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Easily explainable. (2, Funny)

Lueseiseki (1189513) | about 5 years ago | (#28817069)

That tree is stuck in an endless recursion of time.

Clever Modding (2, Insightful)

SterlingSylver (1122973) | about 5 years ago | (#28817621)

Whoever modded the parent as Redundant was clever, but it really should've gotten +1 Redundant. Get on that option, slasheditors!

evolution (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#28817071)

    So, they're implying that evolutionary traits should disappear after a relatively short period? Why? I'd suspect they may fade away over centuries, but not necessarily.

Re:evolution (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 5 years ago | (#28817087)

Just stirring up some controversy. In a year or two, there will be another paper contradicting these bogus assertions. TFA:

David Lee, a tropical botanist at Florida International University in Miami, says that although the evidence is speculative,

In this case, we can speculate on the evolution of the story as to who may originate the next round of barbs.

Re:evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817107)

No they don't, the slashdot editor is implying that...

Re:evolution (4, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28817167)

Agreed. I originally thought the post was about trees that were CONTINUING to evolve. But simply having old adaptations is pretty uninteresting.... nay, normal. Especially for trees, which repopulate very slowly compared to say, fruitflies.

Anyway, the only reason for a species to "unevolve" changes that are no longer necessary is if they are very expensive, and no other side-effects make them beneficial. Barbed leaves may collect more rain and retain heat better than unbarbed leaves, and plenty of tree species have similarly pointed leaves, even when they're grown and well fed in managed woods and public parks.

It is a common misconception about evolution (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 5 years ago | (#28817211)

Intelligent design is simple, everything can be explained because a god decided it had to be so. So our eyes work the way they work because god said so and you can't go questioning god. However god is not perfect. Why are some men color-blind while some women can perceive an extra color? Why can't we see ultra-violet? Why is that other animals have 4 or even 5 cones while we got only 3? It doesn't sit well with the ID idea that birds and fish got far better vision then we do.

But evolution is NOT a perfect replacement. We humans are detectors of patterns. That is why we see a face on mars or jezus on toast. Simple test. Imagine me holding something between my fingers. You see a short squared long white piece of wood of perhaps 4mm x 4mm x 3cm. What am I holding? Be honest, you think it is a match isn't it? It is a fair guess. You KNOW that most pieces of wood shaped like this are matches because that is really one of the only reasons to shape wood like this. And you might be right EXCEPT I might ALSO be holding a would be match that hasn't yet had its head put on OR a "toothpick" used by dentist to wedge teeth apart.

As pattern seekers we like to think that everything has a reason and evolution does not. Evolution just is. In this case, there were a dozen sapplings some of which had leaves that the bird didn't see and which were eaten. The ones that weren't, survived to reproduce. With the bird gone, the selector is gone but not the reason for the change. Over time more and more of the leaves might change and since now there is no bird to eat them, they might survive. It could well be that the leaves we see now are FAR less good at camoflage then the leaves 500 years ago, but with no selecting taking place anymore, all the plants are surviving.

that is evolution. Random minor variations that result in different species if the enviroment forces a selection of what variation survives till reproduction.

But there is no goal to it. The plant did not choose to have a certain colored leave. Just random mutation. Some work, some don't. But unless someone causes you to be eaten for a mutation, then there is nothing wrong with it and if you can attract a female with it, then you reproduce.

the original article btw never implies that the plant should have changed back. Just the "editors" that picked the story up.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (4, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 5 years ago | (#28817239)

Three words that destroy any possibility of intelligent design: Recurrent laryngeal nerve [wikipedia.org]

The nerve is ridiculously circuitous in humans, but was a direct path when it first evolved in fish.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817375)

I thought the problem with intelligent design was that it was non-falsifiable and therefore not a scientific theory. Are you saying it is falsifiable after all?

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817425)

It's indeed not falsifiable, as someone will just answer "That's because god made it that way!!!!1" to whatever evidence for anything else anyone might present. And how the hell do you argue against that? The rest of us that's not as indoctrinated, however, might take it as yet more evidence strongly supporting evolution. But you are right, there's no use in arguing with religious zealots over this since they've already made up their mind.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 5 years ago | (#28817437)

No, the problem with intelligent design is, that although unworthy of discussion here, the editors very often edit evolution summaries to troll the /. readership.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (3, Insightful)

funkatron (912521) | about 5 years ago | (#28817525)

The argument from design is certainly non-falsifiable and therefore non-scientific (at least for Popper's definition of scientific). Intelligent design is less clear, as there may be things that could be shown to be bad design and therefore not the product of an intelligent designer. This would mean that it would be falsifiable. However, when examples of falsifying evidence are raised, a common defence of the theory is to shift the intentions of the proposed designer. This kind of defence could well make the theory could well be non-falsifiable.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | about 5 years ago | (#28817605)

... there may be things that could be shown to be bad design and therefore not the product of an intelligent designer.

Like the Apple Newton for example!

One word that does for it: (1)

John Guilt (464909) | about 5 years ago | (#28817415)

Recursion

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (5, Funny)

funkatron (912521) | about 5 years ago | (#28817417)

Could be design by comitee. I never really heard a good reason for choosing monotheism over polytheism.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (2, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 5 years ago | (#28817533)

Whay about efficiency? It like standardization. One god needs only one type of prayer one type of priest and only one myth. Think of the gains our theological monoculture will bring!!!

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817603)

Three words that destroy any possibility of intelligent design: Recurrent laryngeal nerve [wikipedia.org]

Well now, lets look at something right there..

If it is damaged [during surgery], the patient will have a hoarse voice

..and yet all hot blooded males are attracted to a woman with a husky voice! Its obviously designed that way so that women who have had thyroid surgery can still retain their sexual prowess.. Allu akhbar!

Thank-you (1)

John Guilt (464909) | about 5 years ago | (#28817399)

Don't forget the human need to see ourselves (as a race, as a class, or as individuals) as being 'better' than everyone else; this leads directly to the late 19th Century believe amongst Anglo-Saxon rich people that rich, Anglo-Saxons were the 'most evolved' beings around, and so 'deserving' of being on top. (Don't blame those pathetic dweebs---they had been itching to give up the 'God made us to be on top' explanation for awhile.) The question of whether hierarchy is as fixed a mechanism in our heads as is pattern-recognition is an open one; we seem hard-wired to seem _some_ of it about, but how seriously we take it seems to be dependent on other factors, e.g. how afraid we are.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (0, Offtopic)

ionix5891 (1228718) | about 5 years ago | (#28817433)

the above got modded +5 insightful

sigh

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 5 years ago | (#28817501)

not everybody believes in your imaginary god, life started because the chemicals to spawn life is most everywhere in the universe, the conditions/.environment favorable for the primordial soup to actually kickstart life is rare.

People see "WHY" everywhere. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 5 years ago | (#28817527)

They are looking at evolution from the completely wrong point of view. From the point of view of the anthropomorphic species.

Lets start at the beginning.

1. There was a chemical in an environment which caused it to replicate.
2. Large numbers of these chemical replicators were created. Some with slight variations because no analog copying is perfect.
3. Some of the varied replicators were more efficient at replication than others. Some of the variations allowed the replicators to replicate in slightly different environments.
4. GOTO 2 until 4 billion years have passed.

And so the replicators colonised the planet.

That's it. That's all evolution is.

All humans (or any species) are is an environment which allows the chemical replicators to replicate efficiently.
 

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (1)

Hungus (585181) | about 5 years ago | (#28817583)

You asked and so I will answer. I do know that you will reject my answer however as it contradicts your presuppositions, while at the same time it fits rationally with my own. Further, understanding that presuppositions are founded upon revelation, I can thus be assured that no amount of reason/argument/logic will change your presuppositions to that which would align itself with my own.
  Why then even respond to your post? Because you asked.

Why are some men color-blind while some women can perceive an extra color?

Original Sin. I suppose, though I have not given it considerable thought, that one could view entropy as one of the effects of original sin. Neither apparent entropy nor birth defects however necessitate an infallible God however.

Re:It is a common misconception about evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817597)

As pattern seekers we like to think that everything has a reason and evolution does not. Evolution just is.

If you take a deterministic view of the world, evolution is pure reason.

But there is no goal to it.

Instead of thinking evolution as a goal oriented process (with an ending), one could consider it as a packing problem where the items are the species with their specific properties and requirements and the container is the environment which is in the state of constant flux over millions of years. The optimal packing is never archieved globally and the parameters of the problem keep on changing.

The plant did not choose to have a certain colored leave.

Since certain environmental conditions are affecting the activation of the genome of mammals during gestation period, like mothers hunger, state of stress and so on, one could argue for some level of individuality in the process of evolution. Normally, the statistically defined concept is applied to a population instead of an individual thereby making the concept of individual choice meaningless.

Re:evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817485)

Think they don't imply this. The conclusion of that article seems to be that if you want to understand the properties of a current species, you not only have to look at the current environment and selection pressure, but also look into the past and take extinct species into account, because big evolutionary changes take a long time. Especially in this case it might take a long time, until the defense mechanism against moas gets removed by evolution again, because the selection pressure to do so is probably low. The selection pressure to develop a defense against moas was probably a lot higher in the first place.

Re:evolution (3, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 years ago | (#28817547)

First it's important to notice that the number of generations for a tree over 500 years are fewer than for a human. So even a fifth generation can show very few differences. The trait may also stop other species from preying on the tree, even if it isn't obvious unless the trait disappears.

And if the cost of maintaining the treat is low it may not disappear for a long time.

Give it a few thousand years more and we'll see what happens. It is possible that it evolves into two forms, one with leaves that don't have barbs and one with barbs.

It isn't instant. (5, Informative)

DarkNinja75 (990459) | about 5 years ago | (#28817077)

And humans still have tailbones.

Re:It isn't instant. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 years ago | (#28817573)

And a lousy and useless hair on the body that many shaves off for vanity reasons.

I'm just waiting for the genetic fix that takes care of unwanted traits in humans - like body hair, obesity and depression.

We have the ability to genetically engineer a human today.

Re:It isn't instant. (2, Funny)

MathiasRav (1210872) | about 5 years ago | (#28817615)

We have the ability to genetically engineer a human today.

Sure we do: Eugenics! Why leave it to science to experiment, when you can do all the work as easy as selective breeding?

Re:It isn't instant. (2, Interesting)

FudRucker (866063) | about 5 years ago | (#28817593)

shameless stolen and pasted for your pleasure...

So here's the thing: We have 46 chromosomes. Our nearest great ape relatives have 48. On the surface, it looks like we must have lost two. But that's actually a huge problem. Made up of organized packs of DNA and proteins, chromosomes don't just up and vanish. In fact, it's doubtful any primate could survive a mutation that simply deleted a pair of chromosomes. That's because chromosomes are to the human body what instruction sheets are to inexpensive, flat-pack furniture. If you're missing one screw, you can still put that bookcase together pretty easily. But if the how-to guide suddenly jumps from page 1 (take plywood panels out of box) to page 5 (enjoy bookcase!), you're likely to end up missing something pretty vital. All this left scientists with a thorny dilemma: How could we have a common ancestor with great apes, but fewer chromosomes?

Turns out: The chromosomes aren't missing at all. Genetic investigators caught the first sign of the missing chromosomes' scent in 1982. That year, a paper published in the Journal Science described a very funny phenomenon. Researchers knew all chromosomes had distinctive signatures; patterns of DNA sequences that can be reliably found in specific spots, including in the center and on the ends. These end-cap sequences are called telomeres. Telomeres are like the little plastic tips that keep your shoelaces from unravelling. They protect the ends of chromosomes and hold things together. Given that important function, you wouldn't expect to find telomeres hanging out on other parts of the chromosome. But that's exactly what the 1982 study reported. Looking at human chromosome 2, the scientists found telomeres snuggled up against the centromere (the central sequence). What's more, these out-of-place human telomeres were strikingly similar to telomeres that can be found, in their proper location, on two great ape chromosomes.

This evidence laid the groundwork for a brilliant discovery. Rather than falling apart, the two missing chromosomes had fused together. Their format changed, but they didn't lose any information, so the mutation wasn't deadly. Instead, scientists now think, the fusion made it difficult for our ancestors to mate with the ancestors of chimpanzees, leading our two species to strike out alone. In the two decades since the original study, more evidence has surfaced backing this up, which leads us to 2005, when the chimpanzee genome was sequenced around the same time that the National Human Genome Research Institute published a detailed survey of human chromosome 2. We can now see extra centromeres in chromosome 2 and trace how its genes neatly line up with those on chimpanzee chromosomes 12 and 13. It's a great example of evidence supporting the common descent of man and ape.

In other news... (4, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | about 5 years ago | (#28817079)

The kangaroo still hasn't come up with a better way to bring up it's kids. Having your embryo climb all the way up to your pouch is sooo last Megennium.

Re:In other news... (1)

tsa (15680) | about 5 years ago | (#28817157)

O no! I thought I would never make the dreaded all too popular spelling error. It's its kids, not it's kids. Mea culpa.

Re:In other news... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817305)

It means you're a stupid motherfucker.

Re:In other news... (1)

Antidamage (1506489) | about 5 years ago | (#28817487)

I see you get by on your looks alone.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817517)

I see you get by on your homosexuality alone.

Re:In other news... (1)

Antidamage (1506489) | about 5 years ago | (#28817571)

That's just not the strong insult that you think it is.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817629)

Because it's the truth?

Re:In other news... (1)

wonmon (1214678) | about 5 years ago | (#28817449)

Mmmmm, it's-its... [itsiticecream.com]

Wrong comparison ? (4, Insightful)

chthon (580889) | about 5 years ago | (#28817083)

This does not prove anything.

Plant A, under evolutionary pressure, develops a mechanism with which it protects itself from moas.

Plant B, which is not under evolutionary pressure, does not develop such a system.

Evolutionary pressure disappears, but growing the defense mechanism does not constitute an evolutionary disadvantage, so it stays in place.

Under the influence of random mutations, some plants might revert back to the old style, but this is a big might, since evolution works more by accretion than by shedding things.

I really do not see anything relevant here.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (2, Insightful)

Saunalainen (627977) | about 5 years ago | (#28817169)

growing the defense mechanism does not constitute an evolutionary disadvantage, so it stays in place.

Actually, the defense mechanism inevitably costs some energy to produce, and imposes design compromises that may affect the other functions of the plant. A mutant without these defenses will certainly have a fitness advantage.

However, while 1500 years sounds like a long time to us, it probably doesn't represent very many generations of these trees.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#28817237)

Actually, the defense mechanism inevitably costs some energy to produce, and imposes design compromises that may affect the other functions of the plant. A mutant without these defenses will certainly have a fitness advantage.

Until the next bird shows up, that is.

However, fitness advantage doesn't mean the other plant is going extinct. It only means the one with the advantage reproduces faster (in fact, that's the only way we can measure it). After millions of years of natural selection, I find it unlikely that any advantage will be big enough to cause a significant difference over such a short time.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817313)

After millions of years of natural selection, I find it unlikely that any advantage will be big enough to cause a significant difference over such a short time.

You don't need millions of years to notice significant evolutionary changes. Darwin's Finches [biology-online.org] is a great example of significant evolutionary changes, in just 2-3 generations or every few years.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817609)

GP was referring to trees, which take a lot longer to grow than birds.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1)

atmtarzy (1267802) | about 5 years ago | (#28817269)

It might just be that the defense mechanisms take less energy than otherwise. I'm not an expert on eucalyptus trees though, to know.

It's only been 500 years since moas went extinct, not 1500. Your point only gets stronger from that though. 500 years is nothing to the time it took for just about every other evolutionary change.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (5, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#28817297)

A register-limited processor from the 1970s is still waging a battle that should have ended over 150 months ago. The processor continues to sport evolutionary adaptations, such as compactly-encoded instructions, to protect it from a small, slow memory configuration known as 640K. There's just one problem: that configuration went extinct around 1990 AD.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 5 years ago | (#28817319)

Under the influence of random mutations,
It is funny, but I now think that this is wrong. I am thinking that majority of our mutations are not really random in the classical sense, but are clips of DNA (or RNA but obviously reverse transcribed) that are brought in via virus. The idea of a new base being added easily is NOT the case. In fact, DNA is built to resist that. The double part is designed as well to resist changes. So, that really only leaves bringing in small to large viral pieces. When you think about it we are slammed with LOADS of virus. The ones that we know about are those that symptomatic. But, I believe that there is a LARGE number of undiscovered virus that are symptomatic only to our children over a long genetic haul. Perhaps more important, the changes that occur do not show up as slow changes, but I think tend to show up rather quickly. That alone should be indicative. But to take it a step further, recently birds were shown to be changing into new breeds, but only when separated by a distance. So, what is the difference? The physical separation allows the birds to be exposed to different virus and pass on those changes.

Hopefully, some group decides to explore those birds. I would bet that they will find a virus or set of virus that were spliced to one of them that is driving the difference.

So, why does it apply here? Because it is possible that the plant has not been exposed to a virus that clipped it or inserted a new segment to break the transcription.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | about 5 years ago | (#28817407)

Mutations brought in by retrovirus are pretty distinct, and almost always non coding.

I'm not really an expert in mutations, just a dabbler, but the ones I know are either flipped sequences (IE ACG to GCA) or single base pair changes (ACG to AAG).

Re:Wrong comparison ? (1)

TerraGreyling (1605413) | about 5 years ago | (#28817481)

Interesting I learned about mutation in life, through an astrophysics course. One known cause of mutations are neutrinos that are able to collide with DNA changing it's structure very slightly. Only in the reproductive organs would it matter for evolution, anywhere else would not be noticeable as it would not carry on to the next generation. It is the same compound that can change "heavy water" to a stable matter emitting a flash of light.

Re:Wrong comparison ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817541)

evolution doesn't "develop' anything. why does evolution study spend more time on suspecting why evolution happened (applying logic as if evolution consciously intended to change the way it did) than "how" added features to a species happened. Unless every random evolutionary change that provides features not previously there to a species always has non-detrimental effect and always has historically timed evolutionary significance (meaning scientifically the tree hand no choice but to randomly evolve a suspected defense mechanism against this bird at the right time in history), one should be able to provide magnitudes more features adds to species that increase specie complexity or lead to their extinction.

Yes, one could argue that trees with this "defense" system where not eaten, why those without it where eat out of existence (right?). but are we to take on faith that the tree must have somehow evolved this feature it previously did not have, at the right time in history, to which coincidentally made it unattractive to being eaten by the bird?

scientifically, can you take all the timely "random coincidences" of things evolving to survive, yet claim evolution takes magnitudes of years to occur? either this tree had this feature before the bird came into existence, or the bird ate all the trees before the tree could evolve, or they both came into existence with this observed balance in nature. what do you believe?

Why would it lose them? (3, Interesting)

srothroc (733160) | about 5 years ago | (#28817091)

If the leaves don't hurt the tree in its current environment, there's nothing that would keep trees with that particular trait from proliferating, even if the moa is no longer around to weed out the ones without the trait.

Re:Why would it lose them? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817217)

These traits do hurt the tree, as it needs to expend extra energy creating them. (As you could read in the fine article.)

Re:Why would it lose them? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 years ago | (#28817627)

The question is how much it hurts. If the disadvantage is very slight then it will take a long time to show any measurable effect - especially with long lived and slow reproducing organisms.

In other related news... (5, Funny)

MenThal (646459) | about 5 years ago | (#28817093)

...why do men still have nipples. Film at 11.

Re:In other related news... (1)

BlackCreek (1004083) | about 5 years ago | (#28817203)

...why do men still have nipples. Film at 11.

best post in the thread....

Re:In other related news... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817317)

So it is less expansive for transexuals to get boobs !

Re:In other related news... (1)

MenThal (646459) | about 5 years ago | (#28817493)

So it is less expansive for transexuals to get boobs !

I hope you meant expensive. If not, the TS' will have some huge nipples...

Re:In other related news... (3, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | about 5 years ago | (#28817347)

..why do men still have nipples. Film at 11.

It's 11 and here is the film [mtv.com] . Men have nipples so that they can take part in this test which has the potential to increase monetary winnings and thus the man's ability to afford to go out on a date and eventually reproduce. This continued pressure on the nipples hence keeps them around, and may in fact make them more durable in the long term.

Re:In other related news... (2, Funny)

wonmon (1214678) | about 5 years ago | (#28817497)

I use mine to fight off large, flightless birds.
(requires constant supply of ice cubes to be effective)

Re:In other related news... (1)

Fred_A (10934) | about 5 years ago | (#28817565)

...why do men still have nipples. Film at 11.

Because they start as women when they grow up and only later turn into men while they're still embryos and some bits are left over ?

Evolution is great. (mostly) (2, Insightful)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | about 5 years ago | (#28817103)

Sounds like a pretty good defence mechanism. As far as the tree and evolution, if more trees are not being eaten that have the spiny defence trait, then that means the trait is probably going to be amplified. It doesn't matter that there are not any Moa's left, and 500 years is a drop in the evolutionary bucket.

Then one day by random chance a little tree will sprout that has smaller barbs, and if it survives might start a trend towards less pokey trees.

Something tells me none of us will be around by then unfortunately. I'd also wager the barbs help keep things like people and imported herbivores at bay as well, and until we go extinct maybe the trees will continue to poke when pecked, even if the poke is intended for extinct peckers.

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | about 5 years ago | (#28817119)

...until we go extinct maybe the trees will continue to poke when pecked, even if the poke is intended for extinct peckers.

In Soviet evolution, peckers poke you!

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | about 5 years ago | (#28817355)

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled moa?

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817121)

the plural of moa is *moa*

Hooray for NZ being in the news ;)

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#28817255)

and 500 years is a drop in the evolutionary bucket.

Let me rephrase that: 10 generations of trees.

And of course, isn't it an evolutionary success if something you're protecting yourself against goes extinct?

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#28817431)

Well, success by proxy, since the most likely cause of death would be homo sapiens...

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (2, Insightful)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 years ago | (#28817453)

Bingo! You've stated one of the most basic points, yet most frequently overlooked. When you're talking about evolution, years is an almost totally meaningless unit. Generations is what counts, and for most logical analysis, it's the only thing that counts.
    I've seen people here on slashdot babble about how viruses must have a higher individual mutation rate than advanced organisms, because they evolve so fast, and totally ignore that the virus may have a 1.7 day average reproductive cycle, and the advanced organism take an average of 20 years for one generation. How often an individual organism is a mutant may have little or no correlation to how long a species lasts before becoming a new species.
      Now counting anything else besides survival as a success is more debatable... What if a species becomes a very specialized niche organism in the process of driving its predator to extinction, for just one example? In the article's case for another example, the plant defenses didn't actually contribute much if anything towards making Moas extinct, human presence did most of the work there, if not all. Big Drumsticks!

Re:Evolution is great. (mostly) (1)

mederjo (899667) | about 5 years ago | (#28817617)

I'd also wager the barbs help keep things like people and imported herbivores at bay as well, and until we go extinct maybe the trees will continue to poke when pecked, even if the poke is intended for extinct peckers.

The poke isn't bad enough to keep people at bay. I don't think I've ever brushed past a lancewood and noticed the barbs aside from the general and distinctive long thin serrated shape of the leaves. If I wanted to mess with the tree the barbs on the leaves wouldn't stop me. I can't really imagine it being too much of a problem even for an imported herbivore like a deer, pig, goat, sheep, cow or possum, something with good grinding teeth at least.

I agree that it does sound like a pretty good defense mechanism though. It's amazing how much the trees change as they get older. I only found out about that recently. We own some land with native bush where lancewoods grow and when I was walking around it asking what things where I got a surprise when I pointed to a largish tree and heard it was a lancewood. I knew the younger ones were lancewood, it's so distinctive.

Arrogance (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28817109)

The tree continues to sport evolutionary adaptations, such as barbed leaves, to protect it from a large, flightless bird known as a moa. There's just one problem: the moa went extinct around 1500 AD.

So the assumption is that the true is doing something for reason X, but reason X is invalid, so the tree is crazy? How about ruling out that assumption and coming up with another reason for the behaviour?

With a bit less arrogance we might assume the tree has a GOOD reason for what it's doing, but that we just haven't figured it out yet.

Re:Arrogance (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 years ago | (#28817507)

Because it's not arrogance, it's humility. Scientists are trying to avoid circular logic. If you aren't careful, evolution reduces to a tautology - The fittest survive, because that's how you know they were the fittest, they survived. Evolution predicts there are some reasons why a change might stay around after it's not advantageous in the way it once was.

      It could be of trivial cost, so it has little pressure to vanish. That's a testable prediction, and therefore scientific - we could watch for a few generations and see if the adaptation is gradually getting less common.

      It could still be an advantage for some other reason. That's a testable prediction and therefore scientific - we could look for other things besides Moas that are still around eating the plants, or for advantages unrelated to being not eaten by an animal.

      What's arrogant is treating evolution as a doctrine that is self proving and needs no experimental verification, instead of a scientific theory that deserves support only because it makes testable predictions. Don't assume the tree has a good reason, find out.

Humans stuck in evolutionary time warp (3, Insightful)

ActionJesus (803475) | about 5 years ago | (#28817111)

In other news, humans still have an appendix.

Just because something is useless doesn't mean evolution will remove it - its only when it becomes actually detrimental and individuals start removing themselves from the reproduction chain that things change.

Bad example? (4, Informative)

pjt33 (739471) | about 5 years ago | (#28817341)

You're assuming that the human appendix is useless, which isn't necessarily the case. There are at least two open suggestions [wikipedia.org] as to its function.

Re:Humans stuck in evolutionary time warp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817435)

Not only that, people have been born with older characteristics from the human timeline.
First example i can think of is that family that have thick, dark hair all over their bodies.

Evolution isn't perfect, and it never has been. This is one thing that people always seem to overlook, or use to attack Evolution.
Evolution is a bunch of chemicals interacting with each other, some things work, some things sometimes work, some things plain don't work.
When you think of a structure like DNA, there are thousands of things that can go wrong, and very often they do. (which is a good thing in the long run)

One thing i would love to see is the human race in 5000+ years, there will probably be pretty noticeable differences in the species.
The human race has changed drastically in the past century, and the past few decades more-so.
How will the increases in stress change us? Higher sugar content? Higher fat content? Hell, just higher food intake in general.

Re:Humans stuck in evolutionary time warp (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 years ago | (#28817551)

There is speculation that the appendix acts as a backup store of 'good' gut bacteria so the gut can be repopulated faster in the event of a bout of gastro or something. It was a while ago that I read that so it may well have been debunked since then.

Maybe it's a message from up above (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817113)

... that the theory of evolution is a moa.

Or maybe it's just silly to assume that evolution reacts to all changes and quickly.
Humans are exposed let's say to rapidly increasing sugar consumption, a death threat to teeth, still there is no sign of increasing thickness or better enamel or the ability to grow a third set of teeth, as a possible "logical evolutionary response".

Re:Maybe it's a message from up above (0, Offtopic)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28817191)

I'm not sure humans are a good example of evolutionary processes any more. We evolve based on other things now, like financial success, keeping up with fashions on MTV. If you have the money, your teeth will look perfect, and you'll therefore be a better candidate for reproduction, regardless of how rotted your teeth once were.

Re:Maybe it's a message from up above (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817207)

We evolve based on [...] keeping up with fashions on MTV

Err, no. We change our behaviour by keeping up with fashions on MTV, perhaps, but to say that there is any evolutionary pressure due to this is, quite frankly, ludicrous. MTV has barely been *around* for even one generation.

Re:Maybe it's a message from up above (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28817221)

keeping up with fashions on MTV, perhaps, but to say that there is any evolutionary pressure due to this is, quite frankly, ludicrous

Ludicrous to you, maybe. Obvious to others.

Re:Maybe it's a message from up above (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 years ago | (#28817519)

MTV is both ludicrous and (Over)obvious. They stopped running music videos - why won't they just die?

Re:Maybe it's a message from up above (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#28817443)

To be fair, even if the parent put it in a silly way, there's a lot of adaptation that's cultural, like clothing foor example.

unless it's a disadvantage ..... (3, Interesting)

thephydes (727739) | about 5 years ago | (#28817127)

Unless it's a disadvantage for the tree to have barbs there is no "reason" for it to change. Evolution is about survival, it is not about changing because something you have is no longer used. I cite our toenails as examples.... do we need them? No. Are they disadvantageous to have for our survival? No. Hence we still have them, even though a significant number of our modern population can no longer see then over their fat guts.

Just a thought... (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 5 years ago | (#28817161)

Perhaps it would take too much energy to change itself. If it's not broken, why fix it?

Or, maybe it thinks the bird still exists, and that it's doing an incredible job. How would it know the bird is gone?

Re:Just a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817289)

Perhaps it would take too much energy to change itself. If it's not broken, why fix it?

Or, maybe it thinks the bird still exists, and that it's doing an incredible job. How would it know the bird is gone?

That was meant to be funny, right?

Actually, don't answer that. For my own sanity I'll believe it was a joke.

Just an idea... (2, Insightful)

Knoeki (1149769) | about 5 years ago | (#28817199)

...maybe it's still somewhat useful to protect itself from other things, like vicious koalas that are out to destroy it to harvest more eucalyptus.

Re:Just an idea... (1)

Skybyte (685829) | about 5 years ago | (#28817293)

The koalas that can swim the tasman sea?

Presumptuous? (2, Insightful)

sgrover (1167171) | about 5 years ago | (#28817201)

I find it a little presumptuous for any of us to know, with certainty, exactly why the tree evolved the barbed leaves in the first place. The moa bird *may* have been one of many different factors, and I doubt there is any way we could ever know what those other factors may have been. Applying relatively modern conditions to evolutions in the distant past, amounts to just a random guess doesn't it?

Iceweasel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817205)

From TFA:

the hypothesis could be strengthened by "exposing these plants to ... emus or ostriches to demonstrate that these traits deter browsing by birds."

Browsing birds? Nowadays, Firebird is called Iceweasel ...

Attack of the Clones (1)

hughbar (579555) | about 5 years ago | (#28817225)

Quite right too. Mad scientists will probably clone the Moa and then the tree will be OK.

One cannot be too careful about these things, I've been thinking about growing spikes too.

That's just what the Moas WANT you to think! (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about 5 years ago | (#28817307)

Moas are descended from dinosaurs, and we all thought they were extinct until they turned up behind the sofa.

500 years? (1)

Spit (23158) | about 5 years ago | (#28817323)

May as well be discussing five seconds.

Lets do the Time Warp (5, Funny)

retech (1228598) | about 5 years ago | (#28817329)

If you consider two facts this tree comes as no surprise:
  • Richard O'Brien, the creator of RHPS and the Time warp comes from NZ
  • NZ television is two seasons behind the rest of the world

The tree is just keeping in step with it's environment.

Re:Lets do the Time Warp (1)

gowen (141411) | about 5 years ago | (#28817523)

Also, The Matrix has only just been released...

In other news... (5, Funny)

johno.ie (102073) | about 5 years ago | (#28817343)

It was discovered today that newborn humans still grow teeth. Scientists are baffled because the human species developed the technology to build smoothie machines 3 generations ago.

these articles and responses make me cringe (2, Insightful)

uepuejq (1095319) | about 5 years ago | (#28817359)

a lot of people unintentionally apply intentionality to evolution. also, just because we are capable of recognizing a more efficient development cycle or design of any given 'naturally' occurring life form does not mean that the efficient conception should have occurred. that's like saying that because we can watch mike tyson lose his edge we can say that it makes no sense that he still boxes. can he still stand? can he still swing his arms? when he swings his arms do people still get knocked out? if so, he has some survivability as a boxer. if not, he does not, and will fail as a boxer. things don't simply instantly disappear when it has been revealed that their methods aren't totally efficient.

This reminds me of something... (0, Redundant)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 5 years ago | (#28817409)

Could it be...wait a sec...got it! This sounds to me sort of like Norton AntiMoa.

There are things like this in North America, too. (2, Interesting)

thisissilly (676875) | about 5 years ago | (#28817447)

See "The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms" by Connie Barlow. For instance, Osage Oranges were eaten by extinct North American megafauna. In fact, the tree is rather similar to the one in this article, in that it also has sharp spines to defend it.

NZ is known as an evolutionary backwater (1)

Mauzl (1312177) | about 5 years ago | (#28817467)

If you look into it, NZ is in many ways unique. If my memory serves me correctly, before European settlement there were no mammals on New Zealand, and most of the dominant animals were birds.

With a less diverse biome, perhaps there is less evolutionary pressure?

Terrible summary (4, Insightful)

shrykk (747039) | about 5 years ago | (#28817491)

The Slashdot summary of this story is spectacularly bad, particularly the 'should have ended over 500 years ago'.

Five hundred years is completely negligible on an evolutionary timescale. If trees - TREES - you know, big woody things that grow really slowly - had evolved significant changes in that time it would be headline news.

The research that led to this story wasn't remotely aimed at calling evolution into question, quite the contrary. Scientists are interested in the causes of the changes that these trees go during their lifetimes - and they have shown that these metamorphoses are probably due to the moa bird. Which is quite interesting, if probably not Slashdot-worthy.

Err... 500 years to evolution is nothing (1, Redundant)

Arimus (198136) | about 5 years ago | (#28817529)

500 years on an evolutionary timescale for slowly evolving speices like trees is bugger all time at all. Come back in a few thousand years please.

Arr, me hearty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28817625)

I remember having swordfights with the leaves when I was a kid.

If it ain't broke... (1)

logfish (1245392) | about 5 years ago | (#28817631)

This is just evolution. As far as I can tell, for the last 500 years these barbed leaves have done the trick: no moa attacked the plant. So if I was that plant, I would be all like "damn, I must be doing something right, I should keep this up!"

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