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Did Snakes Help Build the Primate Brain?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the snakes-on-a-brain dept.

Science 202

sciencehabit writes "A new study of the monkey brain suggests that primates are uniquely adapted to recognize the features of snakes and react in a flash. What's more, by selecting for traits that helped animals avoid them, the reptiles ultimately endowed us with forward-facing eyes, for example, and enlarged visual centers deep in our brains that are specialized for picking out specific features in the world around us, such as the general shape of a snake's body camouflaged among leaves.The results lend support to a controversial hypothesis: that primates as we know them would never have evolved without snakes."

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what about badgers and mushrooms? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266803)

They are at least as important as snaaaaakes.

Picking up shape from randomized patterns (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266841)

... that primates as we know them would never have evolved without snakes

The experiment only proved one thing, that our brain can pick up patterns, such as one that looks like a snake, from a bunch of seemingly randomized pattern.

That said, I do not think that "snake" the ONLY PATTERN our brain can pick up.

There are countless of examples of people picking up shapes of what looked like "angels", or "face of Jesus", or whatever ... from things as diverged as rust on a door to oil stain on a glass window panel, and so on ...

Re:Picking up shape from randomized patterns (3, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#45266923)

yep, but unlike "angels" or "face of Jesus" [sic] that you quote, get it wrong with a snake, and you're naturally selected.

Re:Picking up shape from randomized patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267191)

While detecting specifically "angels" or the "face of Jesus" is not very relevant, detecting human-shaped objects and faces is very relevant. After all, the human-shaped object may be an enemy out to kill you, so you certainly don't want to miss it, and the face can give important information about that person, helping you to determine if that specific person is a threat to you or not.

Re:Picking up shape from randomized patterns (5, Insightful)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year ago | (#45267225)

The random-face-generator in the brain is uncanny in its ability to amuse simple folk like myself. Also pretty tough on youngsters afraid of the dark.

Re:Picking up shape from randomized patterns (2)

biodata (1981610) | about a year ago | (#45267299)

I agree, in a way I would have been more impressed if they had shown that these particular neurons are differentially stimulated by pictures of snakes and other snake-like objects. Darwin's ideas about many traits being sex-related may be relevant here - how about seeing whether these neurons can differentiate between pictures of snakes and cocks?

Re:Picking up shape from randomized patterns (2)

theskipper (461997) | about a year ago | (#45267881)

As a heterosexual male who doesn't like the outdoors, my brain would treat them the same.

Re:what about badgers and mushrooms? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267015)

I came here to read this, but I never thought it would be first post. Congratulations, and thank you, sir.

Re:what about badgers and mushrooms? (1, Informative)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year ago | (#45267071)

I brought the link. [youtube.com]

well... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267103)

You can do better. [weebls-stuff.com]

Not sure why this would be controversial. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266829)

Surely, a basic consequence of the mechanisms involved in evolution is that all long term changes in individual species are effectively driven by factors of the environment they live in, whether that's predators or other dangers, or the needs of being able to acquire food or raise offspring, etc. Snakes are, we know, dangerous. So surely it's obvious rather than controversial that they should have had some effect on our evolution?

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#45266943)

The question is: Is it enough to be relevant?

Given the myriad other hazards, and billions of other reasons that stereoscopic vision in hunter-animals evolved, the answer is pretty much No.

This is why it's controversial. It's "true" while also being absolute bollocks. It's like saying that without lead-acid batteries, cars wouldn't have evolved as they have. Well, no. But it doesn't mean that without lead-acid batteries cars couldn't have existed or anything like that.

P.S. The "wading in water made man stand upright" is just as controversial because, although it may be a FACTOR, the impact of that factor is the crucial question. It may well be zero. It may well be quite a lot. But chances are that it's such a minuscule factor that it's not worth spouting off about compared to thousands of other factors.

Evolution is not a case of "jumping off this cliff made birds suddenly grow wings". There are billions of factors over millions of years and hundreds of thousands of generations that all nudge towards small changes which impact upon the previous and next changes.

As such, this suggestion is almost complete bollocks, while being - on the surface - based on truthful data. But "snake-like predators might possibly have contributed a tiny bit to millions of years of our evolution along with million of other factors" isn't a headline that sells papers to journals.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (1)

EuclideanSilence (1968630) | about a year ago | (#45267217)

...it may be a FACTOR, the impact of that factor is the crucial question. It may well be zero. It may well be quite a lot.

Shouldn't the factor with the least influence be the multiplicative identity, 1, not 0?

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#45267515)

English != Math. "Factor" in this case means "component of" or "contributor to" rather than the more rigorous definition it has in mathematics. Think term in a polynomial rather than overall multiplicand.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (3, Interesting)

AC-x (735297) | about a year ago | (#45267307)

Given the myriad other hazards, and billions of other reasons that stereoscopic vision in hunter-animals evolved, the answer is pretty much No.

Except the primates that humans evolved from weren't predators yet have binocular vision.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (2)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#45267369)

Given the myriad other hazards, and billions of other reasons that stereoscopic vision in hunter-animals evolved, the answer is pretty much No.

Except the primates that humans evolved from weren't predators yet have binocular vision.

But they were tree swinging and jumping, and gauging distances is certainly helped by stereoscopic vision. Being able to discern a branch (or fruit) from a bunch of leaves (pattern) would also be highly useful, and both probably had more to do with our brain development than being able to recognize snakes. It may even have been merely a serendipitous development.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45267347)

I'm unconvinced as to the wading in water bit. It might explain somewhat better breath control than other apes (but so can benefits of refined communication), or perhaps heads full of oily hair. It's true aquatic species lose body hair when they or their ancestors were exposed to direct contact with water (hippos, whales, elephants, manatee, rhinos) or in dirt (naked mole rats) for majorities of their lives (at least to breeding age), but losing hair could also be a sexual selection increased neoteny [wikipedia.org] in mates (youth is correlated with fertility, and makes the appearance of pubic hair at breeding age more visible).

As for standing upright, well, what about buoyancy and floating on your back instead? Standing erect in water wouldn't be necessary if they adapted to become blusterous tubs of lard that can have several hundreds of pounds of fat-weight without choking out their hearts by concentrating the fat outside of their core cavities, unlike most other mammals. However, plump hairless beasts could be the result of selective breeding for use as food by a superior alien race...

Now that I think of it standing upright would achieve a higher vantage to increase the area you can survey.... FOR SNAKES!

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (5, Interesting)

m00sh (2538182) | about a year ago | (#45267385)

The question is: Is it enough to be relevant?

Given the myriad other hazards, and billions of other reasons that stereoscopic vision in hunter-animals evolved, the answer is pretty much No.

This is why it's controversial. It's "true" while also being absolute bollocks. It's like saying that without lead-acid batteries, cars wouldn't have evolved as they have. Well, no. But it doesn't mean that without lead-acid batteries cars couldn't have existed or anything like that.

P.S. The "wading in water made man stand upright" is just as controversial because, although it may be a FACTOR, the impact of that factor is the crucial question. It may well be zero. It may well be quite a lot. But chances are that it's such a minuscule factor that it's not worth spouting off about compared to thousands of other factors.

Evolution is not a case of "jumping off this cliff made birds suddenly grow wings". There are billions of factors over millions of years and hundreds of thousands of generations that all nudge towards small changes which impact upon the previous and next changes.

As such, this suggestion is almost complete bollocks, while being - on the surface - based on truthful data. But "snake-like predators might possibly have contributed a tiny bit to millions of years of our evolution along with million of other factors" isn't a headline that sells papers to journals.

Have you heard of the pareto principle? Even if there are millions of factors, one factor will have a much higher influence than others.

In the economy, 1% control 90% of the wealth. In the movie industry, the top 1% of the movies rake in 90% of the movie revenue. On earth, 1% of the species occupy 90% of the ecosystems. You get the idea.

If there were a thousand reasons that influenced equally, it would be a rare natural system. Most often, natural systems are unstable dynamical systems and have positive feedback systems where one factor gets amplified much more than others that additionally feedbacks on itself where 90% of the influence is due to one factor.

The initial reason why one factor is amplified over others could be down to just random fluctuations. A small random fluctuation could be amplified over and over again to create a dominating effect. So, there is no way someone can sit here and argue that this reason sounds better than that because the influencing factor can be random among the possible set of factors and only by doing field studies can the influencing factor be verified.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | about a year ago | (#45267755)

Evolution is bollocks. --Period

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267931)

wenis

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (2)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about a year ago | (#45267889)

P.S. The "wading in water made man stand upright" is just as controversial because, although it may be a FACTOR, the impact of that factor is the crucial question. It may well be zero. It may well be quite a lot. But chances are that it's such a minuscule factor that it's not worth spouting off about compared to thousands of other factors.

While that may be true for the specific trait of upright walking, there is ample evidence that living on the beach or very close to salt or brackish water had a large impact on human evolution. Unique things like the lack of fur, a layer of subcutaneous fat, salty tears, etc., all point to evolutionary pressures associated with a familiarity with aquatic territories.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267933)

Evolution is not a case of "jumping off this cliff made birds suddenly grow wings". There are billions of factors over millions of years and hundreds of thousands of generations that all nudge towards small changes which impact upon the previous and next changes.

Yeh, if this were true, then surely we'd have swarms of rabid flying lemmings to deal with every year.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (2)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#45266949)

Surely, a basic consequence of the mechanisms involved in evolution is that all long term changes in individual species are effectively driven by factors of the environment they live in, whether that's predators or other dangers, or the needs of being able to acquire food or raise offspring, etc. Snakes are, we know, dangerous. So surely it's obvious rather than controversial that they should have had some effect on our evolution?

I'd like to see the methodology behind this study and the alternate hypotheses that were considered before passing judgement on whether this is an obvious outcome of evolution, or a bunch of creationists trying to justify some Bible story with "science".

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (5, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year ago | (#45267231)

I'd like to see the methodology behind this study

There's only one way to do it right, so they must have done it like this:
1. Take one set of universes, call it A, all with snakes.
2. Duplicate those universes into B.
3. Now, remove snakes from the universes in A.
4. Apply small irrelevant distortions to the universes in A and B.
5. Wait a gazillion years.
6. See if humans developed similarly in A and B.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267853)

They did that. Now you know that our universe is part of of universes A.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (1)

Paco103 (758133) | about a year ago | (#45268023)

Then who brought the snakes back in? I'm tired of these mother f'in snakes in my mother f'in universe!

Re: Not sure why this would be controversial. (3, Funny)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year ago | (#45267089)

It's controversial, because the evidence is extremely questionable. If primates evolved to recognize snakes, then how do you explain the entire politics esction of slashdot???
You darwinists are just nuts. Eve couldn't recognize a snake before, and she has enough trouble recognizing one now. Oh, and Adam still tags along for the ride.

Re:Not sure why this would be controversial. (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#45267459)

I'm pretty sure humans ate snakes more often than the other way around, even here in Oz with 9 of the top 10 deadliest snakes, most species are harmless and quite tasty. As for humans being adapted to spot them, snakes are experts at hiding in plain view, even the aborigines who still hunt them will tell you it's very difficult to spot them until they move. The rattlesnakes of the US, the colourful sea snakes, and a few others species are unusually polite poisonous snakes since they clearly advertise their presence and lethality to anything that comes close. Most Aussie snakes will just sit there looking exactly like a stick until you're practically standing on them. I can't count the number of times I've had the shit scared out of me by a snake bolting for the undergrowth at the last minute, it's not much comfort knowing the snake shit itself more than I did.

So mudafucking snakes on a plane (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266847)

Help develop further our mudafucking brains

Re:So mudafucking snakes on a plane (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about a year ago | (#45266871)

Doubtful...I for one felt dumber after seeing that film.

Re:So mudafucking snakes on a plane (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#45266929)

Everyone who watched that movie was naturally selected. I feel smarter.

Whaddya know (4, Funny)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | about a year ago | (#45266851)

The bible was right after all... it was the snakes fault after all

(Yes, I was aiming for '+5 funny'... how did you know?)

Re:Whaddya know (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266881)

The bible was right after all... it was the snakes fault after all

Actually the bible was only partially right. According to the bible, it was the snake's fault, while according to this research it was the snakes' fault.

and lemme guess.. (2)

Any Web Loco (555458) | about a year ago | (#45267209)

you've had it with these motherfucking snakes on your motherfucking brain!

Re:Whaddya know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267493)

Given the number of translations the Bible's been through you think you could cut it some slack.

Re:Whaddya know (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | about a year ago | (#45267879)

The number of what? So the OT is written in hebrew and the NT in greek. From there we get KJV in english. That doesn't seem too excessive to me.
There are plenty of atheists and non-christians that make their own bibles though, all starting with wescot and hort http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/westcott_and_hort_exposed.htm [jesus-is-savior.com]
Even Zondervan, a bible publisher, is owned by a company that makes pornography.

2 Peter 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you

That much is plane. (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year ago | (#45267561)

Supporting evidence is that early primates rarely if ever flew.

Re:Whaddya know (2)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a year ago | (#45267403)

Bakunin was right after all...
"The Bible, which is a very interesting and here and there very profound book when considered as one of the oldest surviving manifestations of human wisdom and fancy, expresses this truth very naively in its myth of original sin. Jehovah, who of all the good gods adored by men was certainly the most jealous, the most vain, the most ferocious, the most unjust, the most bloodthirsty, the most despotic, and the most hostile to human dignity and liberty - Jehovah had just created Adam and Eve, to satisfy we know not what caprice; no doubt to while away his time, which must weigh heavy on his hands in his eternal egoistic solitude, or that he might have some new slaves. He generously placed at their disposal the whole earth, with all its fruits and animals, and set but a single limit to this complete enjoyment. He expressly forbade them from touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge" ; ).

Re:Whaddya know (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#45267963)

In other words, Ignorance is Bliss and nosy in-laws are always trying to stir shit up.

Also bird brains (4, Interesting)

taleman (147513) | about a year ago | (#45266863)

Seems also birds are afraid of snakes. I place rubber snakes on places like boat decks and balconies, they are very effective and birds stay away.

Re:Also bird brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266931)

So that's why birds have forward facing eyes and huge visual cortexes. I see.

Re:Also bird brains (1, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#45267001)

The forward facing eyes and huge visual cortex couldn't be because flying through trees and landing on branches requires accurate depth perception and finding food by mainly sight requires acute vision. /sarcasm

Re:Also bird brains (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267263)

Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me that I forgot the /sarcasm. Also, you should take a look at a bird sometime.

Re:Also bird brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267279)

Why does this have +2? Birds DON'T have forward facing eyes.

Re:Also bird brains (4, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#45267525)

Some do, like owls. Some don't, like pigeons.

Re:Also bird brains (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#45267671)

Some do, like owls. Some don't, like pigeons.

Some do, like owls. Some don't, like practically every other bird on the planet. Yet for some reason, they are used as examples of animals with forward-facing eyes. Sure, they can SEE in front of them, but not as well as they can see to the sides. They can perceive a moving object there, or an oncoming object, which is enough to know to turn your head to get a better view of what you're about to crash into. If birds actually had forward-facing eyes, they would look at you with both of them instead of with just one of them, which is what they actually do.

Re:Also bird brains (5, Informative)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | about a year ago | (#45267719)

Owls. Eagles. Falcons. Hawks. Vultures. Birds of Prey = Forward, Birds are Prey = Side.

Re:Also bird brains (1)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | about a year ago | (#45267653)

OWL RLY?

Re:Also bird brains (4, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#45267391)

The forward facing eyes and huge visual cortex couldn't be because flying through trees and landing on branches requires accurate depth perception and finding food by mainly sight requires acute vision. /sarcasm

Or that prey animals are prone to have side-facing eyes to see possible threats all around, but predators have front-facing eyes because they're more concerned with attacking than in being attacked.

Africa is full of felines who love to snack on monkey-like creatures, but we don't have that instinctive revulsion for cats that we do for snakes.

Re:Also bird brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267691)

Throwing a stuffed toy leopard into a (baby) monkey's cage will get much the same response as for snakes. The studies from the gariny film era are out thare. I don't recall if it also works with a stuffed toy tiger, nor if it works with adults. Or human babies. I saw the film where the snake thing works with human babies as well.

I remember one where a stuffed ("realistic") leopard was thrown into the same clearing as a group of apes. First they scattered. Then they came cautiously back. Saw that the leopard wasn't active. And beat the stuffing out of it - among other, rather simian, indignities.

How does that explain Kookaburras? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266963)

Re:Also bird brains (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#45267187)

We get plovers nesting in our yard. They nest on the ground and defend their nests ferociously so it's a bit of a problem. We threw some rubber snakes around the place and find them moved all the time so I assume the plovers are attacking them...

Re:Also bird brains (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#45267395)

Seems also birds are afraid of snakes. I place rubber snakes on places like boat decks and balconies, they are very effective and birds stay away.

Not all of them. I once looked out across a pond to see a heron whacking the bejeezus out of a snake. 3-foot long snake and the bird had it in its bill and was flailing it around like a whip!

Re:Also bird brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267473)

Just because it's scared, doesn't mean it's running away. Remember, fight-or-flight.

Re:Also bird brains (3, Informative)

taj (32429) | about a year ago | (#45267633)

Horses are no fun to be on while around snakes either. You don't have to train them to avoid snakes. So horses would not have evolved to eat grass and have eyes on the side of their head without snakes?

That kind of reasoning goes nowhere (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266889)

With a good reason for snakes not appearing 110 My ago, the evolution path might so different that there could be no primates at all. It's not that the question is completely pointless, but there are better ways to formulate the problem that make sense.

Re:That kind of reasoning goes nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267759)

The ecological niche would still be there. Something snake-wise, or with equivalent appendages - or symbionts - would have developed. Like "dinosaur fish", in one era, and "mammal fish", in another. Which is why I think earthlike planets will bring up humanoids, however strange. As other non-earthlike niches probably have their own specific optimum compatibilities, too.

Feline brains too (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266891)

Cats are not thrilled with things like vacuum cleaner hoses and air hissing sounds.

Re:Feline brains too (3, Funny)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#45266961)

Giant noisy sucking arms spewing out nearly a hundred decibels of unnatural noise, including in the frequencies that we can't hear but cats are very sensitive to, which starts up suddenly, chases them around the house when they hide, which their "alpha" owner tries to wrest control over but which ends up tugging them around the house chasing after the cat, and which if they get too near tries to swallow their tail.

Yeah. Must be evolution about a snake-fear... And they're scared of your car starting up while they're inside the engine because cats evolved from animals that got swallowed by bellowing mammoths with whirling stomach parts...

Idiot.

Re:Feline brains too (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267031)

They're not afraid of the sound of the motor you giant jackass. You move the hose with the motor off they're afraid of that. You can turn on the vacuum with no hose and they're more or less calm you unbelievable fuckwit. You colossal, lackluster utter failure.

Re:Feline brains too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266977)

Cats are not thrilled with things like vacuum cleaner hoses and air hissing sounds.

Not sure if relevant, but vacuum cleaner hoses and air hissing sounds may turn on some male primates.

Eew... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267259)

Dateless and desperate?

Re:Eew... (1)

cyborg_zx (893396) | about a year ago | (#45267973)

Dateless and desperate?

Coming this fall, on FOX.

Forward facing eyes (4, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#45266893)

I thought they were prevalent on hunting animals because stereoscopic vision was important to depth perception which is critical when attacking another animal. Are snakes the reason for raptors having forward facing eyes too?

Something else that looks like a snake? Vines used by primates to move through jungles.

Re:Forward facing eyes (3, Informative)

AC-x (735297) | about a year ago | (#45267483)

I thought they were prevalent on hunting animals because stereoscopic vision was important to depth perception which is critical when attacking another animal

The primates that humans evolved from where primarily frugivores, however they also had binocular vision.

Just false. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266903)

1. ALL land predators have binocular vision - we have binocular vision, thus derived from a predator.
2. forward looking vision does not prevent snake attack from the rear.
3. even mice have better "snake" identification than primates.

Re:Just false. (1)

AC-x (735297) | about a year ago | (#45267497)

Talking about "just false",

ALL land predators have binocular vision - we have binocular vision, thus derived from a predator.

The primates that humans evolved from where primarily frugivore yet had binocular vision, thus our binocular vision did not come from preying on other animals.

Well duh. (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | about a year ago | (#45266911)

Oh course they did.
The one that told Adam to eat the apple.

Restricted Study (4, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#45266941)

Compared with three other categories of stimuli (monkey faces, monkey hands, and geometrical shapes), snakes elicited the strongest, fastest responses,

They compared one high value stimulus with a number of low value stimuli. How about adding a few other possibilities to the mix; predators like lions or wolves, prey animals, spiders, birds, etc. We have no idea if these other stimuli would get a greater response and, by their theory, influence primate evolution more. The study is obviously flawed.

Re:Restricted Study (2)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45267377)

Or stimuli like images guns, knives, suicide bombers, or zombies, none of which could have influenced early primate development, and yet would probably elicit a quick and strong response.

"Flawed" barely scratches the surface.

Breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45266965)

Surrounding environment affects evolution of living creatures!

forward facing eyes? (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#45266979)

No, forward facing eyes are not to recognise snakes. Prey species, especially the ones that are "snake bite size" tend to have eyes on the sides of their heads, so they have a bigger peripheral to detect predators. Forward facing eyes are only seen in predators and omnivores that rely on eyesight to capture their prey.

Snakes are just one form of predator or danger to humans or mammals in general. Humans, as most mammals, are very inaccurate at detecting snakes, unless they move. They are not more accurate at detecting snakes than they are at detecting any other animal, providing the level of camouflage of that animal is similar to that of the snakes. Singling out snakes to come up with a bunch of generic treats that we and other mammals have as the cause of these is bullcrap and there is no way to prove any of it. Maybe this is the sort of research a recently converted creationist or someone with a snake phobia would come up with. Snakes are nothing more than lizards that evolved to have no legs and the development of mammals saw many more forms and shapes of predators and dangers throughout their evolution that required exactly the same sort of adaptation. I challenge the writers of this paper to do a double blind test and evolve mammals again, both with and without snakes in their world and see what differences occur. Only then I will accept their proof, until then, go back to school and read up before you publish.

Re:forward facing eyes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267321)

Statement of opinion as fact. Check. Explanation of theory is a complete non-sequiteur. Check. (Humans are not "snake bite size", in case you missed that.)

BTW it tends to be those with a creationist bent who claim you can't have a theory without a repeatable experiment (unless that theory happens to be their pet theory). You're falling for the exact same conceit here. Your theory that forward facing eyes are not to recognize snakes has no more evidence from repeatable experiments that this does, dumbass.

If snakes didn't exist you'd have to invent them (3, Interesting)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about a year ago | (#45266987)

There is a niche for a small, fast, deadly predator. Snakes happen to have won the fight for that niche, and so it's them that we have evolved to spot. If it weren't for the snakes, we woud still exist because something else would exist that we had a need to spot and react really quickly to. Screw you, snakes, you're not all that.

Re:If snakes didn't exist you'd have to invent the (1)

RDW (41497) | about a year ago | (#45267491)

There is a niche for a small, fast, deadly predator. Snakes happen to have won the fight for that niche

Honey Badger don't care: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg [youtube.com]

evolution does not occur in a vacuum (2)

FudRucker (866063) | about a year ago | (#45267013)

all the animals and vegetation and geography in the environment have an effect on the evolution of all things therein, it has synergy

Re:evolution does not occur in a vacuum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267171)

evolution does not occur in a vacuum

Hmm, I guess you empty your vacuum more often than I do, right?

The Arrival (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267091)

Do you want to see the ruins, my friend?

Here's a tip: If you ever get the chance to travel with a Mexican rodeo... pass.

Searching for ETs in this political environment is a tough sell.

If you can't tend to your own planet, you don't deserve to live here.

What about Lawyers? (4, Funny)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year ago | (#45267109)

If this is true, it it might explain the evolution of lawyers. Under this hypothesis, lawyers would have evolved from snakes that preyed on monkeys. As the monkeys got smarter, the snakes evolved into monkey mimics that still had primates as their primary food source. Finally, it all makes sense.

Why did it have to be snakes? (2)

Meneth (872868) | about a year ago | (#45267167)

Looks like the old question finally gets an answer. :)

Re:Why did it have to be snakes? (2)

Captain Hook (923766) | about a year ago | (#45267477)

That explains why he was afraid of snakes, not why there were thousands of them living inside an apparently sealed tomb with no obvious food or water sources.

No video or photos of the torture then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267175)

... why is that? Something to hide?
More fraudulent, pointless 'research' by psychopaths who enjoy torturing animals.

Did nobody read the Slashdot article yesterday about most 'research' being a fraud?

From the lowest point of view (2)

colfer (619105) | about a year ago | (#45267333)

But did snakes specifically evolve to lie in wait for primates and their delicious x-factor blood? Snakes as we know them would not have evolved without delicious primate blood. Which also explains vampires.

Snakes - on a plane! (1)

remoteshell (1299843) | about a year ago | (#45267339)

The contribution of snakes in primate evolution led to movies about commercial aviation.

Enough is enough! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267351)

I have had it with these motherf**king snakes on this motherf**king brain!

Snakes on a brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267359)

I have had it with these m*******king snakes on this m*******king brain!

What happened next (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267387)

After snakes helped evolve the primate brain, they went to help the human brain.
This [youtube.com] is what happened.

Total Bullshit (3, Interesting)

The Cat (19816) | about a year ago | (#45267419)

This is the problem with modern "science." Any consistency and color of shit can be shoveled as long as someone pulls something vaguely rational-sounding out of their ass and calls it science.

Forward-facing eyes evolved for predators, not prey. They allow for judging of distance and depth, something a predator needs in order to chase. See lions, raptors, wolves, bears, etc.

Side-facing eyes evolved for prey, so they can perceive a wide viewing angle for movement and differences in texture/shade. See antelope, horses, deer, rabbits.

Primates evolved to take advantage of their hands. Enlarged visual centers for climbing and enlarged heads for the brains required to start using tools.

Fuck, and I'm not even a scientist. This "let's see how much utter horseshit we can label science" routine is getting really tired.

Very Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267461)

This topic pops up as news every 2 or 3 years. I can't count how many times this has been discovered from National Geographic articles alone.

I have had it with these snakes .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267529)

I have had it with these motherfucking snakes in my motherfucking brain!

Taygah, Taygah ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267563)

Ditto for leopards. And water : the webbing between the fingers that other apes don't seem to have, hairlessness, permanent linear posture. All that's left is for science to explain the ET-like shadow, sense imprinted in the brain, as evidenced by transcranial stimulation.

Good and evil (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year ago | (#45267571)

So, snakes are responsible for our ability to recognize the difference between good (no snake) and evil (SNAKE!!!). Where have I heard that one before?

chicken/egg (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#45267637)

The theory seems tautologous?
If she's arguing that of early mammals, for the non-burrowing ones snakes were the worst predator - we aren't their only descenants.

By that logic, then ALL descendants of non-burrowing mammals should have binocular vision and forward-facing eyes which is patently not true.

If she's saying that PRIMATES specifically developed forward-facing eyes to deal with snakes, that seems less supportable when forward-facing vision is more generally found across nature in predators of all sorts. That seems a less contrived explanation.

I don't doubt we have particularly good pattern-recognition circuits for snakes; they are a nasty predator for arboreal creatures. But to suggest they're the cause is nonsense.

I don't understand (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#45267695)

How could snakes help build a brain when they have no hands?

I told you ALL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267793)

Evolution is the Devils play thing, now you know why we have thumbs!!

all we really are is livestock. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267829)

Nada: You see, I take these glasses off, she looks like a regular person, doesn't she? Put 'em back on...

[puts them back on]

Nada: ...formaldehyde-face!

##

Bearded Man: We could be pets, we could be food, but all we really are is livestock.

Actually man (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45267869)

> [snakes] ultimately endowed us with forward-facing eyes

No they didn't. Swinging through trees did. There are two main reasons animals develop forward-facing AKA binocular vision: swinging through trees and being a hunting animal (lions, tigers, and bears).

Otherwise independent eyes on the sides of your head are preferred so you can spot the lions, tigers, and bears.

I wonder if bears initially got it because they are related to raccoons, tree climbers.

Reptilians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45267871)

This only proves that we primates have been governed by an elite class of reptilian leaders for far longer than we care to admit!

I know this from personal experience. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#45267873)

Very clearly etched in my memory. I was walking down the street in Bangalore, unpaved gravel street. Light breeze on. The wind rustled a long piece of dried coconut palm leaf frond. It slithered in the wind just as a snake would. I had encountered snakes in the wild may be a dozen times in my life previously, but none that long, nor slithering like that palm leaf. It was in the peripheral vision, suddenly almost everything else in my field of vision vanished, except for that snake/palm frond. Eyes pivoted to it, I was startled and instinctively jumped, startling a few near by who too reacted as though they had seen a snake! My body language was so clear they thought they saw a snake too. It was sheepish grin, we all laughed and moved on. I had always known our brains process slithering long things in the peripheral vision differently.

An old, familiar feeling (2)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about a year ago | (#45267911)

Does anyone else remember being a child and playing "snakes in the grass"? That game always dug up what I would describe as a very primal fear that lives deep down in all of us.

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