One of the really cool things about having a robust scientific model of various parts of the universe is that we can use it to tell the future. This is not something you can do with any form of pseudoscience or religion. In this case, its the theory of evolution that provides us with a new prediction.
Recently we have heard about something really strange occurring. Now, if you are a theist, this would not be strange at all. It is only odd because evolution is such a well supported theory.
Here is what is weird: the picture to the right there is of an Antarctic sea anemone. This lil’ creature has a home that is remarkably large. These guys and 235 others are found at both the north and south pole, but not in the middle (as far as we know).
Many of these creatures that have obvious reasons to be at both poles, like whales and birds, like the Arctic Tern that migrates every single year from the arctic to the Antarctic and back. But it turns out that there are still many, many species, like the one above, that are anchored to the sea floor and have no known mode of transport. And yet, despite huge geographical separation, appear to be the exact same species at both poles. If this only happened rarely or once, with strong odds against it, we would have expected to see some speciation happen by now.
So this is a strange observation because we know evolutionary processes exist. So how can we explain this?
|1||The most probable idea is that there are strong continuous currents that regularly take spore or larvae from one pole to another. We know about ocean surface currents, but these mostly are in loops, called gyres, not generally from pole to pole. So the observation of “bipolar” species is that there are other currents that regularly take fauna from one pole to the other. So check this out, if true, then there are likely mechanics about the ocean that affect our climate, that we learned about from knowing evolution.|
|2||Another idea is that this happened recently. Some recent event could have happened that took some species from one pole to the other. for example, some one could have actually taken some species from one pole and set them free at the other. This is a very unlikely scenario, mostly because these creatures are far down in the water, and there are a number of bipolar species, not just one or two.|
|3||Another possibility is that something, like a whale is eating the spores and larvae at one pole and pooping (a recurring theme at this blog) them out at the other. We know that some seeds can stay in some birds for thousands of miles. However, in general, passage through the digestive tract is far faster than a trip from one pole to the other.|
There is the possibility that the bipolar species were once ubiquitous throughout the ocean and got geographically isolated as the earth warmed. For them to have remained unchanged after isolation however, they would have to have remain unchanged not only through mutation and natural selection but also through all the evolutionary mechanisms that push evolution like genetic drift. A possible, but unlikely situation.
|5||God liked these species as they are and decided to place them at both ends.|
Of these, ignoring the utter uselessness of the last one, the first is most probable and exciting. This observation may lead to some new information about our oceans and our planet. It would be yet another way evolution has helped us.
Sadly there are more observations that are needed before we can start truly verifying this hypothesis. Genetic testing must happen to be sure that these bipolar species are, in fact, the same species. But then, it would truly be great to know the mechanism by which these bipolar species can pull off these marathon expeditions! Not only would we have yet even more evidence of evolution by verification of a prediction, but we would have new information about our oceans that oculd lead to more information about our climate.
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