[Taxacom] human eyes & ectoparasites

Kenneth Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 10 20:07:29 CST 2018


Hi Derek,

       I see that Furtive Fauna was published over 20 years ago.  I suspect the reason you have never run across that hypothesis before is that it probably didn't have much going for it and it just faded away.  Having good near-vision probably came first, and that later enabled them to become better ectoparasite groomers (not the other way around).  It's a bit like saying birds developed feathers in order to fly, but we now know feathers probably first evolved for insulation (although I have suggested a possible even earlier advantage of feathers if they first evolved on the tail and that  may have helped bird's dinosaur ancestors in predator evasion, i.e. please attack my attractive but expendable tail, rather than my head).

       And I can't see any "obvious consequences" for the origin of written language or civilization.  I don't think there was anything particularly tiny about the earliest written words, numbers or characters.  Not nearly as tiny as lice or fleas.

               ----------------Ken

P.S.  Having flattened nails (instead of claws like other mammals) seems to also make primates better ectoparasite groomers, but it is not clear what actually drove the evolutionary transition from claws to nails.  It could be something involved in grasping and locomotion in trees.

________________________________
From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of Derek Sikes <dssikes at alaska.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 11:22 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] human eyes & ectoparasites

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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