Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Extinction: Beat It Through Self-Hypnosis

Saw something the other day about pandas.

Seems that a Brit wildlife type made the suggestion that pandas are a sort of evolutionary cul-de-sac and that we should let 'em go.

Mind you - the critters were doing fairly OK until - imagine - humans came along and turned their bamboo forests into farms and timber tracts...

Now personally I'm fairly immune to the fabled panda "charm";...they always seem faintly silly to me.

But going in and fucking up their home and then blaming them for not doing their evolutionary best?

Seems pretty hypocritical to me.

This particular panda does seem like the poster panda for the shallow end of the panda gene pool.


Pluto said...

I read an article in Smithsonian a while back that agrees with the British science, the Pandas are a cute cul-de-sac in evolution.

Pandas were originally meat eaters but somehow got out of the habit and started chewing on bamboo instead (probably easier to catch). They still aren't well adapted to their new food source and tend to have explosive diarrhea.

Furthermore they are amazingly solitary in the wild and tend to refuse to meet up with each other even to mate and the mom has to raise the kids all alone. When things get too stressful she frequently just takes the kids out and just ditches them.

If it weren't for the cuteness factor they'd have been long gone all ready. However evolution works in strange ways and suddenly human-perceived cuteness has become a really powerful survival tactic and we'll do an amazing amount to keep the species going. Heck, we might even genetically modify them so they don't have diarrhea any more (which would make them considerably cuter).

FDChief said...

"It's always tempting to impute/unlikely virtues to the cute."

I don't know about the cul-de-sac-y-ness of the critters, and we probably never will - their habitat has been so screwed with that I'd opine we have no hope of figuring out whether they would have become extinct naturally or not. Certainly they do exhibit a lot of counter-survival traits and I suspect that they would always have been a niche species at high risk of extermination from ecological changes a more robust genome would have surmounted.

I've seen and read accounts of the PRC panda centers and they sound frankly bizarre. The things aren't truly "wild" in any meaningful sense any more, and it sounds like they never will be.

FDChief said...
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Lisa said...

And another cute species on the run:

Stress is Pushing the Koala to Extnction

Will we be left with roaches and rodents?