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Extinction: Was the Red Queen right? Does failure to evolve lead to extinction?

File:Tenniel red queen with alice.jpg

Red Queen lecturing Alice/Tenniel, 1871

Paleontologist David Raup noted that

The disturbing reality is that for none of the thousands of well-documented extinctions in the geologic past do we have a solid explanation of why the extinction occurred. We have many proposals in specific cases, of course: … These are all plausible scenarios, but no matter how plausible, they cannot be shown to be true beyond reasonable doubt. Equally plausible alternative scenarios can be invented with ease, and none has predictive power in the sense that it can show a priori that a given species or anatomical type was destined to go extinct. (David M. Raup, Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991), p. 17.)

Recently, two paleontologists Charles Marshall of UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology and post-doctoral fellow Tiago Quental have possibly added to the list by offering “failure to evolve” in relation to the environment as a cause. Or, as the Red Queen put it in Through the Looking-Glass, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”:

“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.”

The results, published June 20 in the journal Science Express, come from a study of 19 groups of mammals that either are extinct or, in the case of horses, elephants, rhinos and others, are in decline from a past peak in diversity. All are richly represented in the fossil record and had their origins sometime in the last 66 million years, during the Cenozoic Era.

Though the specific cause of declining originations and rising extinctions for these groups is unclear, the researchers concluded that the mammals’ death was not just dumb luck. “Each group has either lost, or is losing, to an increasingly difficult environment,” Marshall said. “These groups’ demise was at least in part due to loss to the Red Queen — that is, a failure to keep pace with a deteriorating environment.”

Deteriorating, that is, for them. What was good for trees wasn’t good for buffalo, and versa vice.

One good thing about these guys’ hypothesis is that it is testable today (not like “What really happened to the dinosaurs?”). We can follow serious declines in populations, where the decline is caused by changing environment rather than human action, and see what actually happens to those members of a species not kept alive in wildlife preserves.

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7 Responses to Extinction: Was the Red Queen right? Does failure to evolve lead to extinction?

  1. Raup’s book states its opinion in the title. Bad luck is the primary cause for extinction

  2. Well, maybe it was these life forms’ “bad luck” to be at the end of available adaptations then. The problem with leaving it at “bad luck” is that the concept is – by itself – uninformative, as Raup admitted. One must steer a path between overconfident, underevidenced assertions (“The dinosaurs died out because they didn’t are for their young.”) and concepts too vague to be studied. These guys might be wrong but their idea should be able to be studied.

  3. Though I’m certainly no expert on the fossil record, from what I can gather, and as this ‘Red Queen’ study supports, is that the fossil record is none too helpful for Darwinists. In the first part of Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s book, ‘Darwin’s Doubt’, Dr. Meyer, in an extremely even handed manner, exposes that the Cambrian Explosion ‘dilemma’ has only gotten far worse for Darwinism as more fossil evidence has been unearthed, not better as Darwin himself had predicted in ‘Origin of Species’:

    Paleontologist Mark McMenamin on Darwin’s Doubt – David Klinghoffer June 17, 2013
    Excerpt: “It is hard for us paleontologists, steeped as we are in a tradition of Darwinian analysis, to admit that neo-Darwinian explanations for the Cambrian Explosion have failed miserably. New data acquired in recent years, instead of solving Darwin’s dilemma, have rather made it worse. Meyer describes the dimensions of the problem with clarity and precision. His book is a game changer for the study of evolution and evolutionary biology. Stephen Meyer points us in the right direction as we seek a new theory for the origin of Cambrian animal phyla.”
    - Mark McMenamin – paleontologist at Mt. Holyoke College
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....73361.html

    Darwin’s Doubt author Stephen C. Meyer on What is the mystery of the Cambrian explosion? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqQbqpima-c

    But the Cambrian explosion is not the only place this ‘anomaly’ of sudden appearance happens. ‘Sudden appearance’ of fossils, without apparent precursors, is found throughout the history of life on earth. Here are a few quotes from paleontologists noting their frustration of trying to find fossils that conform to Darwin’s predicted branching tree pattern:

    “The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find’ over and over again’ not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”
    Paleontologist, Derek V. Ager (Department of Geology & Oceonography, University College, Swansea, UK)

    “It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student from Trueman’s Ostrea/Gryphaea to Carruthers’ Zaphrentis delanouei, have now been ‘debunked’. Similarly, my own experience [sic] of more than twenty years looking for evolutionary lineages among the Mesozoic Brachiopoda has proved them equally elusive.’
    Dr. Derek V. Ager (Department of Geology & Oceonography, University College, Swansea, UK), ‘The nature of the fossil record’. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, vol.87(2), 1976,p.132.

    “It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution…This phenomenon becomes more universal and more intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.”
    G.G.Simpson – one of the most influential American Paleontologist of the 20th century

    “A major problem in proving the theory has been the fossil record; the imprints of vanished species preserved in the Earth’s geological formations. This record has never revealed traces of Darwin’s hypothetical intermediate variants – instead species appear and disappear abruptly, and this anomaly has fueled the creationist argument that each species was created by God.”
    Paleontologist, Mark Czarnecki

    “There is no need to apologize any longer for the poverty of the fossil record. In some ways, it has become almost unmanageably rich and discovery is outpacing integration. The fossil record nevertheless continues to be composed mainly of gaps.”
    Professor of paleontology – Glasgow University, T. Neville George

    “Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them.”
    David Kitts – Paleontologist – D.B. Kitts, Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory (1974), p. 467.

    “The long-term stasis, following a geologically abrupt origin, of most fossil morphospecies, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists” –
    Stephen Jay Gould – Harvard

    “The evidence we find in the geological record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be …. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin’s time … so Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated”.
    David Raup, Curator of Geology at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

    “In virtually all cases a new taxon appears for the first time in the fossil record with most definitive features already present, and practically no known stem-group forms.”
    Fossils and Evolution, TS Kemp – Curator of Zoological Collections, Oxford University, Oxford Uni Press, p246, 1999

    “Every paleontologist knows that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of family appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences.”
    George Gaylord Simpson (evolutionist), The Major Features of Evolution, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953 p. 360.

    “No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.” -
    Niles Eldredge , “Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate,” 1996, p.95

    McBride Misstates My Arguments in Science and Human Origins – Casey Luskin September 5, 2012
    Excerpt: At the end of the day, I leave this exchange more confident than before that the evidence supports the abrupt appearance of our genus Homo.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....63931.html

    etc.. etc..

    Now I’ve even had a few evolutionists try to tell me that all these leading paleontologists are wrong on the fossil record. But how could that be? That simply does not follow, for how can all these paleontologists be THAT far out of line with what Darwin predicted unless the fossil record actually is in severe discordance with what Darwin predicted. That is by far the most parsimonious explanation.

    But the other side of the coin, besides the sudden appearance of new form in the fossil record, is the rapid diversification and then, as this ‘Red Queen paper indicates,,,

    The results, published June 20 in the journal Science Express, come from a study of 19 groups of mammals that either are extinct or, in the case of horses, elephants, rhinos and others, are in decline from a past peak in diversity. All are richly represented in the fossil record and had their origins sometime in the last 66 million years, during the Cenozoic Era.

    ,, is then the ‘decline from a past peak in diversity’. I first noticed this ‘loss of diversity’ pattern for the fossil record in a paper that was released several years ago on trilobites:

    The Cambrian’s Many Forms
    Excerpt: “It appears that organisms displayed “rampant” within-species variation “in the ‘warm afterglow’ of the Cambrian explosion,” Hughes said, but not later. “No one has shown this convincingly before, and that’s why this is so important.”"From an evolutionary perspective, the more variable a species is, the more raw material natural selection has to operate on,”….(Yet Surprisingly)….”There’s hardly any variation in the post-Cambrian,” he said. “Even the presence or absence or the kind of ornamentation on the head shield varies within these Cambrian trilobites and doesn’t vary in the post-Cambrian trilobites.”
    University of Chicago paleontologist Mark Webster;
    http://www.terradaily.com/repo.....s_999.html

    article on the “surprising and unexplained” loss of variation and diversity for trilobites over the 270 million year time span that trilobites were found in the fossil record, prior to their total extinction from the fossil record about 250 million years ago.

    Now this was the only large scale study that I could find for quite a while, but I kept pressing Darwinists as to why this pattern for trilobites should be so. If Darwinism is true this is exactly opposite to what we should see happening. If Darwinism is true we should see, instead of a steady loss of diversity for trilobites, a continually exploration of niches and experimentation with new types of body variations. But none of that is to be found in 270 million years of the trilobites existence on earth!,,

    Though I haven’t seen many more paper on par with the preceding trilobite paper, and now this ‘Red Queen’ paper (perhaps Dr. Meyer’s next book can be on this ‘loss of diversity’ enigma :) ), I have caught glimpses here and there that this pattern for loss of diversity is not limited in its scope but may very well be wide spread in the fossil record.,, One tidbit is this disparity precedes diversity paper:

    The unscientific hegemony of uniformitarianism – David Tyler – May 2011
    Excerpt: The pervasive pattern of natural history: disparity precedes diversity,,,, The summary of results for phyla is as follows. The pattern reinforces earlier research that concluded the Explosion is not an artefact of sampling. Much the same finding applies to the appearance of classes. These data are presented in Figures 1 and 2 in the paper.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....niformitar

    Here are a few more tidbits I’ve collected for this pattern of ‘loss of diversity’:

    Dollo’s law and the death and resurrection of genes:
    Excerpt: “As the history of animal life was traced in the fossil record during the 19th century, it was observed that once an anatomical feature was lost in the course of evolution it never staged a return. This observation became canonized as Dollo’s law, after its propounder, and is taken as a general statement that evolution is irreversible.”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/91.....l.pdf+html

    Dollo’s law and the death and resurrection of genes
    ABSTRACT: Dollo’s law, the concept that evolution is not substantively reversible, implies that the degradation of genetic information is sufficiently fast that genes or developmental pathways released from selective pressure will rapidly become nonfunctional. Using empirical data to assess the rate of loss of coding information in genes for proteins with varying degrees of tolerance to mutational change, we show that, in fact, there is a significant probability over evolutionary time scales of 0.5-6 million years for successful reactivation of silenced genes or “lost” developmental programs. Conversely, the reactivation of long (>10 million years)-unexpressed genes and dormant developmental pathways is not possible unless function is maintained by other selective constraints;
    http://www.pnas.org/content/91.....l.pdf+html

    A. L. Hughes’s New Non-Darwinian Mechanism of Adaption Was Discovered and Published in Detail by an ID Geneticist 25 Years Ago – Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig – December 2011
    Excerpt: The original species had a greater genetic potential to adapt to all possible environments. In the course of time this broad capacity for adaptation has been steadily reduced in the respective habitats by the accumulation of slightly deleterious alleles (as well as total losses of genetic functions redundant for a habitat), with the exception, of course, of that part which was necessary for coping with a species’ particular environment….By mutative reduction of the genetic potential, modifications became “heritable”. — As strange as it may at first sound, however, this has nothing to do with the inheritance of acquired characteristics. For the characteristics were not acquired evolutionarily, but existed from the very beginning due to the greater adaptability. In many species only the genetic functions necessary for coping with the corresponding environment have been preserved from this adaptability potential. The “remainder” has been lost by mutations (accumulation of slightly disadvantageous alleles) — in the formation of secondary species.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....53881.html

    “According to a ‘law’ formulated by E. D. Cope in 1871, the body size of organisms in a peculiar evolutionary lineage tends to increase. But Cope’s rule has failed the most comprehensive test applied to it yet.”(body sizes tend to get smaller rather than larger)
    Stephen Gould, Harvard, Nature, V.385, 1/16/97

    “Also that mammalian life was richer in kinds, of larger sizes, and had a more abundant expression in the Pliocene than in later times.”
    Von Engeln & Caster Geology, p.19

    “Alexander Kaiser, Ph.D., of Midwestern University’s Department of Physiology,,, was the lead author in a recent study to help determine why insects, once dramatically larger than they are today, have seen such a remarkable reduction in size over the course of history.”
    Science Daily, 8/8/07

    At one of the few petrified forests that sports ginkgo wood, I was told by the naturalist that ginkgos are old in the fossil record—they date from the Permian back when trees were first “invented”. She said that there are many species of fossilized Ginkgoaceae, but Ginkgo biloba, is the only living species left. – Rude – Uncommon Descent

    The Current Mass Extinction
    Excerpt: The background level of extinction known from the fossil record is about one species per million species per year, or between 10 and 100 species per year (counting all organisms such as insects, bacteria, and fungi, not just the large vertebrates we are most familiar with). In contrast, estimates based on the rate at which the area of tropical forests is being reduced, and their large numbers of specialized species, are that we may now be losing 27,000 species per year to extinction from those habitats alone. The typical rate of extinction differs for different groups of organisms. Mammals, for instance, have an average species “lifespan” from origination to extinction of about 1 million years, although some species persist for as long as 10 million years.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolut.....32_04.html

  4. And although the actual ‘background extinction rate’ is debated fairly hotly in some circles, one fact that is not hotly debated is,,,

    “Perhaps the most obvious challenge is to demonstrate evolution empirically. There are, arguably, some 2 to 10 million species on earth. The fossil record shows that most species survive somewhere between 3 and 5 million years. In that case, we ought to be seeing small but significant numbers of originations (new species) .. every decade.”
    Keith Stewart Thomson, Professor of Biology and Dean of the Graduate School, Yale University (Nov. -Dec. American Scientist, 1997 pg. 516)

    “A matter of unfinished business for biologists is the identification of evolution’s smoking gun,”… “the smoking gun of evolution is speciation, not local adaptation and differentiation of populations.”
    Keith Stewart Thomson – evolutionary biologist

    “The closest science has come to observing and recording actual speciation in animals is the work of Theodosius Dobzhansky in Drosophilia paulistorium fruit flies. But even here, only reproductive isolation, not a new species, appeared.”
    from page 32 “Acquiring Genomes” Lynn Margulis.

    Scant search for the Maker
    Excerpt: But where is the experimental evidence? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of 20 to 30 minutes, and populations achieved after 18 hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another, in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms. – Alan H. Linton – emeritus professor of bacteriology, University of Bristol.
    http://www.timeshighereducatio.....ode=159282

    Here is a detailed refutation, by Casey Luskin, to TalkOrigins severely misleading site on the claimed evidence for observed macro-evolution (speciation);

    Specious Speciation: The Myth of Observed Large-Scale Evolutionary Change – Casey Luskin – January 2012 – article
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....55281.html

    This is simply inexplicable, if Darwinism is this great be all-end all explanation for how life originated on earth, then the fossil record, and current empirical investigations should be far more cooperative than they are. For the honest person, who doesn’t need Darwinism to be true for a-priori philosophical reasons, this consistent pattern of evidence should be more than enough to question the grandiose claims made by many dogmatic Darwinists for the explanatory power of their theory. The evidence and the Darwinian rhetoric are in two different worlds to put it mildly

  5. Here is a related note I found on horses, a species which the ‘Red Queen’ paper also studied:

    Darwin vs. the Fossils
    Excerpt: “A team of 22 international researchers led by Ludovic Orlando of the University of Lyon in France did one of the first-ever comprehensive comparisons of ancient DNA (aDNA) from fossil equids (including horses, donkeys and zebras). These specimens came from 4 continents. The results were so shocking, they call for an almost complete overhaul of the horse series. For one thing, they concluded that many specimens relegated to separate species are actually variations on the same species. For another, they found that for evolution to be true there had to be sudden bursts of diversification – Cambrian-like explosions within the horse family – contrary to Darwin’s prohibition of great and sudden leaps.”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20091211a

  6. Awesome graphic for ‘Darwin’s Doubt’
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....74341.html

  7. podcast – The Michael Medved Show – Stephen Meyer on the Release of Darwin’s Doubt
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....6_34-07_00

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