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The De-Evolution of the Ocean 290

An anonymous reader writes to mention an LA Times article entitled 'A Primeval Tide of Toxins.' The article looks at changing conditions in the world's oceans, and the resulting explosion in the growth of algae, jellyfish, and other primitive lifeforms. From the article: "In many places -- the atolls of the Pacific, the shrimp beds of the Eastern Seaboard, the fjords of Norway -- some of the most advanced forms of ocean life are struggling to survive while the most primitive are thriving and spreading. Fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are growing unchecked. Where this pattern is most pronounced, scientists evoke a scenario of evolution running in reverse, returning to the primeval seas of hundreds of millions of years ago. Jeremy B.C. Jackson, a marine ecologist and paleontologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, says we are witnessing 'the rise of slime.'" The article is parting of a just-beginning series on our changing world called Altered Oceans.
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The De-Evolution of the Ocean

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  • De-evolve? (Score:4, Informative)

    by amstrad ( 60839 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @06:16PM (#15849265)
    Evolution is not directional, so the ocean cannot de-evolve.
  • Re:Flawed concept (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @06:34PM (#15849365) Homepage
    If you mean more complex organisms then yes, you're probably right. Calling them "more advanced", however, is probably a mistake.
    advanced (ad-vanst') adj.
    1. Highly developed or complex.

    I would say not so much a mistake.
  • Caulerpa taxifolia (Score:5, Informative)

    by orbitalia ( 470425 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @06:36PM (#15849376) Homepage
    Caulerpa taxifolia seems to be a good candidate for taking over the worlds seas and oceans.

    Originally a genetically modified strain was found that survived well in aquariums in Germany, and this strain was accidently released by the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, it quickly spread and seems to be impossible to destroy effectively. As it is asexual technically it is the same plant, there is no known predator apart from one slug I think. It is currently spreading like wildfire and nobody really knows what to do. It easily spreads via ships ballast tanks, and the plant is toxic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caulerpa_taxifolia [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.grid.unep.ch/product/publication/downlo ad/ew_caulerpa.en.pdf [grid.unep.ch]

    A real disaster in the making..
  • by Cannelloni ( 969195 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @06:47PM (#15849419)
    It's a beautiful world we live in
    A sweet romantic place
    Beautiful people everywhere
    The way they show they care
    Makes me want to say
    It's a beautiful world
    For you
    It's a wonderful time to be here
    It's nice to be alive
    Wonderful people everywhere
    The way they comb their hair
    Makes me want to say
    It's a wonderful place
    For you
    Tell me what I say
    Boy 'n' girl with the new clothes on
    You can shake it to me all night long
    Hey hey
    It's not for me

    On a rather more serious note, it's already happening. In the Baltic sea, for example, one third of the organisms and plants living down at the bottom have already died. The cod is more or less extinct there. The rest of it will probably die soon too. The world is dying, and it may be too late to do anything about it.
  • There is hope (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 04, 2006 @06:49PM (#15849427)
    Lake Erie was pretty much dead in the 1970s. Agricultural runoff and phosphate based cleaning products in sewage had acted as fertilizer for the algae. The algae took all the oxygen out of the water and the fish had died off. We changed a couple of laws and banned a couple of chemicals and fish returned to Lake Erie. If we had the will, we could do the same for the oceans. We have managed to ban ozone depleating chemicals for instance. Of course, we still have to solve the problem of various European nations (Spain comes to mind) completely stripping all the fish from wherever their fleet goes.

    The solution is just a matter of international political will.
  • The strain in question wasn't genetically modified, at least not deliberately. According to the links you gave, it was exposed to tank chemicals and lighting, and that exposure appears to have caused it to mutate and gain increase ability to survive in cold water -- it's naturally found only in the tropics.

    Also, it's not 'impossible to destroy effectively'. The PDF you linked to describes several methods that have been found effective, but only for relatively small infestations, like those that have been found in the United States and Australia. Introduction of the animals that eat taxifolia in its natural locations would probably clean up big infestations, but the effects of further alien introductions are nearly impossible to predict. So far it's spreading like wildfire only around the Mediterranean, but other temperate waters have to be watched for infestations (warmer waters aren't at risk, because they already have taxifola and its predators, and colder waters aren't at risk, because even this strain of taxifolia can't stand that much cold).

    So, it's a cause for concern around the temperate waters of the world, but only a potential disaster in the Mediterranean area. It's similar to the Zebra Mussel, which is causing significant harm to the freshwater lakes and rivers of North America and Sweden.

  • Words, words... (Score:2, Informative)

    by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Friday August 04, 2006 @08:49PM (#15849930) Homepage
    The text is misleading in the way it defines the word "evolution". It equates "more evolved" with "complex", and "less evolved" with "simple". This isn't correct. "Evolution", at least in biology, which is the topic here, is a concept almost synonym to "adaptation". Any life form able to survive in a given habitat is as much "evolved" as any other life form that is also able to survive in that habitat. The amount of cells it's composed of has no meaning to this. If algae are able to survive in the new oceans, and other complex life forms aren't, the that algae is by definition more "evolved" than those complex organisms. We, humans, are as much "evolved" as the bacteria that live inside us and as the amoeba that float in the air around us. And this same amoeba is more "evolved" than a Tiranossaurus Rex, because it is alive, and the TRex is dead. That's all there is to it.
  • Re:De-evolve? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guido von Guido ( 548827 ) on Friday August 04, 2006 @10:54PM (#15850379)
    I would have to disagree. The concept of Darwinism as I understand, defines evolution to be mutation and gain in genetic material. If true, then this allows a concept of de-evolution, being the loss of genetic material.

    Uh, no. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] actually has a nice definition: "the change in the heritable traits of a population over successive generations." Nothing whatsoever to do with a "gain in genetic material."

    Darwin himself certainly proposed no such thing. Keep in mind that Darwin didn't know anything about genetics or mutations. While Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, lived at roughly the same time as Darwin, Mendel's paper was largely forgotten until the 20th century.

  • by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:54AM (#15850822) Journal
    Sure, the concept of life on a planet carrying out a "biological reset" might be a great concept for a science fantasy TV series like Star Trek, but it has no place in any kind of discussion of what might actually be happening on Earth right now.

    How does this grab you then?

    "THIS is evolution?!"
    "Survival of the fittest. Often the simplest organism is the strongest."
    From the movie Evolution

    I don't know how your flamey post got modded up to +4, since you apparently missed the point. In a crisis the most fit creatures will survive -- usually the simplest, as pointed out above -- and then they will evolve again into more complex organisms. You can easily call that a "biological reset" if you aren't anal-retentive because that's what it essentially is.

  • by hempola ( 974426 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:24PM (#15853401)
    I understand how pollution could lead to these increases in bacteria etc. Is it possible that the increase in methane gas (as noted here http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=2274439& page=1 [go.com]) could also be playing a role in what life is able to survive while others do not?

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith