Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ontogenese rekapituliert die Phylogenese...

Feeling Nerdy today? Brace yourself...for some!

"Doc, can you tell me if this is a true German Shepherd?" I got this question today and this crops up like twice a week these days! Everybody wants a "pure" one and so many turn up with backyard crossbreed individuals!
So how do you tell a true GSD from a "fake" one? The real ones are all black at birth and only afterwards get their tan patches; just like true Dalmations are born uniformly white and start getting their much appreciated spots a week or so after. Lion cubs are born with spots; our Mauritian monkeys have babies born with jet black fur that slowly changes to grey after a few weeks; the african Colobus monkey is predominantly black but carries baby which is as white as milk!
So what's this whole buzz about having babies that are so strikingly differently coated from the adults? One would have thought that evolution would have provided those babies with some sort of colour that would blend them in the lot as protection from predators...but for the Colobus monkey, it's like placing crosshairs on the baby or painting it in fluo for the attention of any predator!!

Enter Ernst Haeckel, German biologist who, in 1866 came with his theory about "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny" (In german in the title). This theory was later taken to the extremes and discredited by most biologists. Yeps, that the way to do it: Take something someone said, try to apply it to far fetched situations and prove it wrong! Loool!Anyways...despite failing the test when confronted to conventional Darwinism, I always like to pull the argument that it does explain some stuff that are not explicable by the theory of evolution. Well, what does it say, that is so controversial, then?

Ontogeny - The development of an individual through it's various stages
Phylogeny - The development of a species.
Ernst Haeckel stated that through the stages of its development, and individual repeats the stages of the development of its species. Thus, in embryonic stage, the human embryo resembles an embryo of other animals, has gills like fish, later the foetus develops a tail like other primates and is covered with fur like all mammals. All this resorbs to give a baby the way we know of at birth.

Taken to the word, Ernst Haeckel was covered with shame because in the development of a chicken for example it does not resemble the adult form of fish-amphibian-reptile-archopterix then ends up like a fluffy yellow chick but it does have the genes for that. But the theory has some truth in explaining ancestry. Our ancestors had tails and we possess the genes to grow a tail and our babies start grow one which is later stopped and resorbed; just like birds have been proven to possess the genes to grow teeth - like their reptilian ancestors. Lol! Yeah! Chicken can grow teeth and that has been proven in the labs.

Ok ...back to our baby animals here! some point of time in evolution, the ancestors of the German Shepherd Dogs were...all Black; the ones of Dalmations ...all white and adult lions wore classy spots like a leopard! The babies are just displaying vestigial coat colour of ancestors. This colour must have served a purpose in the past but no longer now with intensive human-influenced in animal breeding.
There you go! Taken from this angle the theory of Haeckel stands the test and makes complete sense too...

So, now, next time someone asks you how to tell a true GSD from a "sugar-cane GSD" you will know what to answer and have a nerdy explanation too!In any case, you should tell him that a dog is a dog...ready to throw so much love back at you...whether pure breed or mongrel!

What?! You did not grasp the whole point about Ontogeny etc? Go watch a Reality-TV show on your couch then! Looool!
Or you can always scroll up and read again!

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