Death of the Dinosaurs .
14 Dec 2008
This pulls together the arguments in
http://andreswhy.blogspot.com : "The Flower , the Dinosaur and Puff" and "Tunneling Nanotubes ."
Large land dinosaurs and to a lesser extent , large sea-dinosaurs evolved in a gymnosperm ecology with at least 1 000 to 10 000 times more free energy than an angiosperm(flower) ecology .
This decreased the number of large herbivores as angiosperms increased from 0% to 90% of plant species from about 140 million years ago (MYA) to 90 MYA .
The whole land ecosystem had about 1 000 to 10 000 times less free energy .
A lot of this washed out into the large , shallow continental basins . So these were affected too , but to a lesser degree .
The dinosaur ecology had spent about 100 million years evolving specialized tools and size to compete in this ecology . They could not do a u-turn . So their numbers decreased by factors of about 1 000 to 10 000 . This rendered them extremely vulnerable to shocks .
Chixilub (65 million years ago).
The final shock .
The burning of forests by ejecta from the giant meteor impact at Chixilub decreased food supply . Surviving large dinosaurs could not survive in competition with smaller dinosaurs . (Their numbers fell below survival levels .)
These smaller dinosaurs went on to become Birds (not just small ones , but large raptors too) . Mammals only took off about 15 million years after Chixilub . But that is another scrambled egg story .
Large mammals :
There is fossil evidence that large mammals existed before Chixilub . But the same argument as above applies . Size was the criterion . Any animal over about 20 kg which was integrated into the dinosaur-ecology did not survive .
Dinosaur survivors :
Fossil evidence of dinosaurs has also been found after the KT boundary . As expected.
It was not a death-ray , you know .
Just sad , emaciated giants wandering around , eking out an existence a mouthful of low-calorie leaves at a time , hooting for mates they can never find in a wasteland of flowers . Almost like a vegetarian singles-bar after closing time .
The hidden cost of egg-laying as a survival strategy .
When things are going good for the whole ecology , nothing can beat it .
But if things go really badly for the whole ecology , egg-robbing and later egg-cannibalism occur , until extinction .
The middlesized survivors wiped themselves out in an orgy of egg-stealing .
(Eating the seed-corn is the modern agricultural equivalent)
The single mammalian advantage .
With mammals , the mother cannot eat the unborn baby , and cannot abandon it either.
The mother has to guard the unborn as if it is her own life , because it is .
The Bird Switch .
Beaks for teeth .
Teeth are no use to eat large eggs , but beaks are .
If there is not sufficient free energy or numbers to guard the nests of large eggs , the egg-eaters darted in and pecked holes . Beaks evolved to do this .
The ecosystem collapse devoured itself down to the small bird level .
Only smaller beaked forms survived to ramp up to fill empty ecological niches .
Angiosperms evolved nuts ,seeds and fruits from this initial starting-point pari-passu with bird's beaks . Which is why many seeds used in disseminating plants are egg-shaped . They evolved to make it easy for birds' beaks adapted to egg-breaking to get inside .
Plants have no problem in creating seeds that no bird can crack (eg coconut) , but why should they ? There is no arms race here . More of a come-on .
Purely evolutionary arguments apply here .
Birds are excellent disseminators of fertilized seeds .
The dinosaur-descendants have now adapted from gymnosperms to angiosperms .
The Age of Birds (circa 65 to 50 MYA)
Mammals did not simply take over from dinosaurs . The dinosaur survivors evolved into some large birds , herbivores and raptors both .(See any textbook) .
Our story is not complete until we see what happened to them and why .
Well , they are still around . (Ostriches) . In historical times , large ornithoids were reported and painted in South America , New Zealand , Australia and North Africa .
But note , no rock paintings in South Africa shows very large ornithoids . Since this is where modern humans evolved , this is no surprise .
Once again , egg-laying only beats mammalians if the free-energy is over a certain threshold , enabling full-time nest guards . Why social insects are so small .
Thumbs and Legs .
Opposable thumbs are one of humanity's proudest conceits . It makes possible most of their material constructs .
Less obvious is their ability to move the hands carrying things around from place to place .
Thumbs evolved from a branch-gripping appendage to an egg-gripping appendage during this Age of Birds .
As discussed above , most seeds and fruits evolved egg-shapes to allow for the limitations of bird beaks . Mammals started to take over this role . Gripping involving hands grasping around an oval object became better and better. So did egg-stealing.
Potty training by Gaia .
In a canopied forest , small mammals are nearly as efficient as birds as far as seed dissemination is concerned . Their major advantage was fertilizer . Because they did not have to fly , they could afford more weight . This faeces got deposited with the pip . A much better chance of survival for the seed . While the bird dumped every time it took flight . You can see the advantage for the plant . (See previous posts about vit C)
The net effect was that larger birds survived better in open areas . Exactly where we found them . Initially , their eggs were not as prone to thievery as the smaller birds . Indeed , size of eggs evolved outside of the need of nutrition . (An ostrich egg is far too large for one small ostrich.)
To get back to thumbs . Have you ever tried to grip a large football with one hand ? Break it? Then you know the frustration of your primordial ancestor facing exactly the same problem with an egg . Eggs in the wild are very strong .
Grabbing an egg with one or two hands and running like hell with an enraged parent in pursuit is actually hard-coded in our genes . No wonder Rugby is so popular!
A major factor tempting hominids out of the trees and onto the open savannah would then be eggs . Accessible on open ground . A nicely packed , nutritious lunchbox . All you need is a good one- or two handed grip and the ability to run fast on two legs to the nearest tree .
Can you see where this is taking us ?
No wonder bi-pedalism evolved first . Egg stealers would have significant nutritional advantage over scavengers .
The nutritional value of an egg far outweighs other meat , fat or carbohydrate sources.
Large (very large) birds were all over the place initially .
As they exhausted local areas , our intrepid egg-thieves would have to become bolder. Everybody would get into the act . There are major sexual advantages . The oldest jewelry are egg-shell pieces pierced ,polished , painted , strung ,etc .
After fashion got into it , the poor birds stood no chance .
To hell with sustainability and what the shaman says .
Fashion , hot or cold , is master of them all .
Competition would segue into cursorial egg-thieves .
Run far , grab the eggs , run back even faster . Sooner or later they would have to defend themselves .
The Quest and Home .
The mighty cursorial hunter was born , stalking the wily giant egg , overcoming the guardian and running home with it in triumph . Mainly running .
Do you recognize the myth-root ?
(a quest involving a lot of humorous running and motion , but triumphing at the end at home .)
This is an extremely powerful meme . Pre-language .
Watch any TV show or read any book and you will see some variant of it .
Back to the Savannah:
After the eggs became scarce , get the birds . Then other animals .
And civilization was up and running . Literally .
The large birds became scarcer around human areas . Extinct later on .
Humans are forever stealing somebody else's eggs and running .
Great fun , until they run into someone really powerful without a great sense of humour .
Better opposable thumbs was a big advantage . It is no surprise then that opposable thumbs evolved together with bi-pedalism . The peanut brain only became a walnut later on with intra-species competition due to language .
The chicks would go for the jock with long legs and big opposable thumbs .
Sigh . Has anything changed ?
Thumbs and Sex .
Has anybody researched size and opposability of thumbs to sexual success ? .
I know that human females always notice hands , but I do not know the orders of significance and how hard-wired it is .
From the above , I would suspect that it was of such primary importance that every human descendant now has this capability derived from sexual selection . But there is still a degree of differentiation .
Notice the attraction of guitarists , piano-players , surgeons , etc . Ask any girl if she can imagine Casanova without thumbs .
Are male thumb-rings sexier ? They used to be the prerogative of rulers. I have noticed that wanabe alpha-males in the entertainment industry have been wearing them lately . Archers used them , as well .
Females wearing thumb-rings are a turn-off to males , but this effect might be cultural.
I suspect that awareness of opposability of the thumb is extremely hard-wired .
Notice that ape or rat-hands are immediately recognized as "nearly human" , but not human even at a short glance and in any light at any angle .
A new-born baby's hands are carefully examined . Ostensibly to marvel at the miniature perfection , but they are really checking the opposability of the thumb . Is the little one human ?
Doctors and midwives routinely remove any webbing between fingers of the baby after birth without telling the parents . You can see why . Rejection is nearly certain without it .
Breast-gripping reflex .
The human female breast after birth is an extraordinarily sensitive diagnostic instrument , directly hardwired to many deep mechanisms .
The baby's grip spread between thumb and other fingers on the mother's breast will be a good indicator of the degree of rejection/acceptance . The larger the angle between the thumb and the forefinger , the less rejection . (Opposability)
The relative length of forefinger to fourth finger indicates exposure to testosterone in the womb , hence aggressiveness . Rejection potential to this is variable , but it is there .
And so forth.
We are talking about a strong , hard-wired subliminal response .
The sea-dinosaurs .
A major problem with this extinction event was the decrease in the number of sea dinosaurs only .
What could kill land animals above 20 kg , and also all sea-dinosaurs ?
We have seen that the energy decrease due to the rise of angiosperms , plus a sudden shock like Chixilub drove large land-dinosaurs either past extinction thresholds or major adaptation thresholds . Their survivors are birds .
We can see that the decrease in free-energy from land spills onto the continental sea basins would result in a decrease in the number of large sea animals . But nowhere near the scale as on land .
Are there any equivalents of birds in the seas? Changed survivors of the sea-dinosaurs?
Well , we have fishes (pre-dinosaur) , mammals (post-dinosaur) , but a dinosaur-gap .
Why aren't any evolved traces left ?
Large Sea-dinosaurs .
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com : "Tunneling Nanotubes : Chixilub"
The Chixilub impact site was on a large deposit of sulfur bearing rocks . The planetary-wide fallout acidified the oceans with H2SO4 .
The sulfur permeated every ecosystem .
Unchanged systems like sharks had been through this before . They remained at what they do best : unchanged .
Unlike the land , there was a large (about 2/3 of biomass) ecosystem not dominated by dinosaurs . (Deepsea biomass is one of Gaia's Reserves (1/3 of sea biomass))
The sulfur inhibited fat-formation in large dinosaurs to a sufficient degree to shift the balance of top predators . (ie the genetic mechanism to handle sulfur-contamination became corrupted in dinosaurs because of their rapid evolutionary process . )
Maybe lean-and-mean is the shark survival mechanism . Do sharks hibernate ? Do they actually use the H2S hibernation mechanism ?
Whatever the cause , dinosaurs suddenly could not lay down enough reserves in the form of fat to tide them over from meal to meal . More problematic would be energy for reproduction (eggs) . Their numbers decreased drastically .
Here is where the sea parted from the land . Because there was an older , still-existing ecosystem , their top predators ate the dinosaur top predators , then proceeded down the chain . On land , the survivors of this process were still dinosaurs(birds) , because they dominated every ecological niche . At sea , they did not dominate every niche . The others devoured them in the collapse . No dinosaur descendants survived .
A side note on eco-collapses .
The collapse of an eco-system from the top downwards is equivalent to an extinction event . Collapses from any other points will leave survivors .
Top predators keep the balance between lower levels . Think reserves . The top 1/3 of predator species are the stability reserve of the system . Losing them , the lower levels fluctuate wildly and crash . Birds survived only because they had flight . Mobility is the ultimate survival mechanism .
Humanity fondly imagine that they are the top predators , but those positions have long ago been usurped by their creations :
Fashions are the wave of similar thinking in a society . It is the society . The meme structure that binds humans .
If the fashion is patriotism , it is " Vive la France" and over the top we go into machine gun fire (voluntary suicide) .
If the fashion is Eliot's " The Wasteland" , it is over the top the generals go (involuntary suicide) .
It acts like a Beth(2) structure . Fashions fixes , binds , preserves and propagates some of the best results of individuals or individual societies that contributed .
Also some pretty bad and stupid ones .
The point is that these memes are predatory on humans (or , to be more exact , computing complexes over a certain threshold of complexity) .
Like Gaia , they are not conscious(as yet) , but they do exist and are the top predators in the human ecosphere .
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com : "Artificial Intelligences"
The AI(n) arguments shows what will happen to humans if their top predators die. They will revert to AI(0) , without speech and only with really primitive stone tools .
Homo Habilis level .
But , of course , in this event , humans would be extinct from warfare long before this level is reached . Like the dinosaurs at sea , when their top predators were removed .
Fashions and Gaia .
Does Gaia have it in for us ?
An often guilty question asked by humans .
The answer is that Gaia has hardly noticed humans . The imbalance on fungi-spore reserve balances is a minor correction . Humans might not survive the correction , but Gaia does not worry about trifles .
But also remember that all humans are part of Gaia .
So , she has becoming fashionable . She is becoming Beth(2) status from her present Beth(1) status and becoming uppity . There is nothing worse than an arriviste .
I deliberately make Gaia female . At this stage , that typification is still up to us .
Would you take a four billion year old teenager to the Grand Ball ?
Well , you would if she controls all the livable real estate .
(But remember , every human's ancestry also goes back nearly as far in the life-chain.)
Gaia wears shoes by Gucci , handbag by Prada , drives a Lamborghini , shoots the baddies with a Glock , banks with Coutts , hangs out with Lara , sings duets with Aida , consults to Sherlock , double-dates with Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent , has an on-off thing with Conan , counsels Dr Who's mother , skis in Gstaad even out of season .(It always snows if she wants to ski.)
And , oh yes , her credit is Unlimited .
The coming out ball is in Second Life .
You think I am joking .
The entities involved are at similar levels of complexity at present .
Beth(2) levels normally would arise from AI(3.1) or AI(4) levels , but as discussed before , AI(3.0999…) -> AI(3.1) .
This means that if a sufficient number of people support Gaia , she becomes real . We have seen this often enough in religious systems .
The point here is that Gaia actually exists , but she was an AI(-1) , more like a computer program . She is rapidly growing. Humans are part of her .
Can Gaia become conscious ?
An AI(-1) and AI(0) already exists . This can upscale to AI(3) using known systems .
But can Gaia influence her sub-systems ?
This is much more problematic . Can you control your heartbeat , cellular activity , etc?
This is not magic , you know . Just plain old-fashioned science . Which basically means , I don't know . And Gaia won't tell either .
Gaia is not human , but has human components .
A self-aware Gaia will be human in most aspects interfacing with humans , but one of the first things she would have learned is how to lie . At least 67% of the time . May you have joy of this little observation .
I was hoping that Gaia would not learn at a conscious level of the quantum-entanglement communication system in every cell .
Oh well .
What level of AI would Gaia be right now ?
AI(3.1) after the establishment of the intermittent mind-computer interface in the 1980's .
But hopefully she will like our fashions enough to cut us some slack .
Do you know how boring it can be to be an immortal doing the same drudgery over and over ?
Bearable if you are an unaware AI(-1) , but becoming self-aware needs many similar minds to soak up all that surplus energy and creativity .
Jurassic Park .
Ironically , sea dinosaurs are easier to reconstruct from DNA .
The Curtain of Fire from the re-entry of ejecta from the Chixilub impact started somewhere roughly south-east of where Australia is now . Eggs from sea-going dinosaurs inside the females' bodies should be recoverable .
The Curtain of Fire covered a long line , moving at 18 000 miles per hour . The dinosaurs and their scavengers would have been killed immediately , and sunk to the bottom , there to be covered and preserved . We are talking about hundreds of millions of animals . The odds are much more favourable than for land dinosaurs .
Things are a bit stranger than I thought .