Survival of the Dude
Don’t tell us that “survival of the fittest” was a myth. What? All those genocides for nothing?
In a story that could be called “survival of the dudest,” PhysOrg now tells us, “Ancient, bottom-dwelling critter proves: newer isn’t always better.” The dude in the story is a tiny sea creature called a rhabdopleurid. An ancient one of these dudes is being called “an ancestor of more elaborate species that have since died off” called graptolites, a kind of pelagic (free-floating) plankton. Apparently all that fitness exercise never paid off. “Tiny sea creatures called rhabdopleurids reside on the ocean floor, building homes of collagen on the shells of dead clams, the article states. “Rhabdopleurid colonies are small, and the critters are by no means the dominant animals in their ecosystem.”
The article claims that the simple dudes have survived for 500 million years, while the more elaborate descendents went extinct. There’s a lesson here for fitness freaks, explained Charles Mitchell:
“We think that change is always going to lead us to a better place, that evolution is always going to lead to something better,” said Mitchell, a University at Buffalo geology professor. “But all this progress in making all these wonderful pelagic graptolites didn’t lead them to take over the world. They didn’t survive, but these simple dudes, these bottom-dwelling creatures, did.“
Sure enough, the paper by Mitchell and team found that rhabdopleurids “were some of the most primitive graptolites that ever existed.” What’s the use of working so hard on the evolutionary treadmill to get fit? “While their zooplankton relatives evolved rapidly, splitting into many new species and evolving many new traits, rhabdopleurids pretty much stayed the same over the course of history.” And thus they survive to this day, 500 million years later. “The rhabdopleurids survived and are still around today, living in areas from Bermuda to the Bering Sea” while the fancy zooplankton graptolites all went extinct.
Mitchell called this “the conservative approach” to evolution and likened it to investing: you can be conservative or aggressive in your investment portfolio, depending on how much risk you are willing to take.
Even dudes can be beautiful in their own way. “Though humble, rhabdopleurids and the colonies they build are beautiful to behold under a microscope. The creatures themselves are about a millimeter long and Y-shaped, with a pair of tentacled arms extending from a narrow body to filter food from the water,” the article describes them (see accompanying photos). “The colonies they fashion are whimsical-looking structures, consisting of a network of copper-colored tubes that resemble tiny elephant trunks, each one bearing numerous ridges.”
Mr. Mitchell, investing is done by intelligent design. Animals cannot pick the mutations that hit them, and they have no long-range investment goals. Your analogy is useless. Why don’t you just admit that the evidence you published falsifies evolutionary theory? (again)? With the downfall of “survival of the fittest” something else collapses: the myth of millions of years. What creature would ever want to sit there that long, letting the evolutionary fitness boom completely pass it by? Why didn’t all animals take the conservative approach? Why do we have peacocks and blackbirds, cheetahs and sloths, skinny and obese people? If evolution explains all these things, it explains none of them. It’s an empty catch-all theory that reduces to, “Stuff happens.”
Please tell all your colleagues and politicians that “survival of the fittest” is defunct, so we don’t get any more genocides – not that we want a new “simple dude” fad either.