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Earth Science

Religious Ceremony Leads To Evolution of Cave Fish 233

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @03:41AM (#34145852)

    It would be cool to see the expected "random mutation + natural selection" process, but actually the article is a little less exciting - it says that the fish who had already been resistant in the first place survived better than others and multiplied, which I would call "natural selection". In other words, this is not the place to discuss "micro- versus macro-evolution" or "new traits" :o)

    From TFA: "Mollies able to tolerate the poisonous conditions survived and passed those traits to their offspring..."

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @04:06AM (#34145894) Homepage Journal

    Natural selection is half of the evolution. The other half is mutation creating new traits.
    It's all there is to it. Create new traits randomly, retain desired/remove undesired ones by natural selection, repeat.

  • Re:The point (Score:4, Informative)

    by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @05:48AM (#34146064) Homepage Journal

    Basically, it's labelled "evolution" when something succeeds in adapting to the change but "extinction" when it doesn't. Often, it's the pace of change which makes the difference.

    If, for example, the now-extinct North American camels developed random mutations (or had a latent genetic ability) that allowed one of them to, say, start climbing giant redwoods and breeding before being eaten by their human predators, then you'd possibly have American Tree Camels today.

    Random chance + selective pressure + sufficient time = evolution. The article indicates that it wasn't a continuous pressure either, which probably helped speed things up. e.g.

    Year one: 99% of fish die, 1% survive & spend the next 364 days breeding resistant offspring...
    Year 500 or so: 50% die, 50% survive & spend the next 364 days breeding more resistant offspring...
    Current times: 10% die, 90% survive & spend the next 364 days breeding very resistant offspring...

    It's not so uncommon really; the 'religious' aspect is merely a teaser giving the atheist fundies something to tease the creationist fundies with. For instance, I'm involved with researching pest insects that have developed high-level resistance to fumigants that have only been in use since WWII. In some cases, visible morphological and behavioural changes have resulted. If that ain't evolution I don't know what is, and I'm sure that if people had ritual rather than practical reasons for gassing silos we could be having the same discussion about bugs...

  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @06:05AM (#34146122) Journal

    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. []
    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 @06:09AM (#34146128)

    Allow me to refer you to the REAL research paper, which says no such thing: []

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

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

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

  • by gilleain ( 1310105 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:35AM (#34146374)

    Thanks for the support on logic fallacies, it isn't even amusing anymore when people throw in labels they've read in another thread instead of arguments

    No problem. It annoys me as well. Especially "ad hominem".

    From what little biology I remember from school, the immunization that would result from mithridization would be precisely an acquired trait.

    I could be wrong though.

    Ah, well it is acquired for the individual, but not for its children. As wikipedia says, drinking alcohol is a good example - the more you drink, the more of the detoxification machinery is made by the body, so the more drinks it takes to get you drunk. Your children won't benefit from this immunity, however.

  • Re:I predict (Score:1, Informative)

    by Therilith ( 1306561 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:33AM (#34146572)
    Whining about how you will be modded flamebait not because of the merits of your arguments, but rather because other people suck is flamebait.
  • by belthize ( 990217 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:11AM (#34147242)

    Those examples don't pass the test of being predictive models, their predictions can't be disproved because they make none, except maybe end of times or after death which are distinctly difficult to measure.

    I've yet to find the atomic weight of hydrogen in any religious text or a reasonable explanation for the existence of the Alps, Australia, how a diode works or even why the sky is blue. Barring central African mythos with which I'm not familiar I don't think any religion even attempts to explain why Giraffes have long necks.

    Also not trolling.

  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:27AM (#34147318)
    That's the other part of science; you have to be able to design experiments which can potentially falsify a hypothesis. If your hypothesis is "God created the Earth" how do you falsify that? Further, when contradictions are found (if the Earth is 6000 years old, why do we have fossils that are 65 million years old) the convenient response is "God put them there to test my faith."
  • Re:I predict (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tsiangkun ( 746511 ) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @12:51PM (#34147718) Homepage
    Fish acquired new trait. New trait is inherited.


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.