May 27, 2005

the essay evolved

was getting ready for bed when i began thinking about the aquarium. i would really like to go this weekend. and, as a natural thought progression, i started thinking about sea cucumbers, one of my (many, many) favorite sea creatures. i am so very fond to the cucumber because of its remarkable adpatation to escape predators: it vomits up its own intestinal tract. this is not an intimidation technique, or even a reversible process, it is placating its would-be devourer so that what can only be described as "the rest of it," meaning the cucumber, is able to escape as its innards are being devoured. the cucumber, blessed with remarkable regenerative powers, eventually regrows its intestinal tract and is able to live out its life normally, likely not even sensible to the trauma it just experienced.

which got me to thinking about a non-scientist's or even a non-biologist's reaction to this rather extreme form of predator evasion. one might ask, is it really even worth it to the cucumber, going through this remarkable sacrifice, to live? a sea cucumber's life can't be terribly dynamic to begin with, it is a rather lengthy process regerating tissue and during that time, the cucumber would be unable to eat, and so would be sustained entirely by its body's stores. one would imagine that the poor creature would, if it recovered from the ordeal at all, be severly weakened and more likely to become some creature's prey anyway. is life really worth living if you haven't got a stomach?

but the answer to that is, of course, completely obvious. of course the cucumber would do anything within its power to remain alive. the longer it remains alive, the better chance it has to mate. and by "mate" i mean spew all sperm or eggs into the sea and hope they connect. the sea cucumber is merely a slave to its dna, burning to get passed along as many times as possible, and on, and on again.

that is the endgame. for every other species on the planet that is the whole of life. step 1. grow big and strong. step 2. mate. and possibly step 3. ensure offspring grow big and strong. and it's not just the males who are sex-fiendy in the animal world, it's just that the females have a different angle on it most of the time. as a general rule (that is reversed a LOT) males will mate with anything. females want the best sperm. so choice becomes an issue of shiniest coats (healty), longest tail feathers (good provider), best nuptial present (ditto), or mate with them all and let the sperm decide. my favorite has to be some species that can choose whether a specific male's sperm will be the stuff to impregnate her, after she's mated with several fellas. but this is what it's all about for every other species on the whole bloody globe.

and we have to wonder how neurotic we really are, we humans, with our birth control and pollution and little social will-she-won't-she games. from a biological standpoint, we're completely nuts. consider the complaints of plebophobic victorians: the smartest and wealthiest (because to victorians these were equivalent) reproduced at a lower rate than the poor degerates. but really, statistics for decades have reflected that sort of inverse education/fecundity trend. notwithstanding, with increased standards of living, now darwinism is trumped. the weaker are surviving to reproduce and pass on genes.

though you'll never see me complain. progressive-minded always, i can't complain that people are living. how silly. and i'm wildly grateful to grand mechanismic scheme of society that i did not die in childbirth at the age of fifteen in a cave or mud hut. for that matter, i'm thankful to evolution that my children were not bitten to death after a new alpha male ascended to leader of my family-group that i might come into season sooner and father the new leader's kids. i imagine that that might suck. poor apes.

evolution is, frankly, a remarkable thing. and just think, had we not evolved from harem-type (or less-likely, monogamous) ape species, men might have colorful, textured penises, the varied sizes and shapes to rival the selection found on any of good vibration's shelves. but back to the cucumber, shall we?

it's...astonishing to notice how easily we forget that we are little more than dna dispensing machines. truely a biological anomaly. all the silly little social games we play. existential crisis or identity issues, deep down we're all here for one reason. of course, there's more to life that just that. but remember, there wasn't ever meant to be.



additional information on the cucumber can be found here and here and this book, which i have not yet read, but plan to, more or less covers the rest of it. or at least, i am lead to believe.

peace, folks.

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