[Taxacom] human eyes & ectoparasites

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Wed Jan 10 12:14:28 CST 2018

Tricky! How will you use that without avoiding 'voodoo evolutionism' (yes
deliberate play on voodoo economics)? I mean by this if you want to
'explain' something using teleology then you explain (scientifically)
nothing. This is the trap that opens when invoking a function to explain a
structure (or biological ability). One might theorize that once upon a time
there were a bunch of primates infested with lice, but one (?) individual
was able to see better and pick them off other individuals. Those other
individuals then felt so good about their comrade (male or female) that
they mated and carried the gene and whose offspring survived better than
other individuals because they could see the parasites. But not sure how
they preferentially picked parasites only off individuals that could see
better so their offspring were better able to survive. All this gets pretty
messy and absurd, in my opinion, as a scientific explanation. Better as
science fiction. No more viable than the possibility that a new gene arose
in an individual allowing better vision that then spread through the
population by a biological mechanism such as biased gene conversion.
Stories of the imagination are just stories. They are as much an
'explanation' as any myth or legend is an explanation.

John Grehan


On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 12:22 PM, Derek Sikes <dssikes at alaska.edu> wrote:

> All,
> I was just reading Roger Knutson's 'Furtive Fauna' in which was an
> interesting hypothesis I hadn't come across before and wonder if anyone
> knows more about it.
> Our ability to see small things close up (such as text) resulted from
> generations of ectoparasite grooming. Had our distant ape ancestors not had
> to deal with ectoparasites our eyes might not be very good at near-vision
> (with obvious consequences for the origin of written language and rise of
> civilization).
> Knutson stated it factually, but the book has no in-text citations and it's
> not clear where he got the idea.
> I don't know much about the near-vision ability of vertebrates to know how
> likely this hypothesis is. Do non-grooming mammals have poor near-vision?
> I'm always looking for ways to explain to entomology students how the world
> might be different if arthropods hadn't dominated it, and this might be
> another example.
> Interested to hear other's thoughts on this.
> Thanks,
> Derek
> --
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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