Wild Earth - 4: Salamander Sex isn't Quite What We Thought

in writing •  11 months ago

Hello!!! It's been a while, I've been off doing Important Cat Shit. You know what it's like for an itchy kitten yes? Can't hold still! You want to learn one of my deepest pet peeves? That when people say this (and they do, all the time), I want to scream and claw their eyes out, tearing their flesh with my claws!!!

It goes something like this...

You'll be having a perfectly enjoyable day with your homies, maybe drinking some beer, and laying around in the sun. Talking about bullshit, that guy that cut his fingers off on the sheet metal press, and someone brings up the topic of population control. Well, you say, fuck...I don't see it as that big of a deal. We're all getting so damned sick and diseased, releasing all kinds of toxic shit into our food and water, I figure if we keep living how we're living, sooner or later most of us won't be able to reproduce anyhow. The population will fix itself.

Then that person who's in med school, is like

"NO. Actually You're Wrong.", "There's no link between people's diets and their ability to reproduce, the only clinically proven indicator assuming they have a functional reproduction system is the percentage of body fat in a women's body".

Ok...and here it comes..wait for this shit!

...It's Science!

WELP!!!! Can't ARGUE with fucking SCIENCE now can we? Nope, I sure as hell didn't mortgage the next 20 years of my life to pay for Med school so I could blow lots of cocaine and be chronically stressed out. Who the fuck am I to argue to with SCIENCE???

I'm ITCHY KITTEN, and science didn't make me itchy, curiosity did! So, Science, I'm coming for you, in your multitude of hyper-spectral unspoken assumptions. I mean come on, for starters the idea that Science is a SINGLE Voice ( much less of reason and authority) is complete and utter horse shit. Any real scientist would tell you that, and if they don't, stop listening to them.

Don't get me wrong here. I don't hate science. I'm not against science. It's just that it pisses me off when people's IDEAS and CONCEPTS prevent them from PAYING ATTENTION TO THE WORLD AROUND THEM WITH THEIR OWN FUCKING SENSES, which consequently whether you can admit it or not, is where ALL science has sprung forth. From someone's senses. So lets get into it.

The Mythology of Science. (Mythology doesn't imply incorrect, it's just the concept that we hold as a society)

The bad thing about Science is that when you stop examining your beliefs with a critical eye, it's no longer Science, it's just a cult.

Alright, here's the deal, the Concept of science is that we (collectively as humans) use our senses (but only in an objective way!) to observe and measure our world, we talk about what we can observe amongst each other, and then postulate certain Models about what kind of world we are living in. These models exist completely in our brains. They aren't real.

We then use these models to extrapolate and make predictions about our world. And you know? On the whole, this basic process has allowed us to do a LOT OF REALLY COOL SHIT. It also, more arguably so, might be partially responsible for a lot of really crappy things ( rampant destruction of our planet, massive extinctions, untold human suffering, horrifying wars, loss of meaning in life, packing hundreds of thousands of pigs into big metal sheds and pumping them full of antibiotics so they life long enough to butcher..et cetera)

The idea that I want to reinforce though, is that while these models of the world we develop inside our minds can be really powerful, they also can be wrong, and they can be wrong in very subtle and insidious ways. Come back and read more Itchy and we'll get to some of that. We're going to build up to it.

The model we're looking at today is this neat little concept of Species. Where does this concept come from? Well, we can start with the language. Whats the etymology of the word Species? IE, where does the WORD itself come from?

late 14c. as a classification in logic, from Latin species "a particular sort, kind, or type" (opposed to genus), originally "a sight, look, view, appearance," hence also "a spectacle; mental appearance, idea, notion; a look; a pretext; a resemblance; a show or display," typically in passive senses; in Late Latin, "a special case;" related to specere "to look at, to see, behold," from PIE root *spek- "to observe." From 1550s as "appearance, outward form;" 1560s as "distinct class (of something) based on common characteristics." Biological sense is from c. 1600. Endangered species first attested 1964.

Wow, okay, PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European which is the great grand daddy of Germanic, Sanscrit, Romance, Latin, and Some Mongolian present day languages. It's the oldest we know of, so Species ultimately came from Spek meaning to observe or see. And also seems to have been used in Late Latin to refer to a "special" case. But it's not until 1600+ years later that it comes to refer to the concept of a group of animals that are a SINGLE type. Okay.

So what is the concept of a Species today? Lets look it up

a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g., Homo sapiens.

A group of life forms that can interbreed. Interesting. This is the model that most of us are familiar with growing up, it's taught in elementary school, high school, colleges all around the world.

What would you think if I told you that it's a broken model? That as a heuristic device for understanding the world we find ourselves in, it has been and seems to be fairly helpful. But that doesn't mean it's true, and like all heuristic devices, the danger is in mistaking it for reality itself.

A partially broken model, in that it works alright. Although there are numerous and frequent examples throughout history and modern times of why conceptualizing species as simple box system is not accurate. What I mean by a simple box system, is that in the Pig box, you are either in it, or out of it. If you're in it, you're a pig. If you're not, you're not. Take humans for example, we share a disturbingly large amount of biology with pigs, but we're not pigs, right? RIGHT?!?!

Anyway, so lets take a look at a little salamander that lives in the Central Valley of California called Ensatina Eschscholtzi.
These beauties live around the forested edges of the valley. Thus, their available habitat forms a ring around the valley. This ring doesn't meet on the bottom side...so the shape of available habitat is something like a horse shoe!

Around this horse shoe of available habitat lives what was once considered a group of several different species of salamander. In the 1940's a biologist named Robert Stebbins hypothesized that as the salamanders had migrated south, and around both sides of the central valley, which was too hot and dry for them to inhabit, that they had evolved into different species along the way. There seemed to be some truth to the matter, because the two populations that arrived on the southern end of the valley are not able to breed with each other.

The crazy thing though, is that there turns out to be quite a bit more to the story as we understand it today. After several decades more study, it is now understood that while the two "species" on the opposite ends of the horse shoe can't breed...every species along the way that is in contact with each other CAN breed. Thus the two opposite ends are actually still in constant genetic exchange.

YES. What we're seeing is that our boxlike concept of species is appearing to be a lot more like a SPECTRUM! Strange isn't it? What is actually stranger to me however, is instead of questioning our whole concept of what it means to be a species, we have just linguistically sequestered this off as an EXCEPTION to our rule =) . It's called a Ring Species.

Science. The rules aren't rules. And the pigs aren't human(or is it the other way around...)? You read it here first bitches! Straight from the kitten's mouth.

Thankyou for your support and thoughts! This is the fourth part of a series called Wild Earth where we take a look at the crazier side of the natural world. I will continue publishing the Story of Money series as time goes on, also feel free to check out my Exercise Anywhere series for those of you who like to get a workout in unconventional(yet practical!) ways. If you've enjoyed this post, please masturbate or upvote or something...!

Wild Earth

#1 -Flatworms Can Store Memory Outside Their Brains
#2 - The Untold Majesty of Flowers
#3 - Dog People, Language, and Death
#4 - Salamander Sex isn't Quite What We Thought


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I'm so pissed I just found this article. This is so undervalued information. Whenever I try to talk to anyone about how nothing is black or white, they usually call me a crazy existentialist... lol

I'm saving this post, although past payout, and sharing it on several channels. And I love your writing style. How come you don't post more. Come back!!!

I found your page because I was looking up steemit in the chrome web store and noticed you authored a plugin that hides resteems on someone's blog. I checked you out because you authored it. Now I've totally forgotten about the plugin and I'm reading your blogs. Lol.

Okay, back to the plugin. I'm wondering if it's open source or if you plan on expanding it anytime soon. I really like it, although it only does one thing at the moment. And I'm wondering if you're planning anything else for it soon.

Hope to hear back,

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@itchykitten you were flagged by a worthless gang of trolls, so, I gave you an upvote to counteract it! Enjoy!!