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Bio-bullets

Time did not limit evolution in Zealandia

The tens of millions of years during which various mammals lived in Gondwana and on the shores of Zealandia were ample time for the evolution of an indigenous fauna of land mammals in New Zealand.

professor caricatureProf. Mumblebard claims: "New Zealand was the only large landmass on Earth lacking a single terrestrial mammal in its native fauna. This is because the number of land mammals able to reach New Zealand was negligible: a mouse-size fossil and a few species of bats. The few mammals which did reach{njaccess 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8} these extremely isolated lands would have needed many millions of years to evolve into terrestrial forms, but time was insufficient because of the geological upheaval of New Zealand that obliterated Zealandia, the original fragment of Gondwana."{!njaccess}… See the hidden half of Prof. Mumblebard’s claim by subscribing here{/njaccess}

logoRobin and the Honey Badger respond: "The remarkable absence of native land mammals in New Zealand is unexplained by speed limits on evolution. Several ancestral mammals would have had ample time for evolutionary transformation throughout its geological history. At least four lineages of mammals, including whales and seals, reached Zealandia as long as 25 million years ago. Marine mammals elsewhere evolved from terrestrial ancestors within ten million years, and the transformation of whales from a terrestrial ancestor was particularly radical. There is no reason why the hypothetical re-conversion of flying or aquatic mammals to terrestrial mammals should be any slower than the proven transformation of terrestrial to aquatic mammals. Therefore, the failure of both bats{njaccess 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8} and ancestral pinnipeds to recolonise the land over a period of ten million years needs an ecological rather than a historical explanation. Furthermore, the underlying assumption of an initial absence of mammals is unsound because Zealandia was so large as to be a mini-continent for tens of millions of years before its gradual submergence. Mammals already lived in Gondwana before its breakup and monotremes in particular can be assumed to have inhabited Zealandia and nearby proto-Australia alike. Whether the ancestral mammals were present from the start or arrived across the sea, time was indeed sufficient for an indigenous mammalian fauna to have evolved in Zealandia and to have adapted to the new land surface as New Zealand gradually rose from the sinking mini-continent."

speaker icon"In other words"

{!njaccess}… Reveal the hidden half of this response by Robin and the Honey Badger by subscribing here{/njaccess}

 

Please join us here at the Bio-edge with your own comments. In the discussion below we encourage links to any evidence supporting either Prof. Mumblebard or Robin and the Honey Badger. Illustrations are welcome but please cite all sources or we may be forced under copyright to delete your comment.

Last modified on 01 July 2015

Comments   

0 #1 Brad 2014-02-10 13:42
Over millions of years animals do seem to be made from plasticine. Check out the YouTube clip which shows how pig-like creatures turned into whales quite quickly on an evolutionary timescale. Also see the picture which shows the progression in one screen.




en.wikipedia.org/.../...

So there does seem to be a big question here if you’re a deep thinker: why did the marine mammals on New Zealand shores not use their ‘evolutionary plasticine’ and turn into terrestrial mammals…I suppose must just be too hard to evolve in certain directions?
0 #2 Johns 2014-02-11 14:37
Can you be more specific as to what it was about New Zealand that favoured birds over mammals ecologically?
0 #3 Naturapper 2014-02-12 17:07
@Brad. Puijila darwini is a possible ancestor of pinnipeds and so it’s the type of fossil that was definitely a candidate for going back onto land in ancient New Zealand. What I mean is adapting ‘backwards’ by starting semi-aquatic and re-evolving to be fully terrestrial. They say nature abhors a vacuum dont they? Anyway, check this ancestral mammal out below. There must have been something that made it futile for mammals like Puijila to leave the sea and re-commit to the land. I suppose Robin and Honey Badger would blame a lack of suitable terrestrial food in ancient New Zealand, but who knows?
0 #4 Naturapper 2014-02-12 17:07

Skeleton of Puijila darwini attributed to Kevin Guertin
0 #5 Naturapper 2014-02-12 17:08

Artist’s reconstruction of Puijila darwini attributed to Smokeybjb
0 #6 Naturapper 2014-02-12 17:09

Artist's reconstruction of Puijila darwini attributed to Nobu Tamura
0 #7 Gareth C. 2014-02-13 10:34
Naturapper, are you claiming that this otter-like animal was present on the shores of New Zealand tens of millions of years ago? Is there any evidence for this statement?
0 #8 Taklamakan 2014-02-13 15:29
Zealandia was a flat piece of Gondwana that became even more low-lying with time. Eventually it submerged under the sea but the submergence was shallow and gradual and for millions of years there must have been vast areas of a kind of intertidal never-never land between the land and the sea. If ever there were conditions making it easier for a sealion to re-evolve into a land mammal these would have been in Zealandia. So it is strange that this kind of evolution seems not to have happened.
0 #9 Cladman 2014-02-14 13:58
Isn’t it a bit frivolous to be proposing that seals, let alone whales, could evolve ‘backwards’ just because there’s a piece of land they could theoretically crawl out on to? Let’s be realistic here.
0 #10 Julien Peter Benney 2014-08-18 09:05
Quoting Cladman:
Isn’t it a bit frivolous to be proposing that seals, let alone whales, could evolve ‘backwards’ just because there’s a piece of land they could theoretically crawl out on to?
It is well-known that bats are extremely specialised compared to flying birds; this can be seen in that they fail to completely outcompete birds in environments favouring very low energy consumption (Australia) or very safe reproduction (southern South America)
0 #11 Naturapper 2014-10-21 08:41
If Lee & Worthy (Australasian Science 2014, 35(7) pp.22-24) are right that all the ratites are derived from some small flying bird, that’s good news and bad news for the theory that land mammals just didn’t reach New Zealand. Good news because it shows that these landmasses are so isolated that even birds had to fly to reach them. Bad news because if something like a rail could evolve into the biggest and most wingless birds imaginable then why can’t a sea lion or a bat evolve into some sort of land mammal
0 #12 Johns 2015-01-08 12:57
The Dymaxion map, invented by Buckminster Fuller, shows how linked the continents really are: basically one complex landmass surrounded by one great global ocean. The continents would have been even more connected during Pleistocene glacials when sea levels were so low that continental shelves were widely exposed. This map, perhaps more than any other, shows how remote New Zealand is: truly the end of the Earth.



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