, it has to tilt its head up in order for it to not fall over. It also has to fly around with its head pointing up, and it can’t even groom itself properly, resorting to a dog-like scratch behind the ears with its feet.

That nectar better be frickin’ tasty.

In this video you can see the extra-long tongue licking away at the feeder:

Giant noses are not unique to hummingbirds, and it seems they are kind of pretty useful in the grand scheme of evolution. Here are some other animals that have developed huge noses for a variety of purposes:

Sawshark


SourceThe saw shark has a huge snout most likely used for advanced detection of prey. Those spines are part of a very sensitive sensory organ.

Sawfish


SourceLike a sawshark, except it’s a fish. Although the sawshark is also a fish so… whatever.

Narwhal


SourceThis ridiculous water-unicorn was a mystery for a while, but there are some sensible observations nowadays. This modified tooth has been seen doing a variety of specific tasks, such as stirring up the sandy ocean floor, fighting, and even slapping fish, rendering them unconscious before gobbling them up.

The tusk can reach 10 feet in length, though they’re often worn down or broken to a smaller size.

Anteaters


SourceAnteaters are pretty well known, but I just find their heads so ludicrous. They have no teeth, and unique stomachs. Whereas most stomachs use hydrochloric acid to help with digestion, the anteaters questionable diet means it’s had to adapt and have formic acid instead.

This diet is generally not great, and anteaters have also adapted to have a lower body temperature than other mammals, at a mere 32.7 degrees C, which helps them use less energy. They also need to sleep 15 hours a day. That gives them 9 hours to constantly slurp up ants before going back to sleep.

What a life.

U5dsoEe1Q57qAz9GzsfpJBLBNeamb6y.gif

Stupid Design – Evolution really screwed us over! *Evolution #2*

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/science/@mobbs/stupid-design-evolution-really-screwed-us-over-evolution-2SourceSo in the first part of this series, we took a look at convergent evolution – the process by which two or more separate species develop the same traits despite being geographically separated and isolated for millions of years.

This is, in itself, a demonstration of how brilliant evolution can be; eyes are so complex and specifically formed, yet they developed on SEVEN separate occasions.

Only birds have wings… EXCEPT BATS

Only reptiles have scal – PANGOLIN


SourceSometimes, a great idea is worth hanging on to, and mother nature knows that. But mother nature can also be quite moronic at times, and that’s where we start off; stupid design.

Stupid Design

People naturally look at animals and see the success of billions of years… ok, most smart people. And they’d be right. They’re alive today, or had survived for millions of years, because they evolved in a way that was perfectly adapted to their environment. When that environment changes too rapidly, well, that’s when things typically die off.

But there are some things that don’t seem like ‘adaptations’ at all, but managed to sneak through the evolutionary cracks and survive in animals even to this day.

Giraffe

Perhaps most famously, Richard Dawkins set out to hammer this point home through a dead giraffe.

What he demonstrates is that, given a slow enough process, badly designed elements of an animal can get through without substantial consequence.

In the example of the giraffe (For those of you who cannot watch the video), there is a nerve called the recurrent laryngeal nerve which goes from the brain to the larynx, but rather than taking a direct route of about 2 inches, it takes a huge detour straight down to the heart, U-turning back up and into the larynx, for a journey totaling 4.6 metres!

This inefficient process is a historical legacy going all the way back to fish, in the pre-neck ages. As necks got longer, the nerve subtly got stretched out with no real consequence. You can even see less extreme results in us humans and other animals – even dinosaurs:



SourceThere’s no better place to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

But sometimes, it IS broken, and life has just has to deal with it

Giraffe 2

Also, ever wonder what it feels like to be born, only to be welcomed with a 5-foot plummet to the ground? Welcome to the life of a baby giraffe. These guys have to sort themselves out, seriously.

Human Stomachs

You know, our stomachs can’t digest the main component in plant matter – Cellulose. Typically, it’s bacteria that does all the breaking down, and cows, for example, have no problem with this. But we don’t have that bacteria at all.

Sea mammals

You’d think, given they spend 100% of their time in the water, they’d learn how to extract air through some kind of… I duno, gill system. This is what convergent evolution was invented for! But no, moving the nose to the top of the head and massively increasing lung capacity should be a sufficient workaround.


It really looks like a nose when you see it close up…
Source

Human feet

26…That’s how many bones in the human foot. 26 moving parts for a rigid body part. Of course, this is another historical legacy from when our apey ancestors needed flexible feet to swing around and and grab stuff, but now, those 26 bones gift us with:

‘ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and broken ankles’ – Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University


Ridiculous
Source

The eye

As imperfect as they are perfect. As Claire Ainsworth and Michael Le Page in New Scientist Put it:

’Their light-sensing structure, the retina, is wired up back-to-front, with the light-sensitive cells behind the nerves and blood vessels that support it. Not only does light have to pass through this layer first, obscuring the image, but the nerves and blood vessels have to dive through the retina, creating a blind spot in each eye.’

Source

Looking back at Part 1 of this series, I showed how the Octopus evolved eyes separately from us, but in the exact same way. They see like we do and the same genes were involved in its development.

However, they got it right. They didn’t have the same evolutionary path as us vertebrates.


Spot the difference
SourceNew Scientist continues:

‘when eyes first evolved in the ancestors of modern vertebrates, the retina arose from an in folding of the developing brain, and the cells that could form light receptors happened to end up on the inside of this fold.’

Having said that, new research supposes a decent reason why.

There’s a whole range of issues with the delicacy and disease-prone eye of a human, but we ain’t got time for that.

All of these are problematic and annoying, but we can just put up and shut up, right? Well… not always.

Fatal Design

If I ask you, you’ll probably start thinking about babies and birth. Correct! What a terrible design. Being bipedal has had a lot of advantages for us, and having a big brain has also had a lot of advantages. But put them together and what’s the solution?

Birth Canal

A narrow birth canal that can actually squeeze and potentially crush a baby’s skull, making it otherwise impossible to birth naturally. Without modern surgery, people just had to deal with it via death.


Source

Pharynx

The pharynx shouldn’t even exist at all. This is the passage that allows food to pass through. It’s also the passage that allows AIR to pass through. How efficient, putting them both together! Sure, it dramatically increases the chances of choking, something we all do at least a few times in any given lifetime, but hey!


Source

Oxygen

Speaking of breathing, how is it that we haven’t actually figured out how to do it?

The human breathing reflex happens due to the detection of carbon dioxide. Think about it. Our breathing reflex is NOT something that comes about directly from the absence of oxygen, the stuff that makes us not die. This indirect way of doing things means that in higher altitudes, humans basically suffocate without even noticing due to the lack of oxygen in the thinned air. Since there is not an abundance of carbon dioxide either, the human body can’t regulate its own breathing.

Wisdom Teeth

If you only have one argument against God, this is the one.
Not only are wisdom teeth vestigial – totally useless – but they are downright painful, and before medicine, ensuing infections could often lead to death. All for a couple of teeth you don’t even need.


Source

Hyena Clitoris

Prepare your imaginations. During Hyena pregnancy, the mother provides a high level of hormones to strengthen the babies within. Unfortunately, these androgens damage ovaries and make it difficult for those children to conceive when they grow up.

What’s worse, is that the clitoris, which also serves as the birth canal in Hyenas, grows up to 7 inches, protruding like a penis from her body.


Source

“Imagine giving birth through a penis,” said study co-author Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University

Errr, no thanks.

The consequence of this is that the tiny shaft – barely an inch in diameter – is ripped apart during birth, providing hyenas with a particularly high death rate in pregnant mothers.

The brain

The mother of all f**k ups. I mean, it’s wonderful and all, but there’s a phenomenal amount of inbuilt imperfections that are simply inexcusable. Wisdom teeth, for example. You can blame big brains for those.

Mental conditions are so rife in the human brain that we need a giant, 947 page book, the DSM-5 just to remember them all.

Many of these ‘disorders’ which lead us to shortened lives, suicides, homicides and more were actually evolutionarily advantageous back in the day, but our rapid change in lifestyle and culture made them a hindrance.

Bi-polar disorder, for example, is considered a mental tool that would have had a couple of advantages. First, mood swings would align with seasons and light, in the same kind of way bears hibernate or other creatures change their persona rapidly.

Second, bipolar disorder in women could have been advantageous for procreation, being more ‘manic when it’s summer time and convenient to get busy. This is backed up by the fact that bi-polar disorder is most prevalent in women of reproductive age.

Others include:
• OCD, which served as a psychological immune system
• ADHD was a great tool of innovation
• Dyslexia was a side-effect of a creative, problem-solving mind (only made a hindrance since the invention of writing)
• Austism, which served as a kind of survival superpower back in the hunter-gatherer days, working solo rather than in social groups.
• Stress, another wonderful survival skill now used to make us sick and die more easily.

So there you have it. A small sample of a huge, tangled mess we all put up with; humans AND animals. Next time you look in the mirror, admiring your own perfection, think again.

Amazing evolution #1 – Convergence

Welcome to the first of a three-part (or more) series about the wonderful world of evolutionI will cover at least three topics without being patronising and going back to basics:

  • Convergent evolution
  • Unintelligent design
  • Artificial evolution

Evolution is one of the most elegant theories ever conjured up, alongside other classics such as F=ma and E=mc^2. Everything from all fields of science, be it biology, genetics, geology or even physics, simply fits in place like a jigsaw piece. Every time. Without fail.

But it seems to get a bad rap anyway. Not everybody believes Darwin like they do Newton and Einstein, and many think evolution is simply SO beautiful that a higher power simply created it all.

Well, yes, it’s often beautiful. I mean, who doesn’t like the occasional tape worm chomping away in their gut?

But to me and millions around the world, the long and arduous journey over billions of years through time and death is far more beautiful and fantastical than a snap of fingers.

I want to show people the limitless nature of nature, and how remarkable it can truly be. Put away your preconceptions of belief, disgust and cute mammalian bias, and let’s dig in.

Convergent EvolutionFirst I will explain how this works, and then I’ll jump into some awesome and sometimes bewildering examples of what is basically glorified coincidence.

FlyingSometimes, life has a good idea, say, wings. But life is not a single entity handing out good ideas to those who deserve it. Life did not give butterflies wings, and then, after hours of begging, finally handed them over to bats. No, these were totally separate good ideas that came about from the same initial ingredients. Birds, bats, MQ-9 Reaper drones, they all came to the same solution through entirely unique processes.

BirdsThere are about 10,000 species of birds that we so far know of, and they come in boring form or splendorous form.


a boring mockingbird
A Splendiferous Greater Bird of Paradise!But if evolution is so true, what use is half a wing? Surely there was a point between the time when there wasn’t a wing and when there was a wing?

Well, yes. According to science, feathers, as well as human hair, evolved from reptile scales. All three are formed from the same part of the embryo of each animal group. They all develop from something called ‘placodes’ – patches of thickened skin.

A dinosaur who developed the mutation of lighter scales and later feathers may benefit from insulation, keeping eggs warm and would also exploit the properties of feathers for aerodynamic escapes, higher jumps or even becoming more virtuoso tree climbers. I’m thinking chickens. Chickens can’t fly but they make good use of those feathers nonetheless.

With escape in mind, you can easily imagine the steady process from higher jumps, leaping from tree to tree before eventually lifting off entirely.

BatsBats are not birds, they’re mammals. There are about 5,500 species of mammals. A bat’s rise to Batman-like abilities came through a different process via mammalian genes. Compare a bird wing to a bat wing:

Nice picture. The most striking thing here is that a bat wing appears to be more finger than anything else, put together with skin like my old school friend’s webbed feet. The bird’s skeleton, on the other hand, made the hand stubbier and extended the actual arm. A bat’s wing is essentially a giant hand.

InsectsInsects are not bats or birds, they’re invertebrates. There are around 1 million types of insects. As we learn in primary school, bugs don’t have skeletons in the way we do, so there’s no skeletal x-rays to be seen. This, combined with the fact that insects don’t fossilize very well makes it very difficult to actually find evidence of the process of acquiring flight.


oh, wait, here’s an insect x-rayThere are theories though, generally looking at how they were developed from insect appendages for balance, hopping around on water and so on. The strongest evidence suggests development from abdominal tracheal gills or similar, as can be seen in this lovely shrimp-like machilis.


Thank you, WigglesworthHere’s the cute version:

OthersSo here we have three distinct processes in which flight has formed. But there are several other examples of animals that seem to be in that very transitional phase, like the ridiculously adorable flying squirrel, which actually glides steadily.

The flying fish, which has been caught on camera flying for a full 45 seconds

Frogs, lemurs, even snakes and lizards are working on taking to the skies!

What we can see is that even distant relatives simply re-use the genetic components provided in our DNA, shuffling them around to better adapt to the environment. There is no new material in a bat’s skeleton or a human or bird skeleton. It’s all just re-proportioned.

SwimmingFish swim. Fish live in water. Dogs can also swim but they usually don’t live in water, because dogs are mammals. Dolphins and whales are mammals too, so why do they live in the sea?

This is a pretty wild evolutionary U-turn which made sea creatures crawl up to land, realize it ain’t all that, and then hop back into the sea where it’s cool and less smoky.

Whales harbour the same skeleton we humans do, reformed to hold bigger, better lungs and a bigger heart. They even have tiny, vestigial legs deep beneath the blubber, and hair across their whole body – at least as babies.


A whale before it made the leap into water… I guessDolphins are wonderful examples of convergent evolution so drastic that they can easily be mistaken for sharks to the untrained eye, a fish millions of years separated from mammals entirely. This is why a dolphin’s tail is horizontal compared to the shark and fish’s vertical tail – They were separate inventions.

Additionally, there are multiple types of river dolphins that survive in fresh water, all of which evolved separately across the world in China, India and the Amazon.

Walking…or notThis is not a snake. It’s a legless lizard. Get your head around that one.

SeeingEyes are the most amazing and intricate little balls of jelly I can currently think of. Eyes are commonly used to argue the existence of God, but a closer look and you see there’s nothing really unique about the process that eyes took to go from ‘no eye’ to ‘eye’.

And this is so true, that eyes also evolved multiple times.

Humans and squids, for example creepily evolved the same eyes using the same genes, separately. In fact, the most recent ancestor of human and squid died out over 500 million years ago.


Actual squid eyeCompound eyes in insects and crustaceans are another example of a solution to blindness. In fact, the mantis shrimp’s eyes are capable of seeing much more than we can. Where we have 3 photoreceptors to pick up red, green and blue light, this shrimp has up to 16 receptors, 6 of which can see into the Ultra-violet range.

…Such a shame their brains aren’t big enough to discriminate between colours anywhere near as good as us, but hey, nice try.

Eyes have formed in their own way at least six times, from the camera eyes of octopuses and humans to the mirror eyes, cup eyes, pinhole eyes and compound eyes of… other… freaks.

CamouflageCamouflage Is a necessity for so, so many animals. It’s no surprise that many animals mimic other animals sharing the same environment. If your neighbor never gets any shit because he’s bald with tattoos and a gun, but you can’t afford that kind of protection on your salary, the cheaper solution is just as effective; shave your head, fake tattoo stickers and a water pistol should suffice.

The same thing goes in the animal kingdom, where plants often mimic each other to ward off threats or, more strangely, attract customers. Sexually.


To a bee, this is a pretty legit mateBut a plant mimicking a plant, or an animal mimicking another animal for the benefit of itself is not convergent evolution. These things happen as a response to external stimuli.

It’s much stranger and more fascinating when you see a whole range of frogs evolve the same appearance around the world, having had no internet to exchange ideas at the time. They all found the same solution to hide from predators and blend into the background.

HearingWe like to hear with our ears. It works pretty well. Echolocation is something else entirely. I mean, it’s not really, it’s a kind of hearing, but a skill we lack, nonetheless (aside from that one blind kid).

Bats and Dolphins both evolved this separately. Scientists in London revealed that ‘200 sets of genes had been identically mutated in dolphins and bats’. The bizarre thing is that not all of those genes were for echolocation. Some were actually linked to vision. Bats that do not use echolocation lack all of these shared genes entirely.

IntelligenceWe normally like to think of intelligence as Us vs. Them in the natural world. We are super smart; they are pretty dumb. Apes are kinda smart I guess, but only because they’re trying to be like us, if Jungle Book taught me anything.

But intelligence comes in many different forms, and the intelligence of some birds expresses that wonderfully.

Crows are considered one of the most intelligent animals out there. They can adapt easily to human intervention, learn tool use quickly and effectively and even show their own ingenuity without training.


Crows have noticeably bigger brains than other birds. In terms of proportion, they are the same as ChimpanzeesSome crows in Japan have been spotted carrying nuts high up to a lamp post, dropping the nuts down to the road below for cars to crush, waiting for traffic lights to turn red and enjoying the easymeal in safety.

Despite having a totally different brain structure, the mental tools shared among primates, dolphins and crows – anticipation and natural reasoning – is otherwise identical. Almost no other animals in nature share these problem solving traits. Other intelligent birds are known to hold grudges – remember specific birds that stole food or annoyed them in some other way, and punishing them later by not providing food sources, for example.

So there you have it, the wonderful world of convergent evolution. I mean, this was barely a scratch on the surface. Just a brief look at the Wikipedia list will make your mind spin with apathy.


…and then someBut I have a habit of writing too much, so hopefully this will inspire people to go on that wiki page and take a look and learn the wonders of how leaves have evolved multiple times, pitcher plants learnt to trap animals the same way, swim bladders evolved in fish and octopuses, different orb-weaving spiders evolved, migrating birds and dolphins have half their brain sleep with the other half awake, some snakes share the same camouflage, opposable thumbs are found in primates, bears and opossums; fingerprints in humans and koalas, prehensile – controllable – tails in mice and monk… Ok I’m done.


High five

Originally posted on Steemit – https://steemit.com/science/@mobbs/amazing-evolution-1-convergence

Bats.

It looked like this one, in Vietnam

It looked like this one, in Vietnam

I never had a plan to write anything personal to me here, but this is an exception, as I’m sure there will turn out to be an increasing amount of due to the habitual self-centred nature of humans, but whatever.

Today I did something I can probably never forgive myself about, and something that will flash in my eyes from time to time for the rest of my life.

I’m an animal lover, a nature lover. Not the kind of ‘aww look at that cute puppy!’ kind of animal lover who then goes on to say ‘eww get rid of that horrible spider’ and ‘kill those annoying ants’ and then ‘what a sweet funny kitten!’. I’m the kind of animal love that actually likes animals and nature, not things that are generally fluffy and cute, which, in the majority of cases, have been genetically modified to be that way so they get sold for money to those who have it and don’t need it.

I am fascinated by all nature and life, all the horrible viruses and bugs, all the majestic tigers and, well I’m also not a hippy about it. I eat meat, because it doesn’t look like animals and it tastes good. I don’t eat seafood because it looks like animals and tastes bad. Except tuna for some reason. It doesn’t have that piss-in-the-ocean smell, which i find pleasantly mysterious.

If I see an ant, I watch it and I am interested by it. Just today one of my desk ants was carrying a crumb I left behind earlier in the day down my headphone cable, on its way to the underside of the desk. Fine.
If an ant is under my foot when I happen to be lowering my foot in order to walk or not float away, I will react quickly and shift my whole weight to the side to avoid the chance that a non-indented part of my shoe might crush it.

The same goes for any animal and – aside from inadvertently inhaling animals to death like mites, and just generally unavoidable consequences of insects, and a very few mosquitoes followed by some guilt – I can safely say I haven’t killed anything, ever. Certainly no birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians.

Today that changed.

Tennis at night, 8-10pm,

Tennis at night, 8-10pm,

 

I was back at tennis after a month or so hiatus due to my heavy double-job schedule with this movie soundtrack taking up my spare time, and I was about to dive into a big fat serve, threw the ball up in the air, prepared to strike.
Suddenly, as my full swing was already in motion, like a bat out of hell, a bat swooped in and latched onto the ball.
It was far too late, I had already hit it before I even knew what I hit.

The bat landed, stunned. possibly organs destroyed but, from the outside nothing immediate seemed broken. It looked more stunned than anything else. It reacted with a squeal when my Korean partner – my current opponent – touched it, and so he carefully lifted it and took it to a Vietnamese guy working at the courts, asking what to do with it. I watched in the distance as he handed it over to the Vietnamese man.

Now, there were many Nails in the coffin of my opinion towards Vietnam, mainly the crocodile spit roasts, colourfully dyed crocodile leather, useless bureaucracy, ridiculous and unreliable opening and closing times, traffic, and, well, I won’t describe every nail but it’s more like a graveyard at this point.

But the final nail in the coffin going into the last space in the ground was when that Vietnamese man nonchalantly dropped the bat, stomped on it to get out a little squeak of defeat, and swept it off into the grass. That was because of me. I was not directly responsible for its death, but i was directly responsible for it being dead.

Hell, maybe I killed an animal as a kid due to not feeding it or dropping it or something – I have no memories of it, except a spider which I won’t go into the details of but it literally haunts my dreams to this day, a decade or so later – and so this is…

Whatever.