May 15, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Animals Outsmart Scientists

In science, long-standing beliefs are often challenged by new evidence.  Several recent findings not only show animals to be more remarkable than thought, they pose some new questions for evolutionists.

  1. Slothlessness:  Sleeping almost all day, the sloth is the epitome of laziness in the animal kingdom.  Or is it?  The BBC News now tells us that the animal’s lazy image is a myth.  The sloth only sleeps 9.6 hours a day, not 16, as formerly thought.  Some government workers can relate to that.
  2. Cheetah whales:  There were thought to be limits on how fast a whale could dive.  Nothing like a little measurement to find out; the BBC News reported that scientists in Spain tagged short-finned pilot whales and found them diving 1000 meters in just 15 minutes, and sprinting after their prey like cheetahs, even at great depth.
  3. Insect aeronauts:  Dragonflies can hover, move backwards, and do other tricks with their four independently-operable wings (recall the 08/13/2004 entry).  Computer models had shown it came at a cost: reduced lift.  Scientists decided to compare the models with a robotic dragonfly, reported Science Now, and found the models were wrong.  The dragonfly actually gets more of a lift at less energetic cost, because the back wings ride the rush of air from the front wings.
  4. Human efficiency:  We the people have gotten a leg up on our furry primate friends.  Science Now says that we are more efficient at walking on the ground than monkeys are at climbing in the trees.  A graduate student at Duke University found this out with a specially-designed vertical treadmill she built.  She was “surprised to find that no studies had been done in nonhuman primates to measure the amount of energy needed to climb up a tree or wall.”  The bigger your body size, she found, the more efficient it is to walk on the ground than to climb up a limb.
  5. Bird’s-eye view:  How do we know the eye of the beholder, when the beholder is a peahen studying a peacock’s feather bouquet?  We don’t, said an article on Science Daily.  Scientists at Uppsala University are upsetting evolutionary assumptions about sexual selection with their findings.  Birds perceive colors differently in 39% of cases they studied, suggesting that “it is possible that more than one third of previous studies have been based on inaccurate information.” 
  6. Scalloped turkey:  Why would a molecular machine named myosin 2 be structurally identical in two animals on completely different evolutionary branches?  Science Daily wondered about that, especially since in humans, any changes to this motor protein cause disease or death.  The protein performs different functions in the bird than in the seafood creature, but the structure is the same.  The finding was called “puzzling” and “astonishing.
        A professor at University of Leeds apparently knows more about evolution than what is right in front of his nose: “The fact that the scallop has retained all the functions of its myosin 2 over hundreds of millions of years tells us that this folding is of fundamental functional importance in muscle and that we don’t know as much about it as we need to know.”
  7. Mouse in your genes?  Though mice share 85% genetic similarity to humans, the way their proteins interact is apparently vastly different.  Science Daily reported on knockout experiments at University of Michigan that showed in mice you can knock out 22% of 120 genes that are essential in humans, but the mice do just fine.  This is adding evidence to a growing realization that it’s not the genome alone that determines the animal phenotype (physical nature).  The way gene products interact – the “interactome” may be more important.
  8. Counting fly genes:  Humans have only 72% more genes than a fruit fly, but 10 times the protein interactions.  Science Daily said this shows earlier ideas about the differences between animals based on genetic differences have been called into question.  “Understanding the human genome definitely does not go far enough to explain what makes us different from more simple creatures,” a researcher at Imperial College London explained.  “Our study indicates that protein interactions could hold one of the keys to unraveling how one organism is differentiated from another.”

Bouncing off this last quote, how will we know when we have all the keys?  What confidence can we have that new evolutionary assumptions based on findings about the “interactome” will survive discoveries by future scientists?

Surprises in biology are fun.  They keep the Darwinists dancing, like the drunk in the Western providing sport for the gunslingers.  It’s not clear a Dar-wino could walk a straight line anyway.

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