Darwin was right again—sort of.
- Charles Darwin speculated that wingless insects thrived on windy islands because they weren't blown off the land.
- While the reasoning was slightly faulty, researchers have now proved Darwin's 165-year-old "wind hypothesis."
- This finding is yet another example of how environments shape the animals that inhabit them.
Charles Darwin statue
Credit: Christian / Adobe Stock<p>Monash researchers looked at three decades of data on various insect species living in Antarctica and 28 Southern Ocean islands—including Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Ellef Ringnes, Bathurst, and St. Matthew—and discovered a trend: wind (as well as low air pressure and freezing temperatures) made flight nearly impossible to resident insects. They simply didn't have the energetic resources needed to take to the sky. Better to crawl around and scavenge.</p><p>Darwin wasn't completely right. He thought the evolutionary adaptations were due purely to wind throwing insects off the island. But nutrition matters too. Flight consumes a ton of energy. The windier it is, the harder insects have to work. Battling a gale requires an inordinate amount of calories. As the team writes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Strong winds can also inhibit normal insect flight activity, thereby increasing the energetic costs of flying or maintaining flight structures. This energy trade-off is more complex than Darwin's single-step displacement mechanism because it requires genetic linkage between traits associated with flight ability, flight propensity, and fecundity or survival." </p><p>Still, you have to hand it to the man. During a time when most humans assumed animals were all the result of metaphysical tinkering, Darwin gazed out into nature and connected the dots. His mind has inspired over a century-and-a-half of scientific progress as we continue to build on—and, as this study shows, prove—his theories. </p><p>Darwin knew that every animal is the product of its environment, and therefore must respect both its boons and its boundaries. Talk about a lesson we need today. Environments are known to become very hostile to foreign invaders when pushed too hard. Right now, we're courting disaster. Hopefully, we won't wait for evolution to ground our ambitions. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Our relationship with water still matters.
- According to new research, half of Neanderthal skulls studied had exostoses — aka "surfer's ear."
- The condition is common in mammals that spend a lot of time in water.
- Though today we are largely disconnected from nature, the consequences of our relationship to it are still felt.
Neuroconservation — your brain on nature: Wallace J. Nichols at TEDxSantaCruz<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fdcc823c0a91a95f271d20a729310d35"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/r2_X7mTUirk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The ocean's perpetual mystery is relenting, though. In 2012, the director James Cameron broke a solo diving record by <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/3/120325-james-cameron-mariana-trench-challenger-deepest-returns-science-sub/" target="_blank">descending nearly seven miles</a> into the Mariana Trench. New technologies are allowing us to discover unimaginable life on ocean floors. Unique creatures provide visual fodder for active imaginations, yet water was, and remains, the singular reason "we" exist.</p><p>Behavioral ecologist Clive Finlayson concocted his <a href="https://snakes-sunrises-and-shakespeare.com/clive-finlayson/" target="_blank">Water Optimization Hypothesis</a> to explain how deeply tied to the oceans, rivers, and seas we are. While subject to critical scrutiny, Finlayson argues that our ancestors needed to adapt to ever-changing environments. Bipedalism favored us for exploring long ranges of territory to work around droughts and floods, keeping us close to water (and therefore food) sources.</p><p><a href="https://theconversation.com/how-prehistoric-water-pit-stops-may-have-driven-human-evolution-78433" target="_blank">Other research</a> points out that in the "cradle of humanity"— the stretch of land now referred to as the Rift Valley, extending from Ethiopia to Mozambique — our ancestors were subjected to 23,000-year cycles of aridity and monsoons. Early human survival depended on a network of springs that kept our forebears alive when the rain gods refused to supply nourishment. </p><p>Water remains essential today, which is why our <a href="https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/plastics-in-the-ocean/" target="_blank">plastic problem</a> is becoming dire. Eighty percent of the world's population lives within 60 miles of a coastline. A whopping two-thirds of the world's economy depends on water in some capacity, be it by travel or resources — a billion people rely on water-based protein for their existence. As scientist Wallace J. Nichols, author of <em>Blue Mind</em>, <a href="https://www.salon.com/2014/07/19/why_our_brains_love_the_ocean_science_explains_what_draws_humans_to_the_sea/" target="_blank">writes</a>, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"According to the U.S. Geological Survey, each person in the United States uses eighty to one hundred gallons of water every day for what we consider our 'basic needs.' In 2010 the General Assembly of the United Nations declared, "Safe and clean drinking water is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life."</p>
Prehistorical museum in Quinson, France on May 29, 2001 — Neanderthal. Cranium and mandible of the Chapelle aux Saints (Correze).
Photo credit: Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images<p>Though we know the importance of water, its appearance on this planet remains somewhat of a mystery. As British paleontologist Richard Fortey <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/037570261X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i1" target="_blank">writes</a>, if not for Earth's gaseous atmosphere and water, life would have never occurred. Thankfully, as our planet's solid crust formed, volcanoes and vents spewed the gases and liquids necessary to create an ecosystem that plant (then animal) life could be born of and subsequently thrive in.</p><p>Roughly a billion-and-a-half years ago single-celled eukaryotes began swimming around in the soup; part of their distinguishing feature is an "eyespot," which is attracted to light. Thus began what the Australian philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Other-Minds-Octopus-Origins-Consciousness/dp/0374227764" target="_blank">calls</a> the "sensory-motor view" of the nervous systems of organisms to their environment. Since that critical development, every form of life has responded to and been shaped by natural forces, <em>especially</em> water. </p><p>For Neanderthals, this meant surfer's ear; for modern Westerners, diseases of affluence — heart disease, cancer, obesity — that occur when you cut yourself off from nature and its processes. Still, the evolutionary consequences of this longstanding relationship remain, even in the most unlikely places, such as wrinkly toes and fingers when we play in an ocean (or bathtub) for too long. </p><p>This common phenomenon too seems shrouded in mystery. The <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-our-fingers-and-toes-wrinkle-during-a-bath/" target="_blank">best guess we have</a> is that it helps improve our grip in water; it's hard enough to tackle a fish without having some evolutionary advantage. Thus, our autonomic nervous system kicks in after long stretches in water, causing our blood vessels to constrict below the surface of our skin. This likely allowed our ancestors to better pick fruit from wet locales and grip the forest floor during a rainstorm. </p><p>We might not be <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/16/david-attenboroughs-aquatic-ape-series-based-on-wishful-thinking" target="_blank">aquatic apes</a>, as David Attenborough and others have attested, but humans have long relied on water for survival. This relationship will continue until we destroy the very environment that made life possible, which means we're going to have to start giving back what we've been taking from for far too long. You can't be absent children without consequence. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p>
Research suggests that a religious edict from the Catholic Church shaped the evolution of the modern chicken.
Chicken is one of the most consumed meats in the world. The U.S. alone consumes 8 billion chickens per year — about 25 birds per every meat-eater in the country. But just 1,000 years ago, chicken was a relatively rare dish.
Dreams might be a whole lot sexier than we thought – but not because of their narrative content. Neurologist Patrick McNamara's theory links the biological changes in our brains during sleep to human's inherent desire to procreate.
Carl Jung battled his one-time friend and mentor, Sigmund Freud, on a number of topics, though perhaps none as perniciously as dreaming. An entire cottage industry of depth psychology and journaling workshops grew out of Jung’s theories of individuation—integrating the conscious and unconscious. To Jung, dreams—the primal material of the unconscious—unlocked humanity’s archetypal code, revealing more than they concealed, in direct contradiction to Freud’s ideas.