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Earth Science

Religious Ceremony Leads To Evolution of Cave Fish 233

Posted by timothy
from the works-both-ways dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A centuries-old religious ceremony of an indigenous people in southern Mexico has led to evolutionary changes in a local species of fish, say researchers at Texas A&M University. Apparently since before Columbus arrived, the Zoque people would venture each spring into the sulfuric cave Cueva del Azufre to beg the gods for bountiful rain. As part of the ritual, they released into the cave's waters a leaf-bound paste made of lime and the ground-up root of the barbasco plant, a natural fish toxin. The rest is worth reading, but the upshot is that the fish living in the cave waters eventually got wise, genetically speaking."
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Religious Ceremony Leads To Evolution of Cave Fish

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  • I predict (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:06AM (#34145564)

    that this thread will be characterized by civil discussion and insightful exchange of ideas, with little or no flamage

    • by mangu (126918) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:44AM (#34146602)

      this thread will be characterized by civil discussion and insightful exchange of ideas

      Sure, let's debate whether it's the religious ceremonies that cause evolution or vice versa

  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Barrinmw (1791848) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:06AM (#34145570)
    It's like bacteria but on a multicellular level.
    • by Alsee (515537)

      Exactly. Species adapt. If a population splits for any reason then the two subpopulations adapt differently. Over time the different adaptions obviously pile in the two populations, and obviously the populations become increasingly different over time. Humans like to label things, and when differences pile up they like to make up a new species-label for one or both populations. "Let's call these lions and let's call those tigers".

      Evolution Q.E.D.

      Oh, I'm sorry. Were you one of those denialists who's understa

      • "When faced with undeniable facts and undeniable evidence"

        Not evolution, buddy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)

        Dude, I feel your pain. Evolution is so obvious, so evident, so undeniable. We experience it every day, even within our own families. And yet, you find people that tell you that there is "no proof of evolution", but he insists that there is more proof of the existence of an invisible man in the sky. Even when all evidence goes against it, he insists that there is only evidence for it. And does the opposite with evolution. Stupidity hurts because we try to understand them.

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Evolution is so obvious, so evident, so undeniable. We experience it every day, even within our own families.

          Huh?

          Maybe if you're living in Chernobyl .... otherwise, I call bullshit. I don't think you know what evolution actually is.

  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:11AM (#34145586)
    Boy thats an oxymoron.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by siddesu (698447)

      Reading the TFA, I'd say it mostly speculation.

      The conclusion about the differences in reaction to the toxin is kind of speculative, as the research was done on fish, which was extracted from natural habitat, placed in stressful conditions, etc. Pinning this squarely on "evolution" and human influence is an interesting proposition, but that's it.

      This is even more true of the "evolution" part of the article. The paper presents some statistical evidence that fish from different parts of the water body respond

      • but saying "ceremony leads to evolution" is certainly over-stretching it.

        Here is a similar story of humans pushing the natural selection of aquatic species in certain direction through religious ceremony. [youtube.com]
        To paraphrase the conclusion in the video above - all this has nothing to do with what the fish might want, selection is imposed from the outside.

        • by siddesu (698447) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @06:38AM (#34146182)

          Apparently, the story in the video isn't true.

          http://crustacea.nhm.org/people/martin/publications/pdf/103.pdf [nhm.org]

          So, maybe I'll stick to my disbelief until I see clear evidence.

          • by denzacar (181829)

            Not sure what that article is trying to point out.
            Of course crabs already have such structures, and of course there is a biological purpose to them.

            And pointing out that there are other species that have similar appearance - and then saying the following...

            This is not
            to say that these structures are unaffected by select
            i o n . ~ h aer~e a s subject to evolutionary pressures
            as any other feature of a crab. The point here is that
            these ridges and grooves occur in nearly all members
            of the crab family Dorippidae, whether they
            live near Japan or not. As pointed out by the great
            Japanese carcinologist Tune Sakai, there are at least
            17 different species of crabs in two families in the
            Indo-West Pacific that are similar enough to be
            called Heikegani by local residents, and there are
            many related species from other far off waters that
            bear a likeness to a human face. Many Asian countries
            have vernacular names to account for the similarity
            of such crabs to a human face, such as the
            Chinese name Kuei Lien Hsieh (Ghost or Demon
            faced crab), and in several countries the crabs play a
            prominent role in local folklore, sometimes being
            considered sacred, with the face representing that
            of a deceased relative.

            What is the point of the article?
            "I don't agree with your theory but here's some more evidence to support it."

            And the "coupe-de-gras" argument only makes you suspect that the author went to Imperial Stormtrooper school of logic - he's missing the point en

            • by RogL (608926)

              And then there are these crabs we put back in the water if we happen to catch them accidentally - based on their looks.

              TFA points out that NONE of the crabs of that type are eaten: they are all too small too eat, so they're all thrown back, regardless of their resemblance to a face. So their is no evolutionary pressure based on their looks.

              • by denzacar (181829)

                There's evolutionary advantage of not being turned into cattle fodder, fishing bait, fertilizer or killed just for fun.
                Not like we humans really need a REASON to kill something.
                Now on the other hand, if we are given some kind of a deterrent...
                Like possible damnation, curse, bad luck...

                You know, there is a reason every religion has those "Thou shall not kill, steal, covet your neighbor's wife etc." rules.
                We tend to act like assholes toward other creatures. Human and otherwise.
                Particularly otherwise.

                • by siddesu (698447)

                  Well, you can rant about the sick humanity, or you can just accept that you were proven wrong on a minor point in a slashdot thread, and learn that looking for evidence and reason behind a phenomenon is better than "belief" in something, even if it comes from a luminary of Sagan's caliber. I don't recall him ever implying he's error-free ;)

                  While I'd doubt him a lot less on topics in physics or astronomy, I'd still check any point I don't understand and care about, even if it is only for self-education.

    • Technically it's more Ironic than Oxymoronic.

      Generally Irony applies to (but is not limited to) a cause-and-effect sequence while an Oxymoron applies to a single noun-clause.

      /grammar Nazism
  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:21AM (#34145614)

    So, this isn't considered to be "selective breeding" why now?

    • by RockModeNick (617483) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:31AM (#34145660)

      The difference is the method of selection: In one case, humans are altering the environment of a species, resulting in evolutionary changes.

      Selective breeding involves just that, selecting the traits you want in the animal and then breeding only animals with those traits. Selecting what you breed.

        The environmental alteration version doesn't involve any conscious desire for selection; any meddling that alters survival and breeding rates is good enough. These people aren't purposefully poisoning the water to select the fish in the river that are hardest to poison.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'm confused... how is selective breeding not evolution?

        Hell, I'd even call it is Darwinian evolution where human selection is part of the environment.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:48AM (#34145710) Homepage

      So, this isn't considered to be "selective breeding" why now?

      If you've been hoping to breed fish by throwing fish toxin in the water, trust me... you're doing it wrong.

      • by Alsee (515537)

        hoping to breed fish by throwing fish toxin in the water, trust me... you're doing it wrong.

        I hear he's also been trying to get a girlfriend. I'm afraid to ask what technique he's been using.

        -

    • by forkazoo (138186) <(wrosecrans) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @02:53AM (#34145722) Homepage

      Basically, there's no difference in mechanism between selective breeding and evolution. It's just a difference in intent. The idea is that the people weren't specifically breeding the fish in the same way that people specifically bred cows and wheat and whatnot. In any case, the organisms most suited to their (human influenced) environment reproduced most successfully.

      • The idea is that the people weren't specifically breeding the fish in the same way that people specifically bred cows and wheat and whatnot.

        So, you are saying that instead of selective breeding, this was indiscriminate breeding...

      • In other words, farmers pratice intelligent design, priest practice accidental design.
  • Already known (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jihema (558787)
    It was already known that evolution by natural selection could be triggered by human activity. Industrial melanism (e.g. the Peppered Moth) is a famous example.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Peppered Moth is a famous example, but a dreadful one. There are several problems with Kettlewell's experiment [wikipedia.org], many of which are pointed out here: Second Thoughts about Peppered Moths [arn.org]

      • I remember a simulation of the moth thing in middle school as one of those cut-and-dried science-class activities, and not getting the usual answer. Teacher was OK with that, gave an "it happens; doesn't *always* work" response, but +1 Interesting on your link.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @03:01AM (#34145742)

    OMG Todd just told me R taxes paid 4 "scientists" 2 poison/torture fishes! Y? 2 so-call "proove" evilution. G-d knoes bettr. End DOE now!

    • by Alsee (515537)

      Todd just told me R taxes paid 4 "scientists" 2 poison/torture fishes!

      Yeah. I heard Bush even authorized waterboarding them.

      -

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @05:06AM (#34145980) Journal

    From the article:

    "Since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World, the Zoque people of southern Mexico would venture each year during the Easter season deep into the sulfuric cave Cueva del Azufre to implore their deities for a bountiful rain season."

    And later:

    "Ironically, it was the last ceremony ever held, as the Zoques ended the practice that year due to political pressure from the government, which sought to preserve the cave as a hotbed for tourism and potential revenue."

    So they stopped doing ceremonies for the weather gods. This is surely not the only case. So people stop worshipping weather gods, and the climate goes wild. Coincidence? Unlikely! So now we have proof: Global warming is man-made, by neglecting weather ceremonies!

    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      Luckily, we have averted disaster, by poisoning almost all the fish outside the cave...

    • So they stopped doing ceremonies for the weather gods. This is surely not the only case. So people stop worshipping weather gods, and the climate goes wild. Coincidence? Unlikely! So now we have proof: Global warming is man-made, by neglecting weather ceremonies!

      Yes, absolutely. Now bring me more poison-tainted leaves, or suffer an inconvenient winter storm!

  • Why do science journals insist that they somehow can't be taken seriously if they use pictures? Would it kill them to show us the fish, the cave, or the people doing this? Anything but a TL;DR block of text.

    At least the story was interesting....this time.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      A picture would convey absolutely and categorically no useful information whatsoever. Pictures of the fucking natives have nothing to do with what happened. That's absurd. Journals are for other scientists, and their interest is in the research, not in pretty pictures. Journals don't give one tenth of a fuck that some layman with no knowledge of the field finds their scientific papers TL;DR and wants some color plates of something basically unrelated to the subject matter.
  • And people say god can't make animals evolve!
  • ...why Christians deny evolution? Does God command us to turn off our brains? (you would hope not...) Does this concept, if proven true, contradict something in the bible so directly that it would prove Christianity is false? What's the deal? Why are they so scared of this?

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Because some fundamentalist Christians believe that the Bible is absolute word-of-God literal truth, and anything that might contradict that is a direct attack on their personal faith. It's a relatively insecure faith structure based on a very simplistic understanding of the Judeo-Christian God and the Bible.

      On the other hand, most Christians look to the Bible as an important resource in bettering themselves, and believe that much of it, especially Genesis, is meant to be allegorical, not a literal history

    • by Phroggy (441)

      ...why Christians deny evolution?

      Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, written by men in their own voices but essentially writing what God wanted them to write. The Bible says that God created all life on earth, including the two original humans, which were created directly by God and did not evolve from lower animals. Although the Bible doesn't provide a precise timeline, there are genealogies you can piece together to put the time of creation at somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 BC.

      Does God command us to turn off our brains? (you would hope not...)

      Absolutely

  • The only real science is physics, all the rest ... well, look at this.

    a) collect some fish and systematically poison them. Observe time to death;
    b) conclude any resistance must be due to evolutionary adaptation; and
    c) make pithy remarks about catering to the native culture by making process sustainable.

    Uh guys ... it was sustainable before you got there since they've been doing it for a very very long time and only stopped when they were made to ie. NOT because the fish all died.

    And if it was evolutinary l

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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