Panda: Proof of evolution

Jen posted a photo on her blog taken at a Chinese zoo.Poor Panda's Penis Problem

As I mentioned almost a year ago in my post on What’s wrong with Pandas? the bear relative is an embarrassment.  These tiny cocked failures in natural selection will soon die out, leaving an evolutionary niche to fill for most ridiculous large mammal.  Arguable humans could take this role but we’ve proven to be quite successful with our opposable thumbs and clever minds.  After pandas, who is even close to being the mammalian species of scorn?  Who will nature next select for the rubbish dump?

An obvious choice is the manatee.  Like pandas they are, shall we say, plump.  Unlike pandas this is an advantage in the water than they live in and their shape allows them to move swiftly through the water in search of prey.  Admittedly their prey happens to be sea grass, algae and mangrove leaves.  An environment that we humans are quickly destroying with pollution and building on the land that provides for mangrove trees.

We humans are also adding to the destruction of manatees by running them over in our speedboats.  Sensitive skin and blubber may protect them from the aquatic elements and those few predators who risk attacking the large mammals but it’s no protection from the cutting blades of a rotor.

Sadly for the manatee, little children like to cuddle toy pandas but the sight of the foam filled leather sack of a toy manatee will just make your kids hate you.

The fabled armadillo is another popular choice for the evolutionary waste bin.  Although heavily armoured and equipped with strong claws for digging these creatures are generally peaceful.  They tend to eat a variety of grubs and insects unlike the crap pandas who eat only bamboo and happy thoughts.  Leeching the latter right out of the hearts of small children until they reach their teens.

Some armadillos live in borrows which protects them from predators while others flee from them into thorny undergrowth, using their plated hides for protection.  Sadly it is humanity again that threatens these gentle creatures.  Not only to we encroach on their environment but we make use of armadillos in experiments to study leprosy since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically.  We also use them to test different diseases and cures as they reproduce four genetically identical quadruplets in each litter.

What about our cousins on the evolutionary tree: the great apes, specifically the gorilla?  Unlike humans these creatures are rarely violent and prefer to keep to themselves.

Despite sharing 98% of their DNA with humans they are very different from us socially, preferring a simply life of foraging.  They are capable of complex communication, even learning sign language to communicate with humans.  Why they’d want to is beyond me.  I’m human and I barely want to communicate with most other humans.

Once more it is humanity that threatens this mammal.  We destroy their habitat and hunt them for their body parts.  We even expose them to our diseases, wiping out thousands of the gentle creatures.  Perhaps it is the fact that they remind us of ourselves that makes us destroy them?  Pandas at least have the error of being ridiculous, while apes have only the error of being related to us.

It would be easy to list tigers or any of the great cats as evolutionary dead ends but these magnificent animals engender so much sympathy that it is hard to imagine us allowing them to become extinct.  Besides which the only real reason for their decline is human over hunting.  All we need to do to allow them to thrive is leave them alone. 

Who’d want to mess with anything that could bite your arm off anyway?  Pandas can barely manage to sit on someone as their method of defence.  The big cats are dangerous.

Tigers are so… very… pretty. They are just too pretty for God to let them die. Huh?

So, which mammal is doomed next?  Should we do anything about it or let nature take her course?


Filed under Bad things happen, You decide

10 responses to “Panda: Proof of evolution

  1. Just wondering who is going to tell Robin Williams that his t-shirt says ‘I [heart] taking it up the backside’… 🙂

  2. Jason


    Why, if species X kills off species y, is it natural selection but is it not natural selection if humans, through their own appetites and self-centeredness, kill off other species? Are we not at that very point gleeful participants in the evolutionary process? Aren’t we demonstrating our fitness like good blobs of goo?

    I’m sure this has been asked before, but I would just love to hear the reasoning.

  3. Brennig, leave the monkey man alone. He’s very sensitive.

    @Jason. Natural selection deals with heritable traits being passed on to subsequent generations. What you’re talking about is the closely related issue of survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest though is a metaphor for traits that survive rather than species. Natural selection is not just survival of the fittest. Survivors survive, reproduce and therefore propagate any heritable characters which have affected their survival and reproductive success.

    Human depreciation and destruction of environments and species moves too quickly for evolution to have an effect. If you have a species that lives on bamboo like the panda and humans destroy the bamboo crops then the species will die. If you have a species that lives on insects and grubs and humans destroy all the dung beetles then the species can adapt over time to survive on the remaining insects and grubs.

    Evolution is a process that is too slow to adapt to the introduction of new predators. We humans have used out superior intelligence and tool use to become the ultimate predator but we don’t cull the edges of a species, we wipe them out. They cannot adapt if there are no survivors.

  4. Jason

    “Natural selection is not just survival of the fittest”

    I understand that. It is mostly comprised of the endlessly circular, unfalsifiable, scientifically meaningless observation of reproduction rates.

    You go on to confirm the substance of my argument:

    Natural selection deals with heritable traits…Survival of the fittest though is a metaphor for traits. If Natural Selection deals with heritable traits and Survival of the fittest is a metaphor for the application of those traits, aren’t you just confirming my observation?

    “Evolution is a process that is too slow to adapt to the introduction of new predators”

    You have introduced a variable not present in my original question: The idea that there is a new predator. In several thousand years of Human Anthropological development, our actions and the effect of those actions on our surroundings has changed. We are not new, but clear cutting, plastics, industrial organic solvents, etc. are new. Evolution, as you define it, is not reponsible for the deadly results of modern human behavior, it is only a intra-special behavioral accretion.

    “Human depreciation and destruction of environments and species moves too quickly for evolution to have an effect.”

    This has no meaning in relation to my question. Regardless of what what you suggest evolution is “effect”-ing, I suggested the the depreciation and destruction IS the effect, not the cause of another effect. To rephrase, how is it that our behavioral modifications, which result in the extinction of other species, is not evolution in action? If the unfit are being demonstrated as such in comparison to humans, how is that observation separate from the evolutionary process?

    “They cannot adapt if there are no survivors.”

    Again adding a variable. How is the necessity of survivors a precondition of evolution as a big picture concept?

  5. Mas

    Nodding and agreeing with Mr Frog’s comments about the introduction of new species/predators into a region – look at places like Australia with it’s flora/fauna importing laws. You have an eco system set up that is balanced (like here – the old “life” simulations that mirror the relationships between a predator and prey; like the rabbit and the fox. There is a natural balance. Mankind’s interference with the natural order of things destroys the idea of “survival of the fittest”

    Pandas by their nature are solitary creatures. I wonder if we’re just being idiots and saving all the little dicked, long vaginal panda’s and missing all the big dicks and small vaginas in our haste to save them (or, if they’re the ones who would typically mate and prolong the survival of the species, and are usually all shagged out and unable to find bamboo etc and die out – where as the pandas that no-one wants to shag run around eating all the shoots and roots?)

    I think there is a question that maybe mankind is actually screwing himself (which I’m sure will be our next level of evolution – what with our increasing needs to isolate ourselves from our neighbours – we’ll be self breeders! 🙂 ) but that all these creatures we’re killing off form such a vital, if non-obvious, function within the eco-system … that they’ll be gone and we’ll be soon to follow…

  6. This was very interesting to read. Still thinking about my opinion however. I’ll get back to you on that.

  7. Jason, let’s take a well know theory of a great big meteor striking the earth and wiping out 98% of life on it. Does this benefit the surviving species (particularly mammals)? Yes, obviously. A dramatic change to an ecology will destroy some species leaving room for something to fill that gap. That is assuming that the ecology is not completely destroyed. I see your point.

    The issue instead of being one of natural selection and evolutionary process is whether we desire a world where the number of species that we share the world with is reduced significantly because of our actions. Along with tool use and intelligence we humans have empathy (a trait also seen in other animals) and the ability to plan for successive generations. I may joke about pandas being a bit crap but I would like them to be around for my great, great grandchildren to laugh at rather than mourn.

    Perhaps in evolving intelligence, imagination and empathy we should try using them together for a change.

    @Mas, perhaps as Jason suggest the natural order of things is the destruction of other species. I don’t particularly like the idea but we’re not known for being responsible or even kind as a species. The human race though has a reliance on crops to sustain our number. If our pollution and mishandling of the planet destroys that which sustains us we’ll get to see natural selection up close and personal.

    Mylozmum, is that ‘interesting’ as in delusional nonsense or ‘interesting’ as in thought provoking? Maybe a bit of both if I’m lucky. 🙂

  8. I think that the key to surviving as a species is the ability to adopt to changing conditions.

    Some animals have evolved to adopt to specific conditions. When these conditions are present their population explodes. If conditions change more rapidly than they are able to evolve they become extinct. That’s my interpretation of natural selection. The environment determines which animals survive and which become extinct.

    Any isolated population of animals that have adopted to a very specific environment are the ones who are most threatened with extinction.

  9. I recently read that barnacles have the largest penis in compared to their size with a penis eight times the length of their body.

    I guess they are well “equipped” to deal with their environment. 🙂

  10. I’d have to say thought provoking as I have not come to my own opinion on this subject yet. Good points to all sides of this have been brought up so I’m still undecided if I want to even HAVE an opinion on this. Insensitive of me?

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