Is the future so wild?




Part II


Sharkopath seas

“Flish” – the dream of intelligence gives rise to monsters.

Certainly, there is a big temptation to imagine the future of the Earth somehow very effectively and unexpectedly. All problem is that it is impossible to confirm or deny it in any way - nobody will live up to times described by authors and will not note them their mistakes. Therefore romantically disposed producers of film “The Future is Wild” enter in film such improbable “character”, as flish, flying fish. But is so real the opportunity of occurrence of this creature? I think, this event is from number of the least probable ones.
Anatomy of flish is rather strange. I do not deny that the fish can fly actively any time in air, using pectoral fins as wings. Such fishes are in modern fauna: they are Gasteropelecidae (from order or suborder Characiformes), living now in Amazon basin. At these small fishes the pectoral bone, resembling sternum characteristic for birds to which flying muscles are attached, is advanced. These small fishes fly really, as against more known inhabitants of sea Exocoetidae, which do not fly, and only soar above waves similarly to paper plane. Another feature is strange - being under obvious impression of flish’s “bird-similarity”, the author of this creature “had curtailed” the tail fin of flish to the angle 90° (like bird's tail). But tails of flish and bird are not homological structures, they develop from different primordiums! The tail of any bird consists of feathers having dermal origin. It is not connected to any elements of backbone of bird. The tail of flish is the derivative of the fish tail fin, it is formed not only by fin rays having dermal (skin) origin, but also by top and bottom shoots (processus spinosus) of tail vertebrae. Hence, to admit, that the tail of flish is horizontal, means to admit, that the tail department of flish’s backbone had revolved at 90°. How to imagine the transitive form from usual fish to flish and its habit of life - I can not imagine it absolutely... The tail of such fishes as a flounder, certainly, is located in horizontal plane, but also the body of such fishes lays at the side! The flying creature flish is normally orientated in space, but its tail is turned aside. Besides, the applicability of magnificent back fin on the back of flish is completely not clear. What for is it necessary for flying creature? Were, certainly, pterosaurs such as Pteranodon, Tapeyara, Thalassodromeus with huge bone “crests” on their heads, serving for maintenance of balance in flight, are known, but these crests were high and short. The fin of flish is low and long - it reaches along all back. It is obvious not the rudder and not the balance organ. What is it? Is it an atavism? Or is it the investigation of wish of the author of this monster to emphasize the “fish origin” of flish?
Tail is not only thing that sets thinking about the nature of flish. The biomechanics of flish puts one more insoluble problem: such animal is not able to swim. Authors of the book assert, that flish can sit on water and swim, having lifted pectoral fins as sails. Also they explain buoyancy of flish to fact, that on the chest of this creature there will grow the fat pillow, and lungs and hollow scales will give to it additional buoyancy. Abdominal fins will work as keel, not giving this animal to turn over. From the point of view of the biomechanics such monster will be steady only in shallow puddle if it will thrust abdominal fins in bottom. On water surface it constantly will turn aside. Flish is not a duck. At the duck heavy intestines and legs (centre of gravity) are located below the “waterline”. And at flish the bottom part of body on the contrary, is too easy. Its abdominal fins are small and easy, and the pushing out force working at the pectoral fat pillow of flish, will counterbalance their weight. Lungs of monster also are located below the backbone. But the body of the monster has a high back fin (it is completely not clear, what for is it) and, according the body shape, strong back muscles which are heavier than fat pillow below. The bottom of flish is too easy. Accordingly, the centre of gravity at flish is above "waterline" of the animal sitting on water surface, and under influence of Earth gravitation it constantly will aspire to occupy the steadiest position - below. Thus the poor animal, sitting on waves, will constantly overturn, that will be promoted in significant degree by the wind blowing in pulled up fins. And the high and narrow body of the monster in any way will not prevent the “onboard roll”.
If to analyze the habit of life and its connection with physiological processes in organism, it appears, that flying creatures are animals with high intensity of these processes. Birds, chiropters, and, probably, pterosaurs (on some samples of Sordes pilosus there is something similar to wool, that, probably, testifies about warm blood of it) are those. Insects are tiny creatures, we shall not take them into account as their expenses of energy for flight are smaller, than at large vertebrates. Flish in film is the large flying creature, and, by the staff of film, it flies actively, long time and quickly. Hence, its power should correspond to the habit of life. The body of flish is covered with scales - hence, it does not develop heat (there is nothing to lose and to keep) and has an ambient temperature, or develops it so many that flish can die of overheat. But last assumption is incorrect, because in nature there is no such wastefulness. Hence, flish is the cool-blooded (ectothermic) creature. It means, that its body develops not enough heat. Hence, physiological processes in it proceed slowly. Hence, the animal flish should not fly actively! Now on the Earth there are some “flying” ectothermic creatures - flying frog Racophorus, lizard Draco volans, even some forest snakes. But these animals do not fly actively - they only make gliding jumps. Energy of modern “flying fishes” Carnegiella, Gasteropelecus, Thoracocharax suffice only for some meters and seconds of flight. I shall remind that ocean “flying fishes” are passive flyers, “glider pilots”. Their energy consumptions are reduced to some seconds of active work by tail before “free-fall jump” above waves.
Having read the book (I shall remind, that it had taken place after film watching), I nevertheless have to found a mention about thermoisolating system at flish (“The Future is Wild”, page 116):
“Similarly to ancestors, flisher are cool-blooded, and they also are compelled to keep body heat with the help of hollow scales, covering wings muscles”.
Such statement of question forces me to rise my eyebrows surprised and to not lower them long time. The matter is that cool-blooded (it is more correct to say “ectothermic”) animal receives heat from an external heat source: the Sun. Amphibians, reptiles, fishes, invertebrates are ectothermic animals - all their vital processes depend on ambient temperature. And all these creatures have adaptations for absorption of sun heat. So, the chameleon darkens, lizards and snakes creep out on the heated up stones, and fossil reptile Dimetrodon had on the back the huge “sail” formed by extended upwards shoots of vertebrates and fitted by skin. Same “sails” were at dinosaurs Spinosaurus, Altispinax, Ouranosaurus, and at amphibian Platyhystrix which had been not connected to them by direct relationship. Fishes can adjust body temperature by more primitive way: choosing cold or warm layers of water. Some ectothermic animals can be warmed up at active muscular work, but only at some degrees relatively to environmental temperature. Working by wings, bees and bumblebees are actively heated, and among vertebrates tunas heat themselves. But their heating nevertheless is inessential and can not allow thinking them truly warm-blooded ones.
If to imagine flish, flying in air at temperature +25°Ń, it is possible to assume, that its temperature will rise to the maximum up to +29… +30°Ń. However at birds the body temperature is much higher – it may be up to +39°Ń, and for different species of bats values of temperature from +34°Ń up to +40.5°Ń are specified. It seems that the difference is not so essential. But no means is present! The matter is that in chemistry there is rule of Vant-Hoff – Arrenius, which says, that rise of temperature up at 10°Ń results to 2 - 3-times acceleration of chemical processes. Also biochemical processes partly submit to this rule. The temperature is limit here - temperature, at which protein keeps its properties. The matter is that at high temperatures complex structures of proteins and the active centers of their molecules start to dissociate, and they can not any more carry out the role in biochemical processes.
And the difference of temperature flish and birds is just those required 10°Ń! I think the conclusion about difference in physiology of flish and birds anyone can make without any assistance.
Receiving heat from external sources, live creatures have no thermoisolating covers. And warm-blooded mammals, birds and, probably, pterosaurs, have (or had) natural “clothes” - wool and feathers (for pterosaurs as I had already told, there are indications at finds of prints to hair-like formations at small species, however the nature of these formations is the subject of discussions). It is connected to necessity of protection against overcooling, because their organism normally works only at high temperature. And the frog covered with wool or feathers, will face to giant difficulties - it can not be heated up on the sun. The wool or feathers do not heat as themselves - they only help to keep produced heat by body. Therefore the ice-cream which has been wrapped up in fur coat, stays cold more long time than at the sun. Flish with hollow scales, designed to provide the thermoisolation, is the same feathered frog or ice-cream in fur coat. This animal will not manage to develop the necessary amount of heat to move actively (this is the “cool-blooded”, to say other words, ectothermic animal), and thermoisolating scales will prevent solar heat to reach an organism of flish. And here is the paradox.
One more physiological problem, with which flish will face during flight, is breath. Looking at appearance of flish, I can suppose that gills are partly breath organs of this creature. Partly it is favorable - air, the carrier of oxygen passes through gills by continuous stream while in lungs it changes direction during breath and exhalation. But it carries one problem: air is not water, at passage of air stream through gills the epithelium of branchial petals simply will dry up and will stop the participating in process of breath. Flish will simply suffocate in flight. Certainly, it is possible, that flish has the special modified swimming bladder for air breathing. Indirectly it is specified by such flish feature, as voice (at least, scenes of life of these creatures are accompanied by the hoarse cries similar for voices of had taken a cold gulls). You see gills can not give the air jet used for sounds producing. However the active habit of life demands such amount of oxygen which “lungs” of flish can not give first, because of imperfection of breathing organs, and second, because of imperfection of the mechanism of breath and exhalation. At us, ground tetrapods, breath is carried out due to movements of thorax. At fishes thorax is not present, their ribs do not connected with each other. Hence, “lungs” of fishes will not cope with submission of the necessary amount of oxygen. Drying gills and weak “lungs” are not best assistants to the active flying creature...
Authors had put themselves in the extremely awkward position, rather carelessly having opened ruses of family tree of flish: the ancestor of this creature, according to the book (in film ancestors of this animal have delicately held back), appears... the cod (to be more exact – “fish of cod family” (page 126)! And it completely deprives flying creature of the right of existence because of two reasons at once: first, cod is bottom-dwelling fish. The barb on the chin of fish is necessary for search of catch on oozy bottom. Accordingly, specialization of cods most likely can go in the future to the way of more complete adaptation to bottom habit of life. It is difficult to imagine, what reasons push the cod to change habitual environment. Its fins are short, and the body is very much extended – it shows in it not so good swimmer, it is difficult for these fishes to live in top layers of water, constantly and quickly moving. Therefore most likely, it will not begin to adapt to pelagic habit of life. And the second objection follows directly from the first one: at cod fishes there is closed swimming bladder which is not connected with intestines! Therefore it can not be used as the lung. And what else can be expected from bottom animal? It is no sense for cod to use swimming bladder as the organ of air breath: in the sea (to be more exact - at open ocean) sites of water, poor in oxygen, are not present and to rise from depths for gulp of air - it means to test pressure differences of water and to show itself to numerous predators of top layers of water. Therefore the precondition for development of air breath at cod and any of its relatives simply is absent. And if there are no preconditions, evolution simply will not proceed in such direction: it is driven by external factors, but passes due to internal genetic reserves of population. In general, order Gadiformes is submitted by significant amount of deep-water and benthonic species. Therefore representatives of this order “will not play” the role of ancestor of the large flying fish completely. Also I think that everyone will understand and will draw conclusions if I shall tell that the closed swimming bladder at fishes is the specialized condition, and opened one is primitive.
And one more problem catches flish: a problem of spawning. This creature is still a fish. And it has two basic ways of breeding: to spawn eggs, or to give birth to live young flishes. Spawning breeding type is easier: it is possible to receive at once plenty of posterity and any physiological reorganization is not necessary. But it means, that flish from time to time should leave air and dive in water. And if there are flish fry (and if they were before this time, because f(l)ishes have lived up to 200 million years in the future!) – it means, it is possible to forget about presence in the sea of different species of silver swimmers - fish-like descendants of plancton crustaceans, safely. Flish fry are still fishes, and it means, that the ecological niche of fishes is occupied, and silver swimmer can not occupy it. But, as in the sea nevertheless silver swimmers of various species live in plenty, we had to recognize, that young flishes develop not in the sea. Apparently, the female flish should give rise to some enough advanced young flishes. Fishes can give rise live fry; such phenomenon meets both at sharks, and at osseous fishes. But at flish there is one problem: this creature flies; hence, flish can not give birth to numerous young animals at once. It is possible, that it will be only two (according the amount of oviducts) young flishes in pack or only one (if one oviduct will disappear as it had disappeared at birds). But the flish fry should be born enough advanced to fly at once, or flish should care of the posterity. But at the live-bearing fishes (we shall not overlook, that flish flies, but nevertheless it is still a fish), the care of posterity is reduced only to the birth of alive fry. Further it should care of itself. Besides very much advanced fry is superfluous weight for pregnant flish. In view of imperfection of respiratory system and losses of energy during flight it is possible to tell, that a bearing and birth of the large advanced alive fry is excessive loading to the flish organism.
And this is such inconsistent and impossible creature - flish!

The returning of sea "Terminator".

According principles of genre in each film there should be the hero, and there should be the villain. In film “The Future is Wild” the role of the villain the creature sharkopath - schooling luminous shark - has played. But occurrence of this creature puts more questions, rather than gives any answers. I do not deny that sharks are creatures with big “safety factor”: various groups of these cartilaginous fishes replaced each other, existing in total from late Silurian up to present days. Generally, modern sharks are not so “prehistoric creatures” as they frequently are represented; though their family tree is undoubtedly more ancient than mammal’s or bird's one: almost all modern families of sharks have appeared at the boundary of Cretaceous and Cenozoic, only horn sharks exist from Jurassic period (but no one Silurian, Devonian or even early Cenozoic species of sharks was not kept up to now – they had been regularly replaced by more perfect species). But the question put to me by film “The Future is Wild”, is much more essential: how could they survive in general? Neither film, nor book do not give the adequate answer to this question.
It is known, that any species of live beings aspires to grasp in maximal degree all areas accessible to life. As in the top layers of water fishes (according to film and the book) had been replaced by descendants of crustaceans, silver swimmers, it is possible to assume, that fishes in the seas did not remain in general. To pass development from larva or the tiny plancton crustacean up to species of rather large silver swimmer – the time is necessary for it, greater than for transformation of one species of fishes to another, occupying new places of inhabiting. Therefore, if though any species of fishes had survived, crustaceans will not see even a little bit of fish’s ecological niches. Hence, if the sea of the future belongs to crustaceans, fishes had become extinct completely. But if to assume, that sharks (By the way, they are fishes too) have occupied any ecological niche in the sea of the future, it is necessary to draw a conclusion, that they would occupy had became empty after extinction of bone fishes ecological niches earlier, than ancestors of silver swimmers. It should be remembered that sharks have posterity - small sharks. And they occupy the ecological niche at times rather distinguishing from niche of adult shark of the same species. Such case already took place in the past, in Mesozoic era: small herbivorous dinosaurs are rather rare, because their ecological niche was occupied by cubs and youngsters of large species of dinosaurs. Hence, the young growth of sharks will occupy that place, which fishes like jack mackerel (Trachurus) and mackerel (Scomber) earlier had occupied in the sea of the future. Certainly, silver swimmer can not occupy this niche at presence of such competitors - it will not have enough time for adaptation. We receive the contradiction: sharks live in the sea (there are also their small posterity), and at the same time in the sea there are different species of silver swimmers, occupied ecological niches of fishes - these facts mutually exclude each other.
Certainly, it is possible “to lock” sharks in deep-water ecosystems and to tell, that there they will survive. Is it correct? Of course, no. Some deep-water sharks at absence of fishes in top layers of water necessarily will turn to top-skimmer fishes, if it is favorable to their survival (even because of abundance of food and full absence of competitors). And who will keep them? I can not. And second, deep-water ecosystems are not so favorable place for survival: they are even more dependent on efficiency of the top layers of ocean. It is not the refuge, and rather life by sops, because the numerous dead organisms (“rain of dead ones”) bring organic substance in deep layers of water. If at ocean “plancton Day of Doom” will happen (as Professor Stephen Palumbi had assumed) “the rain of corpses” will be first time very plentiful because the mass extinction of the majority of species of the top layers of ocean will begin. But later it will be stopped practically completely, because “above” nobody will breed owing to the full extinction. Therefore mass extinction will immediately have the effect at inhabitants of deep layers of ocean. And any shark, the large species staying at top of food pyramid, will die out with even greater probability, rather than any crustacean or the worm. Now at the bottom of ocean near to underwater volcanoes the special ecosystems, not dependent on sunlight, are discovered. But they are rather local, scattered at the bottom of ocean to big distances and their efficiency will can not provide the survival of population of large predators during hundred millions years. Hence the shark sharkopath is so unreal creature, as well as the flying monster flish.

Stalkers of deserts

Life cycle of the bumble beetle – the puzzle of desert.

The large bumble beetle of wild desert of the future is original. Its life is very interestingly shown in film. But one moment has remained for the staff. Let it is not so aesthetic for the average man and causes interest of the vice police, but it is necessary to talk about it, because it puts a question to prospects of existence of the bumble beetle as the species. It is the process of pairing. It would be interesting to learn: when does it happen?
I shall remind that the life of bumble beetle is very short. According to film, the adult insect for searches of dead animal (I had discussed the reality of existence of animal flish earlier) has only one day. For this time in the body of mother from several eggs rather large larvae hatch. But there are two questions which I can not receive the answer proceeding from my knowledge of insects (these questions had appeared at me, when I had watched the film. Book partly had answered these questions, and partly had asked new ones).
When bumble beetles have fertilization?
How eggs in the body of the female have time to develop only for day to rather large larvae?
Truly, it does not interest me, what pose bugs of this species use during the pairing. Another thing represents true interest - when the pairing takes place? The life of the adult insect lasts only one day. I do not argue that life of an adult insect can last only day – May flies (Ephemeroptera) being imago live about day, and sometimes shorter. But they fly simultaneously in rich flights and are coupled at once at the first flight, and lay eggs right in water which have just left, not caring about feed of future larvae. And the bumble beetle for same time had to make many things - it must find the partner of opposite sex, to couple, the large and very much advanced larvae should hatch from eggs, but also the animal should find fresh carrion which has been not occupied by competitors. I think that it is unreal to make it during such short term. The weakest place in this chain of vital processes is the development of larvae. Because they are very large, and their organs are well developed (leaving mother’s body larvae have advanced legs, antennas, jaws and head), it is logical to assume, that for formation of such difficultly arranged body a lot of time must be used. And this time is obviously longer than the day given for life of the adult bug.
And pairing of bugs should pass necessarily, but search of the breeding partner can be delayed: the population of bugs is scattered in desert along the mountain ridge. Even if the search of the partner will take only some hours this time will be inevitably “stolen” at the future larvae, which should develop with space speeds during the short time of life of the female.
Certainly, it is possible to assume, that bugs develop by parthenogenesis and all individuals are females. But then the population of bugs appears not too viable. At parthenogenesis there are no new combinations of genes, affiliated individuals only diligently copy parental genotype. Any change of conditions will exterminate such species.
It is possible to assume, that larvae during life in carrion have time to ripen and couple, and already fertilized individuals turn to the imago. But, according to film, in one dead flish only one bug lays larvae. It means that all larvae from carrion are native brothers and sisters. And inbreeding is not much better for the population, than parthenogenesis is, because with each generation homozygosity of individuals will increase and their genotype will be impoverished. It is so adverse for species, as well as “duplicating” of identical genotype at parthenogenesis.
Therefore life cycle of the bumble beetle, in my opinion of the person without scientific degrees, concerns to so unreal things, as dwarf giants or vegetarian vampire.
But it is possible to find the exit from such situation. It is enough to assume, that these bugs live long, are live-bearing and gather on carcasses of flishes by groups of some individuals. Then each female gives rise to one advanced large larva (it can not be developed simultaneously in its ovary any more one) on the dead animal, feeds, couples to waiting her male (it is enough one or two males for the group) and all flight will fly again - to search new sappy, fragrant, just died flish. The larvae which had been born by different females will be obviously diverse genetically. When the carcass will be had eaten, larvae simultaneously will pupate and will turn to adult bumble beetles. They will food on the rests of dead flishes, not had eaten by larvae (it will be fuller using of resources) and begin to transform these rests to bodies of the new larvae developing in ovaries. I think you will agree that such picture is more real, besides it answers many questions. But the book had read after film watching, had a little changed the course of my ideas and character of questions.
The hypothetical life cycle of the bug described in the book, partly removes the question about the moment of pairing of insects. However this responsible task of breeding is carrying out completely not by mobile quickly flying adult insect, capable to find the female for many kilometers (by the description, his(its) sense of smell is sharper, than at the butterfly pear ńąņóšķčč which males find females on distance up to 11 kms). This major duty is assigned to the inactive larva which moves very slowly. It is unimportant, what destiny will be at the male larva after pairing. It is important that the ability to moving at it will be much less than at imago. Hardly this creature can overcome even rather small distance (some hundreds meters) for one - two nights.
I think that dead flying fishes on natural “cemetery” will not lay as the accurate heap, and most likely the wind will scatter bodies of animals to rather big distance. Besides living on coast of ocean flish is “not more silly than the steam locomotive” and also understands by its fish brains the danger of storm. Therefore it is possible to assert that they most likely will not make heroes from themselves, rushing towards to a wind, and will hide in rocks similarly to the “silly penguin” from well-known “Song about the Stormy Petrel” written by Maxim Gorky. It is not so heroically, but is rather safe. And only separate individuals will be cast in desert (and main - in general will reach it and not plop down in mountains together with rain). Therefore the male larva will be compelled to overcome hundreds meters, or even kilometers (for the adult bug it means some tens minutes of flight), reaching up to the nearest body where the female ready to pairing is feeding. Hardly it will solve to do it in the afternoon - drying up heat of desert will kill it. Therefore the larva will spend day, most likely, having buried in sand. At night it will get out (it takes at it a lot of time) and continue travel, and in the morning it must bury itself again. For all transitions at it there are only some night hours. According such rates it will reach up to the nearest body not soon - for this time females will safely develop and also will pupate not fertilized. Short legs of larva show bad walker in it. Hence, such life cycle also is impossible.
The exit from such situation is prompted by modern insects of order Strepsiptera, related to beetles. At some species of this group the female are connected with food and can not leave it for pairing - they parasitize in organism of other insects. But males are able to fly - they couple with females for this purpose only putting out the end of abdomen from the body of the host insect. Bumble beetle appeared in similar situation - to the moment of readiness for pairing the female can not leave food source (in this case - carrion), and the male makes it easily. Can we assume that the male simply will turn to adult insect? Then it easily will attend nearest bodies of dead sea creatures, will couple with larva-looking females sitting in them and thus will execute the duty to the nature more effectively.
But the life cycle of bumble beetle presented in the book puts one more problem: how does the number of these species increase? If to look at life cycle of this insect, the following situation is visible: one beetle lays eggs on one body of carrion, from hatch one female larva survives (eating all other ones and the male as a titbit), turning besides to one beetle. That is, the quotient of breeding of beetles is equal to one: increasing of number of animals does not happen! And at the same time the population somehow must grow or even compensate losses of animals - losers which could not continue the life cycle. But, making a start from written in the book, I can assert safely, that it will not occur. So, the bumble beetle of the future with its fine adaptations to life in desert is the species at the edge of extinction.

Green trapper from desert.

Strange predatory plants with leaves similar more to mix of trap and “wolf-hole” also belong to inhabitants of rigorous desert of the future. It is possible to be surprised a long time to their smart ways of pollination and catching of prey. But also here I had not like one thing which has no relation to the “supreme spheres” and subtleties of the theory of evolution, but is studied at lessons of biology at school.
In film it is shown, as the insect bumble beetle is involved by plant for pollination with the help of the flower simulating dead creature flish. The task of it is interpreted undoubtedly and unequivocally as we see in film the flower with petals similar to the body and fins of the winged monster. Also we see, how the bug departs from plant, stuck round by its seeds. And this role of insects in life of plant does not call to any in question too. The most unexpected animals can fulfill the role of pollinators and seed carriers. Main thing is “to play” skillfully at their pressing needs. But the fact, that between two events - an arrival of the bug to plant (for pollination) and its flying away (with seeds on the abdomen) - some minutes have passed only, has completely broken common sense. The plant can not hold the bug for a long time - the adult bug bumble beetle does not live more than one day. Any its delay by one plant will result to that the bug simply will not live before visiting the next plant. Had seeds really the time to ripen so quickly? Or they were already ready before flowering? Then all sense of pollination (carrying of sexual cells, increase of genetic variety of posterity) will reduce to zero. Hence, the conclusion by itself arises, that pollination had taken place and also seeds had time to ripen in those minutes while the bug feverishly searched for the exit from the trap. I can not make other conclusion, proceeding from had seen in film.
Usually it occurs so: the plant begins to blossom > the pollination takes place > the flower fades > the fruit ripens > seeds are carried. It can be told by any schoolboy. But in film we see, that at the plant the flower is fresh and bright, but simultaneously in it seeds have already ripened. It is the paradox, isn’t it?
In the book attempt to answer this question is made. But the answer is so original, that besides it derivates new questions. Imitation of dead body of flish, according to the book, appears not the flower, but spatha – flower-covering leaf of the plant. I believe, some plants of the present days have such trap leaves. Plants of genus Cryptocoryne, known to any in the slightest degree experienced fan of the aquarium-keeping, are those. They keep midges, its pollinators, in inflorescence, certainly, not before the ripening of seeds, but equally so that pistillate flowers will be pollinated and then anthers in masculine flowers will ripen. After the flowering of masculine flowers the hairs, keeping midges, fade, and had strewed by pollen insects depart... to the new flower. Similar by something events we see at the predatory plant of desert “deadly bottletrap”. Only the insect carries not pollen, but seeds. It is necessary to think: can relations between flower and insect will develop this way?
In the book it is told, that the predatory plant is self-pollinated. And at the same time we see at it leaves perfectly simulating flish body. Self-pollination is not the best way of breeding: thus the plant transfers to descendants the limited set of genes. It results in pauperization of genotype of posterity and degeneration of species. Plants of many families have the mechanisms actively interfering self-pollination. It is different length of pestle and stamens, self-incompatibility of pollen, the difficult form the flowers in the beginning directing the pollinator to pestle of flower and only then strew pollinating animal by pollen. Some plants in general are gonochoristic ones, that is masculine and pistillate flowers develop on different plants. In other words, the self-pollination is not the best result. If there is an opportunity to avoid it, plants use this opportunity. At the “deadly bottletrap” such opportunity is present. Recollect the modified imitation leaf. Such adaptation could not be developed as the result of interaction of plant with factors of inorganic nature. The reason of occurrence of such adaptation was close connection of plant and insect, perhaps – their co-evolution, interspecific selection. Thus one species turns (certainly, not meaningly, and at times and harmfully to itself) to the factor of selection for other species. In modern Africa plants of genus Stapelia by the same way “deceive” flies. Insects crawl in flowers, involved with their smell and the color simulating carrion. They lay eggs in flowers of Stapelia, but their larvae perish: they do not eat vegetative tissues. But flies, visiting flowers, promoted the development by plant of colours and smell of flowers simulating carrion. Relations between “deadly bottletrap” and bumble beetle last too long - the refined subtlety of plant attraction testifies to it. Hence, relations of flower and insect last not one million years. And it is stranger so that “deadly bottletrap” in so favorable conditions had become self-pollinating plant.

The tentacled forest

Lichen tree - a branchy cranberry of the future.

Once upon a time certain foreign traveler had published the book about his travel in the Russia. In this book it had been written, that once this traveler had a nice rest near large branchy… cranberry! After publishing of this book the “branchy cranberry” had become a symbol of book lie in Russia. Have you understand now the idea of the title?
The aspiration to originality of thinking has once again played a bad joke with authors of project “The Future is Wild”. In forest of the far future they have lodged strange leafless lichen trees. If to estimate probability of occurrence of such vegetation even in the far future, chances of it will appear zero. The matter is that such trees basically could appear on the planet only in one case: when ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION ground plants will disappear. Otherwise competitiveness of lichens in comparison with usual plants will be extremely low. The new species appear in nature only when there is a free ecological niche or when the species, occupying it, is less competitive, than “applicant” species. But can lichens be so competitive? It is known, what even grassy plants in favorable conditions easily turn to trees. Species Senecio and cactuses of different species at Galapagos islands are those, for example. Trees are present in many families of dicotyledonous plants and in some families of monocotyledonous ones. Among monocotyledonous plants more often existing as grasses; graminoids Poaceae, sedges Cyperaceae, orchids Orchidaceae, aroid plants Araceae), lilies and their relatives Liliaceae are those families rich in species, Trees appear among them not so seldom: they are present among families Agavaceae (Joshua tree), Pandanaceae (“screw palms” in tropics are large trees) and Arecaceae (everyone know, that the palm is tree or bush, but not grass). And among dicotyledonous trees are even among the families, more known to particular people by their grass representatives: among families Apiaceae, Papaveraceae, Solanaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae. Lichens have practically no any chances to grow up even to the size of any bush: at them is not present neither vessel system, nor mechanical tissues, therefore to become big for them is more difficultly, than to the frog from fable to puff up to the size of the bull.

During evolution it is always easier to transform already available organs and tissues to new conditions of habitat, rather than to form specially any new organ.

Therefore, if in the nature the place favorable for growth of hypothetical “lichen tree” suddenly will appear, it will be occupied by higher plants much faster, than lichens will form necessary for life as a tree organs and tissues. Even at extinction of flowering plants the fern will grow up to the size of tree faster, than lichen to the size of fern. Conditions for competition are too unequal, and they are obvious not for the benefit of lichens.
“Almost all flowering plants had become extinct, they had been replaced by lichens which had become capable to grow up vertically upwards till the size of bushes or low trees” - this statement of paleobotanist Bruce Tiffney has rather puzzled me. “Funeral” of flowering plants, I think, will come not so fast. Above I have already told, what is it necessary to make to lichens to begin trees and when it will happen. I think, that flowering plants are enough competitive just because they develop much faster than other groups of plants. Gymnosperm plants have slow fertilization. Mosses and ferns in the life cycle at some stages of development depend on presence of drops of liquid water. It makes present plants vulnerable and limits places of their inhabiting. And at the same time flowering plants have amazing evolutional flexibility. Some of them have time to pass life cycle from seed up to fructification during few days and weeks. Flowering plants have developed practically all suitable for plants places of inhabiting: from mountains up to coasts of ice Antarctica. They can be met both on saline soils, and in dry deserts, in fresh waters and even in the sea, where water instead of the wind carries their pollen. Ability to adaptation and fast rate of alternation of generations also have allowed flowering plants to become dominants in flora of the Earth. And among the same coniferous plants, for example, there is no grass or water plant. Treelike ferns have not developed life in temperate altitudes of Northern hemisphere with their cold long winters. And mosses do not live there, where cactus or saxaul prospers.
Mass extinction does not occur in one day, as any Bible accident. It is the process which consequences are delayed to hundreds and thousand years. For this time one species die out or reduce area of an inhabiting and number, but others adapted to extreme conditions, rapidly develop. Representatives of any genera do not disappear instantly for one day, simply number of their species slowly and steadily varies. And species which generations replace quickly, have fine chance to adapt - carriers of the mutations becoming favorable in changed conditions, restore number of species and grasp became free places of inhabiting. Generations of lichens are replaced slowly - their colonies can exist hundreds and thousand years. Therefore lichens simply will not have time to grasp became free ecological niches, that is the main condition of new speciation. The ecological niche of lichens is those places of inhabiting, where any other species, except of them, can not live. These are stones, fumes, rocky taluses. Lichens represent the pioneer vegetation hardly enduring competition. They differ by the slowest growth, and in most cases when conditions become acceptable (for example, particles of ground collect), lichens are quickly replaced with mosses and flowering plants. And only there, where higher and sporous plants can not live for any reasons, lichens exist long time. Therefore in the future more successful “neighbors” will not allow growing up to lichen.
Among “neighbors” of lichens there are not only plants, but also animals. And the destiny of them is not less paradoxical and dramatic.

The megasquid - it is worse, than whale on land.

Perhaps, to compete with flying fish flish in strangeness and unnaturalness only the awful huge megasquid can. This jumbo monster by whim (I think, it is impossible to tell other words) of authors had left water and had adapted to life on land, having turned to the multiton monster without any bone in the body. Can this animal live or it is possible to consider, that it was “stillborn”?
It is known, that if the skeleton and muscles of an animal are insufficiently strong, serious problems can expect it. So, from cetaceans only small dolphins rather normally can endure some time stay on land (them even can be transported at times without water). And larger animals cast ashore, simply choke, pressed down by weight of their own body. Their muscles are relatively weaker than muscles of small cetaceans, therefore the large whale on land can not cope with body weight and dies, choking, and not being can make any breath. The megasquid is the same whale on land, only in much worse condition. The whale has even weak and impregnated with fat, but nevertheless skeleton, and at monstrous cephalopod, comparable by weight with killer whale or the bottlenosed whale, there is no support for internal organs. All its body is literally given for the tormenting to gravitation. Internal organs of an animal will press against each other whereas at vertebrates they are attached to bones and their weight is allocated through skeleton on the ground, instead of organs laying below.
In the book one assumption which is not present in film is made: there it is told, that in legs of the megasquid nevertheless there is cartilage. I do not dispute that at cephalopods the gristle-like tissue can be formed: at modern cephalopod the brain is protected with original gristly capsule. However at the multiton megasquid presence of a cartilage in legs is practically useless: everyone knows, as far as the cartilage is fragile, when gnawed round bone from soup. At cephalopods cartilage is even more flexible, than at vertebrates: despite of gristly "skull", the octopus easily squeezes to very narrow cracks of reef.
Certainly, there are in nature small ground animals absolutely without bones and skeleton. They are slugs and worms. But they live in the small world where distribution of forces is rather another. If you remember reasoning about the egg of toraton, you will understand about what I want to speak. At increase of the linear sizes the area of body and section of muscles (and their strength) increased in square proportion, and weight of body - according cubic one. Hence, relative force of muscles of giants lags behind their growth, and becomes much less, than at small ones. Therefore the megasquid is many times weaker than snail, and its muscles will be unable to keep its huge body. At small animal forces of elasticity of muscles support the form of body. It quite suffices for keeping of small weight but if the animal will increase its size, these forces will be insufficient for supporting of the shape. Muscles can not change qualitatively so strongly to make the megasquid a reality - for this purpose essentially other anatomy of body is necessary. Among modern animals of land skeleton-less forms are tiny and small. But ones having skeletons - arthropods and vertebrates – had become lords of a land. In the sea where pushing out force of water equalizes advantages of skeletal and skeleton-less creatures, we see huge jellyfishes weighting up to 100 kg, 18-meter (and according the unchecked data, larger) huge squids, 30-meter worms, 20-meter colonies of tunicates, and set of other giants which on land would turn to slime jelly.
If to touch features of physiology of the megasquid, blood supply of its muscled legs seems practically impossible. The matter is that at the support on leg of multiton body pressure in it should strongly increase. Thus contraction of ring muscles most likely will squeeze out blood back in body. When the animal walks, muscles alternately contract and relax, pressure of blood during this process alternately increases or falls. In any measure it will promote blood circulation in vessels of legs. But if to the megasquid will occur to stop to enough long time, it is waited with oxygen starvation of leg muscles. It is difficult to tell, how its nerves will sustain constant differences of pressure of environmental tissues. Vertebrate animals with firm skeleton and invertebrates with shell (external skeleton) do not experience such difficulties because bones or shell take up significant part of weight of animal body, removing loading from soft tissues. The shell (exoskeleton) of arthropods has no blood vessels and has not cellular structure – it is the hardened secretions of covers of body of the animal. Exoskeleton has no problems with blood supply owing to absence of necessity for those. The bone of vertebrates is supplied with blood through blood vessels which penetrate it. They are protected from pressure differences in tissues by firm incompressible bone. At boneless megasquid muscles forming the leg, should be supplied by blood actively (necessity for blood at muscle is more, than at bone), but at the same time pressure jumps in them can interfere bloodstream. Certainly, heart of the animal can become very strong to push blood, overcoming internal pressure in the leg. But then at the animal the system of valves in vessels, which prevent the increase of pressure in organs and tissues of body, should be developed. Otherwise the animal can die from the insult and heart attack.
Besides the liquid can not give to the body of the animal the sufficient support by virtue of its properties: liquids well keep volume, but do not keep the form. Because of it the body of the megasquid can not become so high as its inventors imagine: at the slightest roll of the animal liquids of its body simply will “flow” sideways, and the monster will fall down.
If to think more generalized, it is necessary to tell, that during the geological history of squids there was an adaptation of this group of animals to pelagic life (that means, to inhabiting in the ocean in thickness of water), accompanied with reduction of internal skeleton. Already at modern squids the skeleton is presented only by transparent horn plate named “gladius”, located in the top part of body. Therefore it is possible to assume, that some tens millions years later squids will completely lose skeleton, that for ever will close to them the way to land, at least as to high and large animal. Any crab or spider will have giant advantage in comparison with the languid and indistinct squid, solved to lodge at the land, in speed and mobility. While on land there will be organisms with skeleton (arthropods and vertebrates), the entrance to the land will be closed to squids. And worms and small gastropods simply will not “allow” them to play the role of small creatures. Thus, ecological niches of land will be closed for cephalopods. And I already spoke about features of their physiology, discussing the reality of the swampus.

Squibbon: the clumsy acrobat.

It would be rather silly to believe, that the forest is inhabited only by elephant-shaped megasquids working “in combination” as herbivores and predators. At them there are certain neighbours. One of them is the relative of the megasquid, the squibbon. Its habit of life also has "pep".
Strange feature of clambering at squibbon is its habit of movement. In the book it is impossible to notice it because of clear reasons, but in the appropriate series of film it is possible to enjoy the remarkable dexterity of this forest cephalopod, and at the same time to think about its especial habit of movement. And what feature is so strange here? The animal moves on branches, by turns seizing them by pairs of tentacles, similarly to the acrobat under the dome of circus. Moving of the squibbon is similar to brachiation (“walking on hands”) of the monkey revolved aside: the body turns around of horizontal axis, instead of vertical one. The habit of branch seizure of this impossible animal surprises here: the branch seize takes place not from above, and from below. But the squibbon skips from one branch to another. Thus the centrifugal force arising at rocking of an animal, will “untwist” the capture of the animal, making because of it less strong. And it is fraught with casual falling... Among modern gibbons, according to research of skeletons in museums, up to 1/3 animals receives at life fractures after falling from branches. Certainly, fracture does not threaten to the boneless squid, and the strongest bruises and breaks of the internal organs not protected by thorax and serious concussion of the brain, covered at the best in gristly capsule, are guaranteed. At the “above” seize of branch the effort of animal shaking on it, on the contrary, will press more densely its extremity to the branch and to promote stronger seize. To understand more popularly, I advise simply to shake on the horizontal bar, having seized it alternately by different ways and to compare sensations after it. Clearly, that the habit of movement of forest cephalopod shown in film is rather fantastic if, certainly, to not consider unreality of the origin of this animal.

Fauna of the new Earth, or “Oh, the marvelous new world!”

Authors of the project “The Future is Wild” have populated the Earth by set of really strange, and sometimes completely unreal creatures. According their representations, the fauna of the Earth of the future will differ strikingly from modern fauna.
Certainly, it is not reasonable to wait the similarity between representatives of fauna of the future and animals of the present day, but the difference between them at the level of phylums and, probably, classes, will be, in my opinion, not so great. My argument for this judgment is the history of the past of the Earth (that one, to which professors had referred, proving the reality of surprising heroes of film and the book). The time interval between imagined fauna of the future and real fauna of the present day is 200 million years. For the history of the Earth it is equal to the time interval between Triassic and the present time.
If we shall analyze the structure of fauna and its change, we shall see that at the level of phylums dominant groups of animals standing at tops of food pyramids have not changed. On land they are vertebrates and arthropods, and in water - cephalopods and vertebrates: fishes of different groups. And even for larger time interval they had not replace. Only dominant classes had replaced:

The geological period

Group of animals

Late Paleozoic
Cephalopods Nautiloidea Ammonoidea and Belemnoidea Shell-less cephalopods (octopuses, squids, cuttlerfishes)
Vertebrates Cartilaginous fishes (sharks, rays and others) Ganoid fishes (relatives of sturgeon, and shell pike) Osseous fishes (the majority of modern fishes)
Insects and arachnids Insects and arachnids Insects and arachnids
Vertebrates Amphibians and theromorph reptiles (ancestors of mammals) Reptiles (archosaurs, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs) Birds and mammals

Certainly, some of groups of live organisms dominated in the past have lived up to present epoch, and modern lords of the planet had appeared in earlier times. The table only shows, when they have occupied prevailing position in fauna.
Borders between the geological periods are marked by mass extinctions - asteroids and other extraterrestrial “visitors” had “successfully” fallen on the Earth and in the Cretaceous period the increase of volcanic activity has also supplemented to this. And the table did not include the meeting of the Earth with any comet, whose parts, having fallen to the Earth, had marked the border between Triassic and Jurassic periods of Mesozoic. Thus, it is possible to see, that despite of these cataclysms, structure of fauna at the level of large taxons (phylums and classes) had remained practically constant. Besides, some representatives of dominating before groups of animals have lived up to now, having gone through epochs of mass extinctions. And among the accidents had shook the Earth, the late Cretaceous one, accompanied with extinction of dinosaurs, was not the most terrible. As scientists suppose, at that time up to 50 - 60 % of the species inhabited the Earth had died out. But extinction of the end of the Permian period, finished the Paleozoic era, had carried away in non-existence up to 90 % of species! And nevertheless many classes of animals had gone through it.
But in the project “The Future is Wild” the idea is formulated, that in the far future (after 200 million years) the structure of ground fauna will be replaced practically at 100 %. And to the role of forms dominating in overland fauna animals having now no (and, according to the rule of progressing specialization, will hardly have in the future) adaptations for development of completely new inhabitancy (that already is contrary to a principle pre-adaptation) are advanced. They are cephalopods and osseous fishes. Ground tetrapod vertebrates are “buried” by authors during the mass extinction of 100 million years in the future. But the fact that tetrapod vertebrates had gone through extinction in Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous periods, indicates that they will not hand over their positions so easy. Besides authors recognize, that insects will survive after the mass extinction. And if there will be insects - there will be no flying fishes. If there will be arthropods on land - the squid will not go out from the sea.
When arthropods had colonized land, they were out of competition - on land yet there were no animals. When crossopterygian fishes in Devonian had left water, they too were out of competition – there was no animals larger than them (centipedes, certainly, were longer, but more thin). That, all of them had time to adaptation. Later insects have became the most numerous, and vertebrates - the largest inhabitants of land. And they have occupied the majority of possible habitats, having left to other groups of animals wretched leavings of past opportunities. Both groups of animals easily adapt and are enough flexible in the evolutionary relation. Therefore they simply will not give time to new groups of animals to come from the sea and to adapt to life on land, having left them at the level of “amateurs”.
Therefore I think, that radical change of structure of Earth fauna (at the phylum level) absolutely will not be, though at the level of classes and furthermore - orders and families, as people say, “variants” are possible.


After so destructive and caustic digression to far and very wild future the time to look back and to look, what have we achieved, has appeared. It was found, that only two series of film and two chapters of the book from 12 ones appeared not mentioned by ruthless and shattering criticism. These are stories about inhabitants of salt desert of the Mediterranean (5 million years in the future) and about terabites and worms of desert (200 million years in the future). The author of present lines supposes these series as most natural and consistent (at least it was not possible to find serious and essential contradictions with laws of evolution).
The conclusion from all told is rather simple and clear: the movie, certainly, is beautiful, and in the book there is plenty of color pictures. However scientific “basement” of this project appeared rather unsteady, despite of numerous doctors of sciences and the professors, trying to prove the opposite point of view. I think, the book and animation film “The Future is Wild” are interesting for looking and studying, but their contents, to our great regret, is not free of lacks, about which I had told so, how I had managed to do it.

Paul I. Volkov
Vladimir, 2003 - 2004.


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