Evolution observed in trout

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Originally posted 2015-08-07 11:07:41.

You have to be brain-dead to deny the fact of Evolution these days. Well, these last 150 years actually… Apparently though, at least 40% of USians (other Americans are smarter), are indeed just so cerebrally demised. Hopped the neurological twig as it were. Zombified the gray matter. Deceased the thinking apparatus.

Now why would we worry? These are sister-shagging Bible belt rednecks who still think the South actually won the Civil War, aren’t they? ‘Oh no man we just kinda took a time out for a mint juleps n some grits n shit them gaddamn Yankees done called time on us!’ So who cares what they think?

Check my published books for more great reads!

Well the trouble is, they get to elect the Preseedunt of the Yewnited States (of America, not Mexico), and unfortunately, given the performance of some of the incumbents, that is the most powerful office in the world. I mean they elected Dubbya. (Well they didn’t really, but he still got the job.) And there is a risk they might elect another scion of the Terminally Religionard House of Bush next year.

‘Howdee do Jebby boy! Done shot any coons lately? I do mean raccoons now, y’all. Maybe one o them Afreecan Geeraffes? Or a Liahn?’

Maybe southern shitkickers too busy chasing their sisters’ tails to think about it might not be worried that the most powerful person in the world might be a man whose brain has already said ‘Hasta la vista’, but the rest of us should.

You could ask whatever it is now, a quarter of a million dead Iraqis, or Kurds or Syrians what they think, but oh dang woops a daisy, they done got killed already. And anyway, they ain’t Chrischuns.

But one must never lose hope of turning the tide of wilful, self inflicted, deliberate stupidity that laps at the shores of ‘Amereeca’. And there are signs of hope: The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most intensely and egregiously thick religious groups in the United States, has quietly — not telling anyone now– lost a million adherents over the last few years, down from 17 million to 16. And even better, this reduction has been linked to Internet access, suggesting that mutts too stupid to read a book will believe what they see on a screen in front of them — something that Fox figured out a while ago.

But because the Internet is not filtered by Murdoch-friendly aliens attempting to take over the planet on the quiet, some actual real truth slips through. From time to time.

And here is a nice piece just to show that. Scientific American magazine (the readership of which is probably not amongst the 40%,) has run a story this week about observed Evolution in trout.

Fish are known to be able to adapt quickly to environmental changes, particularly pollutants like heavy metals and PCBs. Noting this, the magazine discusses a study on  trout (Salmo trutta) in southwest England (where the greeting used to be ‘Oooaarr buoy, oo well terday?’ but has become ‘Ayoh morning cheps do try not to get the doorstep muddy,’ due to an influx of early-retired middle-class Londoners making it impossible for locals to afford to live there.)

Anyway SM says that the study ‘reveals not only that the local populations of these trout have changed rapidly in response to pollution, it also ties distinct genetic changes to precise events in human industrial history.’

In other words, we can see the evolution and at the same time we can see what caused it. Neat huh? (Stop sticking your tongue in Lucy-Mae’s ear, Jebediah. Lawsh knows what your mother would think. Oh, she’s your cousin…just this once then.)

The team from the University of Exeter were able to identify two specific genetic divergences in the fish, both directly related to industrial activities, one 960 and the other 150 years ago.

From the SM piece, ‘Dating techniques can be quite imprecise but the fact that both splits fit events in history so well was compelling and a big surprise,’ says Jamie Stevens, the research team leader. ‘The adaptation appears to be metal-specific, with trout in each river adapted to a unique cocktail of metals. A fish in one river might tolerate arsenic but would die in a catchment high in tin or zinc.’

These splits coincide with peaks in mining and industrial activity and it appears that the fish suffered ‘bottlenecks’ at each of these two points, when their numbers were drastically reduced and only the most resistant to the pollution survived, passing on this genetic adaptation to future generations.

(Bottlenecks are something that we discuss in Why Men Made God, by the way. Great read.)

Girls are meant to look pretty, trout are meant to be tasty.

So not only can we show that Evolution happens, we can also show that human activity can provoke it. So, job done. Evolution observed, theory confirmed, all Evolution-deniers either shut up or shoot yourselves.

Now I know that the Bible-belters are all standing there with their fingers (or their cousin’s tongues) in their ears shouting ‘Lalalalala I can’t hear you,’ (or ‘Ooooh, Jebby let’s go back to Ma’s trailer and make a baby,’) but that’s no reason not to share a good wee story from an excellent magazine.

And hey, maybe somebody might learn something. Maybe.

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