So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

The Environment.

Mother Nature.

Our World.

Planet Earth.

We hear a lot of conflicting points of view about how resilient it is to change and what changes we are forcing it to endure.

These are big issues that are hard to answer, so I thought instead to draw your attention to something on a slightly smaller scale.

Pupfish Sex.

Yeah, that caught your attention didn’t it.

Well, when I say sex, I should probably clarify that I’m mainly going to focus on how they pick up, rather than the activity itself. I recently read an article that was about research performed by two scientists from The University of New Mexico.

They were looking at a group of fish living on an Island in the Bahamas – because even fish need a holiday – and investigating how two closely related species of fish avoided interbreeding.

They found that of the two species – one a predator and one a prey species – the predators were very adamant about choosing other predators to mate with, while the prey species were less picky and in most cases would happily mate with either.

So far so good.

The interesting bit is when they looked at the hybrid offspring from interbreeding – some of which were predatory some of which shared the traits of the prey species – and found that the predatory hybrids were stunted, died younger and were less efficient in general as compared to the prey hybrids who lived relatively normally.

The predators had a higher complexity in their genetic make-up that optimised them for their specialised, scale-eating diet. Compare this to the prey species who have a much less restricted diet and don’t need those specialised traits.

Now you’re probably wondering how this relates to that lovely big question about the resilience of the environment – unless you got totally distracted by the Pupfish, which is understandable. It ties in with the point about how nature deals with change.

The prey species, a less complex organism than the predator, endures much better when change occurs – in this case change is personified by interbreeding/hybridisation – whereas the more complex predator cannot survive the effects of change and thus must seek to prevent it by only mating with other predators when they have the option.

If we extrapolate from this we must agree that humans – a very complex organism with lots of specialised traits – should be actively seeking to prevent excess change in our environment rather than exacerbating it.

Just remember, just because you are the biggest fish in the pond, doesn’t mean you own it. After all, cockroaches can survive excessive radiation… we can’t.

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