Popular Darwinism confuses individual strength and aggressiveness with a species’ long-term chances of survival. Both among fish and land animals, the pattern has been for large creatures to go extinct and be replaced by new monsters descended from modest little creatures that lived quietly when the other monsters were still there.
“A prehistoric “Jaws” that roamed the seas 400 million years ago had the most powerful bite of any known fish…
“There were free-swimming, fast animals that all had a hard armour; most of the other fish were other placoderms which had the same hard bony covering.” (BBC On-Line 29 November 2006 [K])
Super-tough and extinct. Modern fish are descended from other members of the fish kindred.
Nor is innovation a reliable life-line. More than 125 million years ago, about the time the first birds flew, there was a group of gliding mammals. A squirrel-sized animal which used a fur-covered skin membrane to glide through the air. Not related to modern bats or gliding mammals, though – in fact not close to any surviving group of mammals.
Mammals emerged as a distinct group at about the same time as dinosaurs. They remained obscure until 65 million years ago, when Planet Earth viciously side-swiped an inoffensive comet or asteroid, causing an upset on the planet’s surface. This left the dinosaurs dead and most groups of mammals still alive.
Boss one day, dead and without descendants the next. That’s the real law of life. A rule that should encourage us to be more caring to keep our own line alive.
From Newsnotes, February 2007.