Organisms without the organs we expect them to have
Desmond Morris described us human beings as “Naked Apes”, but as I pointed out in an earlier blog, we are not totally naked, even without clothes. However, we do lack a tail – just like the other so-called “great apes”, but not the gibbons, the baboons, macaques, etc. When something is missing we notice it at once: a snake has no legs, but still does pretty well without them; whales and dolphins also lack them, and the kiwi bird of New Zealand, even though it’s a bird, does not even have wings. —>—>
Is learning something then still possible?
I love the questions that children have. Why isn’t the sun alive? What would happen if we had eyes also on the back of our head, like spiders? And, can we live without a brain?
Well, occasionally anencephalic children are born and they lack almost the entire brain. Few live longer than a few days after birth, but there is a case of an anencephalic infant having been kept alive for almost 3 years. And there is the famous legend of the 15th-century pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who was captured to be beheaded along with his crew. According to the legend, he struck a deal with the executioner that those men of his crew that he’d run past, after being decapitated, should get their freedom. And how many men did the headless Störtebeker then pass in order to save them: 11 according to the legend. —>—>
Advantages of having less
One of the most frequent comments I have to scribble on the margin of my students’ essays, assignments and reports is “condense” or “shorten and compress”. It’s exactly what evolution has done (via the survival of the fittest) with certain organs and structures of the animal body. In a way it’s the opposite of what I had written in a different blog about duplications and repetitive structural elements (the million of identical nephrons in the kidney come to mind, the hundreds of identical legs in some millipedes ring a bell and even the dozens of identical teeth in the mouths of dolphins may be remembered). Therefore, how about the opposite? It’s actually easier to find examples for reductions of structural entities in animals and we can almost use examples from the same animal groups mentioned earlier in connection with duplications. —>—>