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Extinction rebellion. Tribute to Emmanuel P.

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brachiosteve

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Is intelligence and length of life an advantageous or a disadvantageous factor, evolutionarily?

If an animal has a long life, it can (perhaps) reproduce more/for longer, but if factors affecting evolution, like the environment, change quickly, then genetic changes are slower and it may not survive the changes, especially if such changes occur within an individual's lifetime.

If an animal has a short life expectancy, the speed of progressive change (in its progeny) will be faster and able to suit the environment or change, better.

Factors such as birth-rate, number of offspring or how reproducible or hardy they are and the number of individuals and how able, individually they are to find mates and survive changes in its lifespan will feature as factors.

Look how similar (certainly superficially) the chameleon is to the tuatara. Both are reptiles and come from unique, isolated areas (Madagascar and New Zealand), but one lives for a mere year, the other from 100 to 200 years. Some bony fish live for a year and some sharks live for centuries. Climate plays a part, sometimes, (the Greenland shark is the longest lived vertebrate and lives deep in the arctic, but the reptiles mentioned are in similar climes).

Lifespans vary widely amongst vertebrates and inverts, but a year seems to be the lower limit for vertebrates with chameleons and mice, but a mere day for the mayfly and a month for house flies. The lifespan of the fruit fly is the main reason it is chosen for research, due to the ability to monitor generational genetic changes.

There are a dozen animals, both vertebrate and invert, which can exceed a century or even two - or more in some cases.

Among vertebrates, (in addition to the ones already mentioned earlier), Bowhead whales (200+), koi carp (200+), long finned eels (100+) and Galapagos tortoises (150-250) have all verifiably exceeded a century and some, much longer.

Invertebrates include red sea urchins (200+) and tube worms (170-250). The Queen Quahog clam may exceed 400-500 years by growth rings. Some sponges in the Antarctic are believed to exceed a millennium due to such slow growth rate (1550) and there is evidence that water bears have survived for longer in a hibernation-like state within ice sheet gaps. The immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis nutricula) might be appropriately named, as under stressed circumstances, it can revert to its premature state and vice versa and (like some other land and aquatic inverts) it can divide itself (or when divided), become a replica of itself.

The search for eternal youth or really long lives is a high priority for people in general (think skin creams, cosmetic surgery, makeup and cryogenic ice freezers) and science, especially for humans, where answers will most likely be found in other species, as we look to jellyfish, sponges, regenerative creatures across phyla ( like starfish, lizards, salamanders etc.)  and the trusty Drosophila  to monitor speed of change. Unravelling chromosomal strings and the genome of species has been great breakthroughs and will surely help add to our understanding and moral challenges as we attempt to draw distinctions between what a person is and a person has, and where the ethical lines lies.

Within the plant kingdom, (of which I know nothing), there is great disparity too. Bamboo trees can grow a metre a day (how many animals can match that?!) and sequoia can exceed 100m (from the ground, without roots being counted) and 6000 tons (and a similar number of years), whilst some plants can be a mm in size or less, e.g. duckweed and the flowering watermeal – not quite matching the smallest animals.

But the whole, silent life of plants is on a different scale of speed and time and movement to animals as so wonderfully presented in the world wide wood – see summary here (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48257315) one of the best and cleverest pieces of biological research I have ever known. Our lives are so comparatively fast paced compared to plants, that we can’t see the trees for the wood (forgive the pun) and all its connectivity and symbiotic nature. But due to this, (liker the slow, incoming tide that strands and drowns us) we may be missing the bigger picture as the environment takes over and encompasses us, as the plants outlive us as they slowly adapt, as we blindly have too short a focus to see the impending dangers. It may be that humans are closer to the least intelligent/evolved and shortest lived/lasting species of animal in terms of an ability to adapt and survive. So much for our assessment, understanding, interpretation or value of, 'intelligence'. Trump that!

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