Furthest Right

Adaptation and reproductive nurturing trump conflict in evolutionary fitness

First, this stuffy gem:

Adaptation is one of the driving forces behind evolution, along with selection and the appearance of new species, say a group of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München researchers, but they say that the interpretation familiar since Darwin – these processes increase the “fitness” of the species overall, since, of two competing species, only the fittest would survive – is actually a case of the fittest being the ‘weakest’ most often.

The extinction of species is a consequence of their inability to adapt to new environmental conditions, and also of their competition with other species, say LMU researchers who simulated the progression of a cyclic competition of three species, meaning that each participant is superior to one other species, but will be beaten by a third interaction partner.

“In this kind of cyclical concurrence, the weakest species proves the winner almost without exception,” reports Professor Erwin Frey, who headed the study. “The two stronger species, on the other hand, die out, as experiments with bacteria have already shown. Our results are not only a big surprise, they are important to our understanding of evolution of ecosystems and the development of new strategies for the protection of species.”

Scientific Blogging

I say “stuffy” because these guys treat life as a laboratory condition when the greater conditions of life are in fact a boon to less simplistic results.

However, they have a point, and it relates to the Asiatic concept of ki, which I’ll translate as decisiveness (vir) in preserving balance with nature: sometimes the dude who walks away before a fight begins has the most ki, because he has avoided a fight for no purpose. Some fights have purpose; others will decide nothing important, and so are purposeless. (In other words, someone who says all wars are bad is as dumb as someone who says war is the solution to every situation.)

In nature, the name of the game is survival of the fittest, which most people think means that two animals square off in the bush, and “two men enter, one man leaves!” More likely, it’s a question of which group over time is able to survive well and raise its children through nurturing and first world post-natal reproductive tactics.

So this means that sometimes the species that is ostensibly weakest externally, but puts its power and wealth (ability to produce food from its environment) into reproductive nurturing, will prevail.

And here’s a case in point:

The simple, everyday act of cooking could have given humans an evolutionary edge over apes, researchers proposed at a scientific meeting this week.

“The hallmark of dietary evolution is our flexibility and plasticity. What made humans humans is the ability to find or make a meal in the environment,” said William Leonard, an anthropologist at Northwestern University who was not involved in the new research.

Cooking makes starchy things gelatinous, breaks up proteins, and softens rock-hard edibles, Wrangham said. Such textural and chemical changes make foods easier to eat and digest.

National Geographic

It also allowed us to decrease jaw size and muscles, giving us more room for brains.

The bigger principle is this: in a fistfight, the ape always wins over the human. They’re bigger, stronger and faster.

But a human might walk away from the fistfight, and live off foods that are harder to get but easier to eat, and so prosper where the apes remained doing the same thing they’d done for the last forty million years.

And that’s why humans rule the planet over apes, and why nerds rule over the burly and stupid within human societies — or did, at least, until government came along to equalize things.

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