Friday, 16 August 2019
There has been many explanations offered for the existence of cryptid creatures.
I have looked at the possibility that what people could be seeing are “Phantimals” the spirits of long dead animals haunting the woods and lakes of the world.
There are some other ideas which are more grounded in hard science and could provide an answer to the cryptid question.
The possibility of an animal living past a time when it was thought to have gone extinct being one and or an animal that has somehow managed to avoid being captured and identified by modern biologist for the period of recorded history we use today.
There may be another answer, evolution may play its part.
Animals may be evolving to fill empty niches in ecosystems, these niches opening up because of the extinction of other species.
Could this event explain the existence of cryptid creatures?
Many have searched for an answer to the appearance of creatures that do not fit with excepted evolutionary history, skeptics also use evolution to debunk sightings of beasts that they say should not be alive, but what if the story is not so simple?
What if a small bird could provide us with an example and an answer to the questions many cryptozoologist and biologist ask!
This bird is not a species thought long extinct, or a rediscovered animal that has avoided detection for a long time. It is an avian species that was once extinct and by a miracle of nature has once again come into existence thanks to evolution.
Evolution is often seen as linear path, one animal evolving form another, creatures morphing and changing as time passes, until they become a distinct species.
But in truth evolution is messy process with many paths and branches, more of a jumbled mess of lines that often throw up surprises.
Different species leap frogging one another, others evolving to resemble animals found in a completely different genus. These animals and this process can create some odd looking beasts and the way this will play out in the future can make for an interesting thought experiment.
Take a look at my “post natural earth video” and see what has been imagined by a French artist
But let’s get back to the Extinct Bird which Evolved Back into Existence.
The Aldabra white-throated rail – a flightless bird which was found on Comoros, Madagascar, Mayotte, and the Seychelles went extinct some 136,000 years ago. This bird has now just, what could be termed as “re-evolved”
So how or what is re-evolution?
This species of bird has moved between the islands many times over the past hundreds of thousands of years often it has been subjected to extinction events that have wiped it out in a single area or on one of the islands.
The study published in the Linnean Society zoological journal points out that fossils collected in these areas show that the White throated rail lived only on Aldarad atoll for thousands of years.
The fossils showed that the bird was once a species which could fly but it gave up this ability shortly after settling on the world’s second largest coral atoll. This population of birds would have done well to keep their ability to fly, Mother Nature had plans for the coral island and as rising sea levels at the end of the Pleistocene era sank the island all the birds that called the atoll home drowned!!
This brings us to the part of the story that we as fans of cryptids are interested in.
Avian paleontologist Julian Hume, from the Natural History Museum London, along with David Martill, a paleobiologist at the University of Portsmouth, found fossil evidence on the island which showed that as recently as 20,000 years ago, the same evolutionary ancestor of the extinct bird were living happily on the sister islands of the Seychelles and Madagascar.
This bird once again repeated the journey its ancient ancestor had taken and started its journey on the same evolutionary path its ancient relation had once headed down, a process that is known as “iterative evolution.”
They flew to the now dry atoll settled and once again lost the ability to fly.
Iterative evolution has been seen before in other species ranging from sea turtles to mammalian sea cows.
This is however the first time it has been witnessed in birds.
Paleobiologist David Martill explained:
“We know of no other example in rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently. Only on Aldabra, which has the oldest palaeontological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is fossil evidence available that demonstrates the effects of changing sea levels on extinction and recolonisation events. Conditions were such on Aldabra, the most important being the absence of terrestrial predators and competing mammals, that a rail was able to evolve flightlessness independently on each occasion.”
The expert went onto say this could offer hope for other flightless bird species that have gone extinct, he pointed out the symbol of manmade extinction the dodo as a bird which could one day re-evolve from a living ancestor ,if we could find one that is.
If this process is common across all types of living thing, mammal, reptile and avian, could this same model of “iterative evolution” be used with more cryptid creatures?
Let’s take argyuably the world’s most popular cryptid Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
The theory that Bigfoot and all his cousins found around the planet are a living species of great ape or human ancestor is a popular.
Gigantopithecus being the favorite candidate for a living fossil explaining the existence of these mysterious hominids, but what if we follow the path laid out by Iterative evolution?
Could the Alamas, Yeti, Yowie and others, be creatures that have evolved from a smaller species of ape?
The genes evolving to express the traits, characteristics and appearance of the species of giant ape that went extinct as recently as 100,000 years ago.
Could a convergence in evolution. (The process whereby organisms not closely related, independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches). Provide us with an answer that for scientific purposes gives us an evolutionary path that offers a plausible answer for these large hominids existing today.
If this is something that has appeared in the fossil record there is no reason that theoretically it is something that could be used to explain the Sasquatch and the phenomena of giant hominids.
But as is always, until we get some real concrete proof of Bigfoot and his relatives it is speculation and theory.
I do like the idea of “iterative evolution” or “convergent evolution” for an answer to the appearance of strange cryptids. Nature can morph existing species into animals that we cannot easily recognize or that we think are some other completely different type of creature.
Could sea serpents and lake monsters be a giant species of eel or some other kind of yet to be identified fish, could the sightings of living pterosaurs be reptiles that have once again evolved flight using a similar body pattern to the extinct flying reptiles of the past.
Maybe Thunderbirds are giant raptors once again evolving to fill an empty ecological niche on the planet?
We saw this happen with another raptor the Vegetarian Eagle, and many other animals.
In a strange turn of events the Palm Nut Vulture or “Vulturine Fish Eagle” an African relative of the Golden Eagle, Buzzard and Goshawk a bird that ferociously attacks Oil Palm trees instead of preying on animals.
This raptor evolved a special digestive system for its new vegetarian diet, but yet it looks and acts just like most other eagles. The difference being that instead of ripping flesh from bones using its powerful beak it now uses it to crack open nuts.
This bird shows us just how fluid genetic adaptation is, and how quickly an animal can deviate from what is perceived as the norm.
Another animal this time a mammal that highlights the drastic changes a body can go through in a relatively short time, is the Marsupial Mole.
Australia’s has the world’s largest number of marsupial species, often they are completely unrelated to other mammal groups found across the planet.
These Marsupials have been noted as coming up with “answers” in evolutionary terms, that mammals from other groups have not.
Where mammal carnivores evolved into the lions we are so familiar with today, the marsupial group produced the now extinct marsupial version “the Thylacine”.
The Thylacine being another creature that cryptozoologist propose is still living, maybe it is also another example of iterative evolution.
But let’s get back to our mole, the marsupial mole is unrelated to the familiar moles of Europe, Asia & North America. The strange, sightless marsupial looks and acts just like a mole in its habitat, but it is in no way related to the aforementioned moles. It has evolved to thrive in its chosen environment and this evolution has shaped an animal that closely matches animals in other parts of the word yet it is no relation a perfect example of “converging evolution”
This strange evolutionary pattern is not limited to fauna, it can also be observed in flora.
The monkey face orchid a plant Native to the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru bears an uncanny resemblance to…. a monkey’s face.
Blooming all year round the rare plant emits a scent like ripe oranges and it is not alone the bee orchid, you guessed it acts like a bee.
Specifically a female bee.
The bee orchid attracts male bees for pollination by mimicking a receptive female. As well as producing a scent that the male bee confuses with the alluring odor of a potential mate. Its petals also resemble the shape of a female. When the male mistakenly tries to mate with the object of its affections, it also transfers pollen to the flower.
The last and somewhat comical plant is the naked man orchid.
Also known as the Italian orchid, this flower has clusters of petals that look like cute little naked men.
So it would seem that nature does like to follow a design that works, the same or very similar body patterns and behaviors evolving in different and unrelated species of animal and plant.
So do you think this idea is a suitable explanation for some cryptid species?
Could “iterative evolution” be an answer to the many strange animals spotted all over the world?
Had you heard of this strange patterns of evolution?
What flora or fauna do you know that express these evolutionary quirks?
Let me know in the comments below.
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