This is the walking catfish.  Originally native of Southeast Asia, it is currently inundating parts of the "Bible Belt" such as Florida... It is a fish that has developed the ability to breathe oxygen outside of the water and walk over land between ponds in search of food.  That's right, these people will still deny the validity of evolution even when it's walking right past their front door.

The image that triggered this post

 

I am not a huge fan of writing two blogs in one day, particularly when it takes time away from my research.  The problem is, I saw a comment earlier today about how walking catfish cannot be a demonstration of evolution because they aren’t turning into apes.  First, this makes me really sad about the state of education that somehow only the evolution into apes counts in the minds of many as evolution.  Evolution is so much more beautiful and complicated than that.  Second, a couple weeks ago, after finishing Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, my mom asked me to take a look at people who disagree with Dawkins, perhaps she doesn’t entirely understand my research, but I figured I would humor her.  The lies that get spread about evolution by people who have absolutely no understanding of science concerns me.  Many people buy into the arguments made by apologists, in part because the apologists have an unfortunate tendency to not understand the science themselves, so they interpret it in a way that makes it have little to no resemblance to the real thing.  This is why people throw out questions about the “missing link” as if missing a piece of the puzzle means the puzzle doesn’t exist.

There is a huge misunderstanding about what the theory of evolution states.  Evolution is about tiny changes over time, leading to the creation of different species, and sometimes even different genus.  This process is slow. This is why we wouldn’t necessarily notice evolution as it happened. In fact, we see mutations all the time, some of these could make survival easier, and thus over time couple with other traits to lead to new species.

Walking catfish are a cool example of this because they show one obvious mutation from traditional catfish; they walk on land and can survive longer out of water than other species.  It doesn’t take a genius to see why this would be handy.  They can move beyond their traditional hunting ground, perhaps finding a new untapped food niche.  If this had not work, it would have been a failed evolutionary attempt, and they would have died out. Now say over time we have another mutation, this time our catfish has a baby with legs instead of front fins.  With these legs, it walks a bit faster and can get away from predators.  It mates with another catfish, and some of the offspring have legs, others have fins.  Eventually, they will develop into different species.  Each successful mutation changing them a little bit, until they don’t look like the same species at all.  Each negative mutation, and there will be mutations that hinder survival will simply lead the holder to eventually die out.  Our original catfish could eventually end up more like a crocodile than a fish.  It just depends upon what mutations develop and how they influence survival.

These sorts of small shifts can lead to huge shifts over time.  Some of these fossils survive and show us a little piece of the puzzle, while some of them will not.  This could have to do with bad conditions for formation, climate change, or even flooding.  Missing puzzle pieces do not indicate a lack of a puzzle.

Advertisements