How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Life is Not as We Know it

A wonderful quote from my favorite eco-evo blog:

"...it seems to me that the human imagination and even calculation is incapable of postulating the possible endpoints in an adaptive radiation... Adaptive radiations are indeed stranger than fiction." A. Hendry

I feel like this idea touches on something that has been swimming around the back of my mind for years now. After learning about insane animal and plant adaptations, like the flow-through lungs of a bird (they don't exhale!), the ability of some marine mammals to hold their breath for hours, electroreception in fish, and plants that grow in the dark, to name a few, I decided that there can no longer be a standard for life. I can no longer make assumptions about how life should work. Just when I think I have understood the basic principles of life, an organism is discovered with some unfathomable trait, like a vertebrate without hemoglobin or a thriving ecosystem entirely isolated from the sun. Life all seems to blend together, really. Animals, plants, fungi, algae, rocks, water, gas, molecules, atoms; they're all on a spectrum. How can anyone suggest or pretend to know how nature should be? All we can do is observe and learn from it. It is this unending innovation of the natural world that draws me to study Ecology and how it changes. 

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