The Red Queen Was Right, Run To Stay In The Same Place — Life Must Continually Originate To Avoid Extinction

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Was the Red Queen from the famous story ‘Through the Looking Glass’ right? Do you need to run in order to stay in the same place? On the larger scales of time this may be true with regards to evolution, according to new research from UC Berkeley — without continually emerging and spreading species, groups and genera often find themselves on the path to extinction.


“Virtually no biologist thinks about the failure to originate as being a major factor in the long term causes of extinction,” said Charles Marshall, director of the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology and professor of integrative biology, and co-author of the report. “But we found that a decrease in the origin of new species is just as important as increased extinction rate in driving mammals to extinction.”

What this means is that rather than animals and plants disappearing because of ‘bad luck’ in a static and unchanging environment, “they face constant change — a deteriorating environment and more successful competitors and predators — that requires them to continually adapt and evolve new species just to survive.”

While this may sound like common sense, it’s a conception that apparently doesn’t have much representation/backing in the scientific community.

Such decreases would play out rather slowly — over millions of years, the researchers note. So the knowledge doesn’t particularly apply to our current situation — the relentless extinctions of animal and plant life currently occurring as a result of human activities, the 6th Great Mass Extinction Event. But the research certainly does have some relevance — and should help to further our understanding of the pressures on today’s flora and fauna.

Written By: Nathan
continue to source article at planetsave.com

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  1. Have to think about this a bit.

    I am more familiar with the concept of the advantages of sexual reproduction in individuals, the other part of this hypothesis. In fact I had pretty much forgotten the continual adaption part of this concept!

    That biological systems are never in equilibrium seems acceptable on the face of it. What is ever in equilibrium biologically?

  2. @OP – “Virtually no biologist thinks about the failure to originate as being a major factor in the long term causes of extinction,” said Charles Marshall, director of the UC Berkeley

    Really??? After years of plotting speciation changes arising from mutations, genetic diversity, natural selection and extinctions from failure to adapt to environmental changes???

    I recently made this comment on another thread here!

    We have even already discussed the relative range of mutation rates in RNA and DNA. A range from extinction from zero change failing to adapt at all, to your much beloved red-herring of ” Error Catastrophe”, where the replication process falls apart from mutant instability.

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      Hi Alan,

      @OP

      “Virtually no biologist thinks about the failure to originate as being a major factor in the long term causes of extinction,” said Charles Marshall, director of the UC Berkeley

      Really???

      My reaction too. Setting aside Marshall’s (ahem) unfortunate use of the word “originate” – a bit too close for comfort to initiate or innovate – why would any modern biologist not consider the long term implications of very high reproduction fidelity? Assuming, of course, they understood that natural selection is based on the observation of nature, i.e.: all individual organisms exists, and must reproduce in, an environment of change.

      Perhaps Marshall is highlighting a major, and consistent, failing in biological teaching?

      Peace.

  3. This feels like old news and peculiar news. The Red Queen Effect has been discussed as early as 1973, with the publication of Leigh van Valen’s article in Evolutionary Theory, and arms races got what I believe is one of their earliest mentions in 1979 with the publication of Dawkins’ and J. R. Krebs’ article in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Yet the concept is presented here as though it were utterly new.

    What this means is that rather than animals and plants disappearing because of ‘bad luck’ in a static and unchanging environment

    I don’t think biologists really believe this in the 21st century. It just feels strange, given how unstable and dynamic we know planet Earth to be, and how arms races work.

    More specifically, I’d have thought that any process that slowed down speciation would be a matter of genetics, not palaeontology or palaeobiology. It’s not obvious to me, for instance, that the massive extinction rate of the Permian-Triassic boundary would owe anything to a mass inability to mutate. The pool of variable inheritable characteristics that fuels natural selection originates from genetic mutations, so how the failure to speciate can be deduced from a fragmentary fossil record that almost never preserves genetic material isn’t clear to me.

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