Wednesday, November 27, 2013

marine mammals, reflexive diving, and evolution

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael Lombardi A recent popular article entitled 'How whales made the dramatic evolutionary shift from land to sea' presents a short overview of the this theory in mammalian aquatic evolution. The basic premise is that adaptation to ocean life by terrestrial mammals was marked by resistance to physiological stresses caused by a lack of oxygen and high salt levels. The article indicates that several whale-specific genes are strongly associated with these adaptations - aquatic evolution at work.

This evolutionary process has been at work for several tens of millions of years - certainly not the blink of an eye, but it did indeed happen. Here on 'A New Life', I've discussed the increasing probability that humans may likely chart down a similar evolutionary path, which of course sounds far fetched, but in the context of tens of millions of years - why not? Frankly, we better get going - sea level rise will take us over far before then.

Interestingly, the 'mammalian diving reflex' that triggers our retaining a breath hold upon immediate immersion is a commonality between humans and aquatic mammals. That shared physiological capability stems from some shared ancient ancestor. While the trait became more highly evolved in aquatic mammals (as we know them today), we are not in a position to say that the trait has or is devolving within the human species. Perhaps we are latecomers, having taken our evolutionary progress to this point in the form of improved intellect, preparing us to make the conscious journey to the sea, which will require a hybridized approach of technology and continued evolution, or a scientifically induced evolution through the manipulation of human physiology.

Maybe, just maybe, the aquatic ape hypothesis conceived to describe our ancestors will be, or is underway today. Undoubtedly, tt will come down to survival of the fittest - and the fittest will be those best suited to assimilate with the very wet world we live in.


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