How Will Animals Evolve In The Future

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How Will Animals Evolve In The Future – An example of extinction: the thylacine, a prehistoric dog-like marsupial that was once found across much of Australia and Tasmania, was actively hunted by humans and subject to competition from human-introduced wild dogs. The last thylacine died in a zoo in 1936.

It is an oft-stated notion that if there is any consolation in the prospect – or process – of mass extinction, it is that at the end of the tunnel new fauna emerges. According to this reasoning, the great sacrifice of the species is a cleansing of the planet, paving the way for renewal. The hope is that once mass extinction ends, a new era will emerge – a better, more diverse era. It’s the parable of the Flood: let’s call it “Noah and the scavenging wildlife.” After all, this appears to have been the case after the two largest mass extinctions, when dinosaurs replaced mammal-like reptiles at the end of the Permian and mammals replaced dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Will, after the current mass extinction, the only group of chordates still awaiting their own “age” – birds – dominate? Will there now be an “age of birds”, a world of herbivorous and carnivorous land birds, burrowers and climbers, as well as the numerous (or even more numerous) flying forms that characterize this class today? Or maybe completely unforeseen things

How Will Animals Evolve In The Future

How Will Animals Evolve In The Future

Assumed by a group, like giant insects (biomechanically impossible), or something completely new? Unless a new class of vertebrates suddenly appears (which is highly unlikely), only birds do not yet have the honorary title of “ruling” the planet. The best bet might actually be Age of Birds. In such a world, mammals would still be present, even if they were no longer dominant in evolution.

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In debates about the looming biodiversity crisis, this new wildlife argument is sometimes used as a rationalization, or even a justification. The age of mammals – and the time (or even

) of humanity – would never have happened without the extinction of the dinosaurs, and likewise – or so the argument goes – modern extinction will give rise to a new era of organisms, perhaps with a new form of global intelligence.

What could this new evolutionary biota look like? Why not something completely new? Can we imagine a completely new type of animal that could replace the current evolutionary dominants, large mammals? This new class would have evolved from a currently existing creature, but could have very different characteristics and body plan than the previous dominants. This new body type could exploit an entirely new type of food or habitat. Let us imagine such an advance: the conquest of the lower atmosphere by floating organisms called Zeppelinoids.

After the extinction of most mammals (and humanity), zepelinoids evolved (say, from certain species of frog, whose large esophagus can bulge outwards and become a large gas sac). The big breakthrough occurs when the frog develops a biological mechanism that induces the electrolysis of hydrogen in water. Little by little, the frog develops a way to store this light gas in the esophagus, thus producing a gas pocket. Sooner or later, little frogs float into the sky for short (but longer) jumps than their ancestors were accustomed to. More refinement and a set of wings provide a minimum of directivity. The legs become tentacles, descending from creatures now perfectly adapted to flight, which we can no longer call frogs: they have developed a new body plan establishing them as a new class of vertebrates, the Zeppelinoida class. Like so many recently evolving creatures, Zeps rapidly increase in size: when small, they are easy targets (flying frogs?) for faster-flying predatory birds. Since their gas sac does not restrict their size, they grow quickly. Ultimately, they are the largest animals that have ever evolved on Earth, so large that terrestrial and avian predators no longer threaten them, reaching sizes larger than those of the blue whale. Their only threat comes from lightning, which causes spectacular and deadly explosions visible from miles away. The Zeps will never be able to obtain

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Around this inherent defect, because there is no biological way to produce helium, a flammable and inert gas, and thus avoid instant death from lightning. But hey, life is never perfect and Zeps always do well, especially in low-light areas.

Now the world’s dominant animals, Zeps float above the ground like great invasive jellyfish, grabbing the few remaining species of deer (and other herbivorous vertebrates) with their tentacles and encasing them in a mouth the size of Jabba the Hutt. . . Because Zeps evolved from amphibians and are always cold-blooded, they have a very low metabolic rate and therefore only need to eat in moderation. Their design is so successful that they quickly come in many different types. Therefore, herbivorous forms are common, floating above the forests, eating the treetops, while others evolve into zep-eating Zeps. Still others become like whales, sifting insects from the sky; in doing so, they quickly drive many bird species to extinction. The world changes as more and more Zeps prowl the air, floating serenely above the treetops, filling the sky with their numbers, their shadows dominating the landscape. This is the age of the Zeppelinoids.

A fairy tale, but there is a glimmer of reality in this fable. Evolution in the past has produced a large number of new species as a result of a new morphological advance that allows a lucky winner to colonize a previously unexplored habitat. The first flying organisms, the first swimming organisms, the first floating organisms all followed these discoveries with a large number of new species rapidly radiating from the ancestral body type, all improving some aspect of the design or changing the style to allow for variations on the original theme. .

How Will Animals Evolve In The Future

But is the fundamental hypothesis underlying this scenario – a long period of extinction followed by the emergence of a new class of evolutionary dominants – really likely? No. Just as humanity has changed the “rules” of evolution that have operated on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, the usual sequence of events that follows a mass extinction has also been changed.

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Picking the evolutionary winners of the future – the species that will evolve to take the place of the “losers” (those on the brink of extinction) – is like trying to pick the winners in the stock market or predict the weather. Some data is available to help us make educated guesses, but the system is so large and subject to a multitude of stochastic and chaotic effects that it is difficult to predict specific details.

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Impossible. The colors, habits and shapes of the newly evolved fauna can only be guessed at. There is, however, information available that could shed light on future winners in the fossil record.

One of the interesting (and quite unexpected) discoveries of paleontological research is that higher taxa (taxonomic categories above genera and species, such as families, orders, classes and phyla) appear to exhibit typical rates of evolution. The rate of evolution of a taxon can be described in two ways: as the rate at which certain morphological characters change over time, or as the longevity of an average species over geological time. The rates of origination and extinction are related to the rate of evolution. Some groups of organisms appear to produce many new species, others very few. And among the species produced, those from some groups last a long time, while those from other groups disappear more quickly.

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The importance of understanding evolutionary rates was first highlighted by George Gaylord Simpson, a pioneering evolutionist. More recently, Steven Stanley of Johns Hopkins University has taken many of the research themes started by Simpson and added fascinating new ideas. Stanley Monument

Explored these themes in detail. Paleontologists are familiar with groups that have high appearance and extinction rates because they are the most important fossils used in biostratigraphy, the science of subdividing and dating sedimentary rocks using fossils. Good biostratigraphic markers are fossils that have a short temporal duration – and are therefore present in only a few strata – but that are at the same time widespread, common, and have sufficiently distinct morphological attributes that evolutionary changes and new speciation events are immediately apparent. apparent. Examples include trilobites, ammonites, and mammals, among others. Other groups – sometimes called “living fossils” – show opposite trends: they speciate slowly and, once they appear, they rarely disappear. They are therefore useless for biostratigraphy, but fascinating on an evolutionary level: what gives these organisms the equivalent of near-immortality?

, the average time it takes for a given higher taxon to double the number of species it contains. Mammals, for example, have a doubling time of

How Will Animals Evolve In The Future

3.15 million years ago. In contrast, it takes bivalve molluscs 11 million years to double their number of species. Mammals

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