Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Life The Remake

Barnacles, for example, "desperately want to be mollusks," UC Davis paleontologist Geerat Vermeij said, although they are actually crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters. As adults, they have evolved a lifestyle similar to that of clams, mussels and another entire group of animals, the brachiopods.
by Staff Writers
Davis CA (SPX) Feb 28, 2006
UC Davis paleontologist Geerat Vermeij says evolution at this level, like the rest of history, is predictable. If the history of life were to play out again from the beginning, it would have a similar plot and outcomes, although with a different cast and timing, argues UC Davis paleontologist Geerat Vermeij in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Evolution at this level, like the rest of history, is predictable, perhaps more predictable than people want to imagine," Vermeij said. "Many traits are so advantageous under so many circumstances that you are likely to see the same things again and again."

Vermeij's view contrasts with that put forward by the late Stephen Jay Gould and others, who argued that the history of life is so dependent on improbable events and includes so many possible paths that the chances of repetition are vanishingly small. Vermeij argues that some innovations, such as photosynthesis, plant seeds, mineralized bones and even human language are just such good ideas that they would reappear, although at different times and in somewhat different forms.

Barnacles, for example, "desperately want to be mollusks," Vermeij said, although they are actually crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters. As adults, they have evolved a lifestyle similar to that of clams, mussels and another entire group of animals, the brachiopods.

Vermeij reviewed 23 evolutionary innovations thought to be unique, including the genetic code, sex, human language and feathers, and another 55 that turn up repeatedly. Most of the unique innovations -- with the exception of human language -- are ancient, more than half a billion years old. Many of the repeated innovations are known only from a few specimens that were part of much larger groups. Vermeij said that many of life's "unique" developments might just appear to be so because other species died out and were not preserved as fossils.

A "unique" innovation might also be the result of intense natural selection. For example, once the genetic code appeared, primitive organisms readily swapped genes, as bacteria still do today. Any variants or competitors to the genetic code that arose later would have been unable to spread and establish.

Vermeij thinks that these principles are universal.

"If we had an Earth-like planet, I think we'd see phenotypes and outcomes that parallel those on Earth," he said.

Related Links
UC Davis

Security Plan Imperils Endangered Species
San Diego CA (UPI) Feb 28, 2006
An area just north of Tijuana and south of San Diego -- the last refuge for many endangered species -- is being threatened by a fence. The National Estuarine Research reserve -- all that remains of the wilderness that once was common in southern California -- is home to more than 350 species of birds, as well as 20 kinds of fish and a plethora of other endangered animals and plants.







  • White House Demands Whirlwind Changes To Hurricane Response
  • Military To Plan For Larger Role In Disaster Relief
  • Urgent Change Needed To Hurricane Response
  • Levee Modeling Study To Provide Technical Data For Rebuilding New Orleans

  • Fossil Wood Gives Vital Clues To Ancient Climates
  • NASA Under Pressure To Ensure Researcher Independence
  • Greenland Glaciers Dumping Ice Into Atlantic At Faster Pace
  • The Arctic And Global Warming

  • NASA Awards Ocean Color Research Support Services Contract
  • Europe To Replace CryoSat
  • Earth From Space: Copenhagen, Denmark
  • ALOS Captures First Image of Fujiyama

  • Poop Power Being Sniffed Out In San Francisco
  • Environmental Metagenomics Tapping Opportunities For Clean Energy
  • Walker's World: EU's Bold Caucasus Bid
  • Garbage Truck Industry Ponders Move To LNG

  • Crippling Indian Ocean Epidemic Detected in France
  • People of African Descent More Vulnerable to TB
  • Americans Downplay Widespread Outbreak Of Avian Flu In Next Year
  • Learning To Love Bacteria

  • Life, The Remake
  • Security Plan Imperils Endangered Species
  • Tourists, Police Release 100 Turtles Saved From Pot In Indonesia
  • Utah Evolution Bill Revised For Third Time

  • Tanker Spills Fuel After Suez Canal Accident
  • China Reports Desert Getting Smaller
  • Potentially Carcinogenic Oil Leaks Into Bosnian Lake
  • China, Russia To Jointly Monitor Border Rivers

  • Better Carbon Dating Revises Some History
  • Melting Yukon Ice Fields Reveal Ancient Canadian Footwear
  • Love That Baby Fat
  • Early Human Ancestors Walked On The Wild Side

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement