AskReaders Fact List

AskReaders: Which animal did evolution screw the hardest?

11-15 Animal That Evolution Screwed the Hardest

Komodo Dragon

11. The Komodo Dragon. They spent untold amounts of time slowly evolving to be the perfect predators for this kind of mini-elephant native to Indonesia. Then the elephant went extinct. Supposedly they also had a good part in the extinction of homo floresiensis or the “hobbit” people. Because homo floresiensis were short they were literally walking around with dinosaur sized creatures.

12. Red Pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore but eat primarily bamboo. Because they have a carnivorous digestive system, they can only manage to absorb 1/4 of the nutrients in a bamboo leaf. Because they can only absorb 1/4 of the nutrients in a bamboo leaf, they have a super slow metabolism to compensate. Because they have a super slow metabolism they don’t produce a lot of body heat. They live in the Himalayas and they don’t produce a lot of body heat. WTF Red Pandas why are you alive? Also their mating season lasts 24 hours a year.

13. Whales and dolphins. “Ah yes we’ve finally gotten onto land! It took millions of years, but we’re finally here! Okay time to go back in the water.” For those wondering, this is basically how whales evolved.

14. The kiwi bird. It has a large round body with a massive beak, can’t fly, can’t climb, can’t defend itself from anything. According to ancient Maori tales, tastes amazing. Its eggs are huge in proportion to the bird they come from. (For comparison, it would be like a human woman giving birth to a preschooler). We have lots of weird birds in New Zealand. The Kakapo can’t fly, but it doesn’t know it can’t fly. It will often jump out of a tree, flap its wings and promptly plummet to the ground.

15. I think the rabbit might be up there. I mean, rabbits are awesome in a bunch of ways, but they’re cecotropes. Basically, the rabbit used to be a predator, but then they slowly turned into a vegetation prey species. Their stomachs didn’t quite have the right layout to process grass and hay. So they partially digest this stuff and then poop it out directly into their mouths, chew it up again, and then swallow it for a second digestion. That seems kind of mean. When people bring up intelligent design I always ask about cecotropes.

 

16-20 Animal That Evolution Screwed the Hardest

The Irish Elk

16. The Irish Elk. They evolved enormous horns through sexual selection and they went extinct because, according to one common theory, the horns made them ineffective at life overall.

17. Bugs were really big in the prehistoric age because of the higher oxygen levels. Now most of them are really tiny so that probably has to suck for them a little bit. The Meganeura from the Carboniferous period are related to modern-day dragonflies and had wingspans of up to 65 cm (25.6 in).

18. Blue tongue skink. Their stubby little legs can’t move its big fat long body easily at all. It’s main self-defense? Trying to trick other animals with its blue tongue that it’s venomous/poisonous, which it is not.

19. As a biologist who studies the evolution of infectious disease, in one way I would say humans. No other organism gets riddled with the virulent infections like we do. We may have one of the most sophisticated immune systems but (a) it’s not nearly enough, the pathogens can evolve way quicker than we can, and (b) it also turns on us and causes so many diseases and general maladies.
A lot of what screwed us over in this way was actually cultural evolution because it’s a lot faster than biological evolution for humans. We were living in densely populated areas long before our immune system was capable of handling the epidemiology of that situation alone. In some ways, it only gets worse. Now people can get on airplanes and spread these infections all over the world, and even vectors can take a ride — people who live near airports in Europe and America actually get malaria relatively often because some mosquito hitched a ride on Air Nigeria or whatever.
So we get all this technology with our big brains and our complex societies but we get way sicker than any other organisms. Ironically, the only other organisms that have problems even close to ours are mostly ones inbred by humans, so our lovely cultural evolution can share the bounty of infectious disease susceptibility to potentially any group.

20. Humans, specifically girls. Most other mammals at the end of their monthly cycle absorb the egg back into their system without experiencing any discharges from their body. Human females evolved to be always pregnant or malnourished, so no need to develop a discomfort free period. They were normally starving, so no periods. If they were not starving, their body was in baby mode. No in between.
Not only that but while other mammalian mothers have tyrannical control over their uteruses, being able to reabsorb or self-abort fetuses at will, a human fetus has tyrannical control over its mother. A cat looking after a litter who gets pregnant will self-terminate the pregnancy so it can devote all resources to its existing litter. A human female can get pregnant a month after giving a birth, and there’s not a damn thing short of modern medicine she can do about it.

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  • Dodos weren’t just about being tasty… Europeans brought predators to the islands (which had none on the Dodo) in dogs and rats which ate their eggs. Also they thought they were dumb so they killed them. Apparently it took 80 years from discovery to extinction. I just watched a documentary on them 2-3 nights ago.

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