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Ancient Worms May Have Saved Life On Earth

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the thank-a-worm-today dept.

Earth 54

sciencehabit writes You can credit your existence to tiny wormlike creatures that lived 500 million years ago, a new study suggests. By tunneling through the sea floor, scientists say, these creatures kept oxygen concentrations at just the right level to allow animals and other complex life to evolve. The finding may help answer an enduring mystery of Earth's past. The idea is that as they dug and wiggled, these early multicellular creatures—some were likely worms as long as 40 cm—exposed new layers of seafloor sediment to the ocean's water. Each new batch of sediment that settles onto the sea floor contains bacteria; as those bacteria were exposed to the oxygen in the water, they began storing a chemical called phosphate in their cells. So as the creatures churned up more sediment layers, more phosphate built up in ocean sediments and less was found in seawater. Because algae and other photosynthetic ocean life require phosphate to grow, removing phosphate from seawater reduced their growth. Less photosynthesis, in turn, meant less oxygen released into the ocean. In this way, the system formed a negative feedback loop that automatically slowed the rise in oxygen levels as the levels increased.

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Wait a minute (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#47620859)

Isn't that the plot of Dune?

Tiny? (2)

hooiberg (1789158) | about 3 months ago | (#47621119)

The article clearly mentions 'tiny'. Now in Dune they are all but that.

Re:Tiny? (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#47621505)

Sandtrout were pretty tiny and just as integral to the Dune ecosystem (IIRC, melange was their excretion).

Re:Tiny? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 months ago | (#47624239)

you realize the people on Dune are the size of ants, right?

Re:Wait a minute (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 3 months ago | (#47621441)

Isn't that the plot of Dune?

I thought it was a reference to the Worms video games. Banana bomb, anyone?

Re:Wait a minute (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 2 months ago | (#47623271)

Isn't that the plot of Dune?

Much closer to the plot of the book "Wyrms"

del Toro was right all along?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47620881)

The ancient vampire worms are a superior form of life??!

No that can't be right because Science Mag is a fucking tabloid rag.

Re:del Toro was right all along?! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 3 months ago | (#47621101)

Science Mag is a fucking tabloid rag.

With pictures?

Oh, sure. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 3 months ago | (#47621093)

Praise our overendowed saviors for keeping us from going extinct before we started, but where were they when the lizard men took over, hmmm?

Oh, sure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621807)

I, for one, welcome the sacrifice our slithery forebears made.

Evolve to cope with environment (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 2 months ago | (#47622267)

Praise our overendowed saviors for keeping us from going extinct before we started

Why would we have become extinct? Isn't one of the major results of evolution that life adapts to the environment in which it lives? I saw nothing in the article to suggest that it would have been impossible for life to adapt to cope with higher levels of oxygen.

Re:Evolve to cope with environment (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 months ago | (#47622387)

Increased oxygen levels can cause big problems in part because it's generally toxic, but mainly due to it's combustion enhancing properties. The more oxygen there is in the air, the more severe any forest fires become until you get to the situation where a lightning strike can ignite the whole atmosphere. I'd imagine that the increase in fires would probably limit just how much oxygen the atmosphere could contain (i.e. a stabilising feedback loop).

Re:Evolve to cope with environment (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 2 months ago | (#47627295)

Increased oxygen levels can cause big problems in part because it's generally toxic, but mainly due to it's combustion enhancing properties.

It is only toxic because we have evolved to deal with air that is ~20% oxygen. Were the content 15% or 25% we would have evolved to cope with that. As for combustion enhancing firstly that does not really apply ~500 million year ago because all life was underwater where combustion is somewhat harder. Secondly the naturally combustable material today all comes from plants hence evolution would presumably have resulted in less combustable natural materials or better fire resistance because, as you point out, plants as combustable as our trees are today would rapidly die out due to fire and so would not evolve.

Unless there is some mechanism which is known to prevent evolution from being able to produce less combustable plant material I don't see the need to require a 20% oxygen atmosphere. There is also no way that lightning can "ignite the atmosphere". To get nitrogen (roughly 80% of the atmosphere) to react with oxygen requires a net input of energy so even if there were more oxygen you cannot get a runaway reaction.

Saved the earth (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 3 months ago | (#47621181)

Every single creature that has ever existed is responsible for the current precise status of the Earth.

If an ancient civilization traveled half a billion years to the past and killed a single bacteria, the present wouldn't be exactly the same. Maybe the difference would be small, but it's much more probable that the impact of that tiny change, and its accumulated consequences century after century, billions of generations of bacteria later, would have changed everything.

A single misplaced atom could be responsible for the non-existence of the troglodyte who was to be the ancestor of the guy who wielded the weapon that killed the great grandfather of the guy who discovered how to make fire, delaying the discovery a few dozen generations, and turning the present into the renaissance.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 3 months ago | (#47621219)

This would be a great idea for a Twilight Zone episode... oh wait...

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 3 months ago | (#47621417)

Re:Saved the earth (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47622169)

Or a short story. Maybe Ray Bradbury could write it, if he were still alive....

Re:Saved the earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621235)

turning the present into the renaissance.

Anything would be better than the Age of Homeland Terrorists.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 3 months ago | (#47621301)

That's what a terrorist would say to cover his identity.

Mr Coward, I'm afraid you have made your last mistake.

Re:Saved the earth (3, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 3 months ago | (#47621355)

Not really, the biosphere is a mathematically chaotic system in a state of "dynamic equilibrium" (google it), a single worm/troglodyte is to the biosphere as a raindrop is to the global climate.

The worm theory is not new, this appears to be more evidence to support it. A similar process helps regulate CO2 today in the southern ocean, algae grows on or near the surface and sucks up CO2 and release O2, the algae attract large schools of krill that feed on it. The algae give off a particular smell when they are attacked, the smell attracts seabirds (and marine predators) who eat the krill by the ton.

Here's the beautiful part (to a "systems programer"), the birds and whales shit in the water when feeding on krill, the bird shit in particular is rich in phosphorus and iron (from the krill) which fertilises a new generation of algae.

Re:Saved the earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47621903)

Black swan theory would disagree with your first statement. If that one creature was freakishly significant it could change things dramatically. Granted some (most / all?) evolutionary steps and system changes will occur anyway just later, but cleanly predicting the impact isn't trivial.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47622555)

Black swan theory would disagree with your first statement. If that one creature was freakishly significant it could change things dramatically. Granted some (most / all?) evolutionary steps and system changes will occur anyway just later, but cleanly predicting the impact isn't trivial.

No it doesn't. Rare episodes are rare and the physical constraints* on how different it would be would make it likely that it would look like the current ecosystem to a large degree. If you 'rewound the tape' and ran evolution over again, it would be different to some degree. There are physical constraints . It would still be in a state of dynamic equilibrium, but it would be different.

Yes, you could have evolved to be 8 feet tall with blue skin, a tail and a love interest in Zoe Saldana. But likely not.

* basics of chemistry and physics, the starting conditions on the planet, gravity and such.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 2 months ago | (#47623327)

Black swan theory would disagree with your first statement. If that one creature was freakishly significant it could change things dramatically. Granted some (most / all?) evolutionary steps and system changes will occur anyway just later, but cleanly predicting the impact isn't trivial.

Except that it's rarely just one creature. It a group of similiar creatures and each generation is only slightly different than the previous one
so any one individual in that group is not very important to the group's survival.
That being said I read somewhere that looking at genetics it appears that at one point the human race dropped down to under 1000 individuals.
At that low number then a significant illness could potentially wipe the whole species out which obviously would have changed history.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 2 months ago | (#47624401)

Only under extreme environmental selective pressures does evolution function, usually it happens in jumps, instead of continuously, when population levels drop to near extinction, like 1000 humans, else improved survival skills simply blend back into and melt away into the general population. I mean you have mutations left and right even with babies today, and should prettier, smarter, sexier mutations arise, not necessarily more survival able, they do have a higher chance of everybody wanting to fuck them and not ones that look like themselves, therefore they'd get selected, and most high-sexual-feature aberrations, like survival impeding peacock tails, or most clumsy but pretty butterfly features, or even big dicks that make it harder to run, or keep warm in a cold, come about when life is good, and easy, so sexual rococo and baroque overflowing of features mostly come about when life is easy, and evolution in that is continuous, but new species with radically different features and more survival able, hardier, low on sexual features appear in steps and jumps. When you talk about the appearance of a new species, such as humans from chimps, it must have happened in a suddenly deforested area in the African Serengeti, due to sudden climate change, when easy to hop to fruits no longer were available and you had to cooperate in a gang and use tools to hunt your daily food as meat, under massive starvation conditions, and only the smartest and most able made it to the next day, and everyone else died. Homo sapiens, the sapiens, intelligent, part being a non-flagrant-sexual-exhuberance-feature like a pink butt on chimps or a big dick, but a survival skill, pink butts on females or big dicks not mattering so much in the early days for humans as the ability to score meat every couple days. Also features like noninvertible fingers on the legs, once you have to run on the ground and not grab tree branches, that are not really mindblowing radical improvements, but definitely more comfortable, naturally selected out over a long time. By the way life in the jungle is easy, there is an cornucopia of food, and the weather is warm to where everyone can be more naked, and big dicks proliferate together with skin cancer resisting dark skin. On the other hand in eskimo land, where food is scarce, and the cold freezes off the limbs and increases body surface, small dicks and short legs proliferate, together with smarts, plus light skin that lacks pigments so even the low amount of sunshine can maintain vitamin D levels (and there might be other things than vitamin D that get produced by UV light, a simple vitamin D milk or pill supplement may not fully replace a tan's benefit, of course, as long as the tan is done in balance, because it's easy to get skin cancer in the US for light skinned europeans or asians, as the total solar dose much exceeds anything in Europe or northern Asia, so one has to be careful.) Asians are the smartest race of humans when it comes to computational tests at birth, (though real life experience often makes Africans much more apt in real life in adult hood in places like the US, than an Asian who seems boggled in the mind and lost,) but they all have small dicks, and often very short legs compared to overall body height, and beautiful faces, as that's the only thing showing when it's cold and you're covered up in fur, compared to Africans or any darker people who tend to have beautiful bodies and not so pretty faces, but a pretty face on a guy is girly, and an ugly face is manly, ugly is beautiful in a man, and there is this tremendous magnetic attraction between light skin pretty females and dark skin rough males, and it's nowhere near the same between light skined feminine and pretty males, and dark skinned and rough and ugly faced females. It's just the way it is, I tell it like it is. You can't keep dark guys and light women away from each other, and you can't force white guys and dark women on each other, in a general, overall sense. Of course there are extremely pretty faced black girls who leave any white girl in the dust, and even black men pick the prettier black women, but bodily features such as packing a butt and hips and tits are more important than facial appearances where the weather is hot. And even between Aryans of the Indian subcontinent, or Persia, there is a marked difference to have darker skin, bigger dicks, sexier below the neck bodily features, but not as beautiful faces, compared to the lighter skin European counterparts. Except when it comes to Muslims, as they live very ascetically, disciplined and cover up their bodies and towel wrap their women, and lower body mutations-deformations proliferate, together with small dicks, to where they try to go around the world and improve their own blood stock. Dude, if you're a Muslim, and you want to look healthier, all you gotta do is not be so anal retentive with ascetic discipline, and stop stoning your promiscuous whores. As there is too sides to everything, there has to be a balance in everything, including religious discipline, stable families, or immoral whoring decadence and unstable families. The overall agreement is darker skin means warmer climates and more nakedness selection to bigger penis, and all women, black/white/indian/asian, think about sex constantly, and needing to orgasm and get off constantly, and a small dick sometimes can't get the job done, and all are magically attracted to dark skin. Southeast Asia like Vietnam is an exception, because it's jungle and hot, so you tend to be more naked or dress lightly, but there hasn't been enough time for big dicks to take over, maybe because of turmoil and warfare, and lack of life is good, or easy. But George Carlin has this theory about the bigger dick foreign policy, which of course was not true for Korea or Vietnam, it's only true recently like with the Unabomber self-defense-like bitching about the white man threatened by the big black cock being too addictive to his own women, plus affirmative action policies that promote the big black cock, plus recent wars mostly in the Middle East, with the exception of Serbia/Kosovo, where we proved to Carlin that no, we don't only attack big dicks but we can attack little ones too, and stick up for the big dick muslims there that were ethnically cleansed. Racism, and tribalism, is what moves most geopolitical actions any which way I look, but being tribal works very well in some cases, like the Chaebols of South Korea, like LG, or Samsung, who function like a klan, a street gang, like an extended family, and cooperate to extreme efficiency to where the leave everyone else using different schemes of organizing in the dust, including their communist cousins up North. It's difficult to have or to maintain Chaebols, tightly packed extended family like business structures in the US under the constant harassment of discrimination lawsuits, as only if a company is fully black, and ejects white people, are they safe from discrimination suits, but if they are fully white, they get chastised from affirmative action. And where there is no tight, racist, klan like, blood-like bond between the coworkers, nobody really cares for the business, everyone just show up for a paycheck. So a lot of places have a tight family like bond, plus they decorate themselves with various races, to maintain quota, but subconscious racism is loud, whether its coming at you as a white guy from a place where black people work, by constantly fucking with what they leave you to finish, and mess up your time score, or where white people work and put black people through the stress wringer, and defend their own jobs from what they see as urban people, that have taken over their old homes and old jobs, in the downtown districts, then the near suburbs, all getting boarded up and demolished, now they are coming after them to their far suburban and country homes and jobs, and there is nowhere left to just run away, and let it go, like 50 years ago, now you have to get aggressive and fuck with each other. And I just don't wanna be in the middle of it all. I just want a job, and peace of mind. But, first and foremost, even the discriminated against can't get a job people should realize that taking out 12 business with the chance of 1 making it and fully taken over and converted to the other race without being bankrupt, that's too high a sacrifice when it comes to the US economy, and tax revenue that supports the military, and the baby boomers, plus the welfare system. But when starving, or forced to live on welfare, they have no option but attack, as 1 company that survives the transfer out of 12, without going bankrupt, as far as they are concerned, that's daily bread on the table for them. Self interest is fucking great.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 2 months ago | (#47625031)

By the way I saw 4 butterflies next to a mushroom patch 2 days ago in Lakewood, and they were not clumsy at all. I could not catch them on cell camera, unlike a firefly giving off a flash later that day, and these guys were superhigh speed, highly acrobatic doing 3-some dances in the air, stalking, attacking each other, playing games, as that's an insect imago's purpose: sex. And laying eggs. A feeding larva like a boring on features caterpillar transforms into a highly intelligent and competitive sex machine that flies and does mating dances, and remembers maps and navigation, and it's gorgeous on features, even though we humans find it scary and ugly under the electron microscope. These 4 butterflies must have been selected down by being driven to near extinction levels, as I don't usually see any butterflies in suburban areas plagued by lawnmowers, and the green flowerless deserts created by them. Even 9 out of 10 grasshoppers that only have the chewing mandrils, not the nectar sucking probosces that look like facial dildos as their mouth parts, prefer tall grass compared to a mowed lawn. I understand you have to keep the area around your home neat, and you can't let the jungle take over and make it impassable, so you have to keep beating down the jungle, but you don't fucking have to do it to the last patch of empty land, as I often see mowed city lots with no homes standing on them, just empty, useless, but somebody is busy wasting their precious time and gasoline mowing it, and driving butterflies with probosces, meant to be stuck into a flowerbearing weed to suck nectar, to near extinction. That weed is gorgeous, beautiful, why are attacking it, because it was born the way it is, it's a genetic defect on your lot? You know what, I call you weed, a genetic defect, how would you like to be the weed and be attacked simply for who you are, how you were born?

Re:Saved the earth (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | about 2 months ago | (#47624627)

At one point Homo erectus dropped down to under 1000 individuals. At another, it dropped down to fewer than 1. That didn't change history, it just established it.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 2 months ago | (#47622223)

I think we can develop a theory for "why chaotic systems develop equilibrium" and I think it would start with concentrations of energy sources. If there is a lot of sediment with nutrients and energy being buried on the sea floor -- it's LIKELY that some organism will exploit it eventually.

It's interesting to look at (if I remember correctly) the Pleistocene epoch, where for about 50 million years there was no bacteria that broke up and digested falling trees. So we have a lot of coal from this epoch for this very reason.

EVENTUALLY, bacteria that converted wood pulp evolved and we are not a planet layered in fallen trees.

But there's also no guarantee -- hence the runaway "Oxygen pollution" that almost lead to the earth freezing over. The worms churning the see floor were LIKELY but not necessarily inevitable.

There also seems to be a need for a dynamic environment without too many drastic swings for life to keep evolving.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 2 months ago | (#47623745)

I hit Ctrl+F to search through the postings, and almost nobody talks about phosphate. Phosphate is banned in detergents, because it creates algal blooms, and through algal booms it exterminates other life, like predator fish, whose visibility drops to zero, and the ecosystem get out of balance. Plus a lot of them release toxins. But there is word, that when it comes to biofuels, (though you can't trust anything without verification) that algae are the most efficient and fastest growing photosynthetic organism on the planet, some can even fix atmospheric nitrogen (the toxic cyanobacteria for sure can, I don't really know what grows in submerged rice fields that does the same thing, provides free nitrogen fertilizer for the rice), but algae still lack a limiting nutrient, and their growth is limited in most waters, mostly phosphate that binds to trivalent Fe that's usually more prevalent, and drops out of solution. The way to get lots of algae in ya pond is hit it with a shit load of phosphate (and some chelated iron, like salicylate-iron, that the phosphate overdose takes out, algae need iron too), then have a mechanism to pound all the algae back down underwater, or hold it with a transparent screen if it's the multicellular pond-weed type, when it gets so active in carbon fixation that the O2 bubbles make it rise to the top as a froth and it limits itself away from the nutrients through all that froth that quickly gets depleted of nutrients. You need like a windmill to pump water to a tote up in the air, that can run a jet from up high back into the pond and mix down the green stuff, if you have individual cell algae, or a transparent screen, mesh, that does not block light, to hold down the multicellular type under water, and maybe something to periodically shake off the oxygen bubbles to get more reaction contact surface area that otherwise gets blocked by the bubbles. The multicellular type may grow slower, but might be easier to filter and extract, than a single cellular one that clogs filter presses, or needs heavy centrifugation. By the way, throughout my childhood, my mother had this vision or paranoia about me getting tangled up in and pulled under water by water weed called "heenar" or "hydra" and suffocating, every time I went fishing at a nearby lake, called Mine. By the time I was a teen, and had http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org] swimfins, I'd purposely swim in that lake, and I did fine without getting tangled up in seaweed and drowning. By the way it's amazing how easy and relaxing it is to swim with swimfins, it's like you can lay back into the water and kick away, almost no effort required to stay afloat or get super high speed, other than burning leg muscles. The problem was that you stank pretty bad after bathing in that lake, so you had to go to the local city pool to wash off at the showers. Some flatland lakes smell like fished peed and pooped into them way too much, and if you wash off in them you stink worse than before.

Re:Saved the earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623951)

Billy, you are silly.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 3 months ago | (#47621823)

I'm with you to a point. But there's a lot of "parallel" evolution and discovery going on. Two different groups of mammals became bats for instance, and there are numerous examples of nature creating similar creatures to "fill a niche". It was likely any untapped energy source of sufficient quantity and quality will inevitably produce an organism that uses that product. It's almost like predicting the weather by just charting blocks of heat -- a high pressure area of heat will move air masses, you only need to know the temperature differences and the locations of the heat.

So animals and plants move from high concentrations of energy first, to low concentrations with fewer competitors.
High birth rate means less energy spent rearing children and eventually means (in most cases) less intelligent creatures, while the inverse is also true (not to be confused with social pressure).

The Radio was developed by more than two different inventors at nearly the same time.

I could imagine that two cave men, Og and Zog were sitting on a log, when they saw lightning hit a tree, and Og says; "That bright thing may be useful". Time traveler accidentally lands on Og before he discovers useful bright stuff, and Zog is on the log alone when he sees lightning hit a tree; "That could be used to cook food and concentrate the energy for easier digestion... dang, I'm talking to myself again."

Re:Saved the earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47622599)

"That could be used to cook food and concentrate the energy for easier digestion... dang, I'm talking to myself again.""
I think he would actually say:
Zog - "Holy SHIT, where did this guy come from!"
Time traveler - "Don't end you sentences with a preposition"
Zog smashes the skull of the time traveler with a rock
Zog turn to camera
Zog: "Fucking grammer Nazi's."

Re:Saved the earth (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47621941)

Maybe the difference would be small, but it's much more probable that the impact of that tiny change, and its accumulated consequences century after century, billions of generations of bacteria later, would have changed everything.

Not really, for the same reason that killing one mosquito generally won't make any difference, even though it can produce a whole bunch more; the mosquitoes themselves compete with one another. Taking one out just means less pressure from internal competition. You'd likely have to take out a bacteria while it was the only example of its species to make a significant impact. Bacteria die all the time and another member of the same species is not only likely to end up in the same place but will also have the same effect. You'd expect there to be more consequences for killing more complex organisms, since they represent a larger/higher concentration of order which you're disturbing.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

kencurry (471519) | about 2 months ago | (#47622567)

Maybe the difference would be small, but it's much more probable that the impact of that tiny change, and its accumulated consequences century after century, billions of generations of bacteria later, would have changed everything.

Not really, for the same reason that killing one mosquito generally won't make any difference, ...

Two types of analysis:

Macro view: Killing a few mosquitoes won't affect overall dynamic equilibrium, the next few millennia are more or less the same as viewed from 30,000 ft.
Micro view: Killing a few mosquitos prevented malaria from spreading to the Berg clan, who became more powerful and wiped out the Valley clan, completely rewriting history for a particular territory of a particular mammal.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47623973)

Micro view: Killing a few mosquitos prevented malaria from spreading to the Berg clan

Rarely are you going to have a situation where killing literally a few mosquitoes will actually prevent the spread of malaria when people are used to being bitten by them, and not being able to prevent it. You will typically need to destroy large populations. The total biomass involved is relatively small, but it includes many individuals.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 months ago | (#47622753)

I've considered this theory, and even enjoyed several stories that illustrate the point. The problem is, it's a narcissistic load of bull. Nature doesn't care what you do. God doesn't care what you do. Sure, we're all invited to the party, but most of us will get by if you don't make it. If you calculate the maximum entropy a single human being can introduce into the universe, you will discover it quickly becomes swamped out. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't live your life in accordance with your own self deluding philosophies, I'm just saying that most of the people that ever worked for IBM are dead now and most of the world STILL doesn't use IBM PC's. Now, you may say..."What in God's green earth does that have to do with ANYTHING???" And of course, then I would smile, because you have almost gotten the point.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 2 months ago | (#47623185)

You really liked that movie didn't you? It's a nice fairy tale but doesn't really hold water at that individual level.

Re:Saved the earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47623763)

It is only the classical view of physical that believes that if you know everthing now you could forsee the future. In the quantum view of physical first you can't know everything and the future is non-deterministic.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | about 2 months ago | (#47624603)

Exactly, (but not completely).

Changing any one thing in the history of life on Earth, correct, means that life now wouldn't exist precisely as it does. If these worms had never evolved that behaviour, then oxygenation might not have happened, and life would have continued in a carbon dioxide-rich environment. Or some other organism or event might have adopted the role of oxygenator, and oxygenation levels might have been different, which again, would mean different evolutionary pressures would apply. Complex life might never have evolved, or it might have evolved sooner or later.

For TFS to breathlessly claim Ancient Worms May Have Saved Life On Earth is specious and demonstrates a fundamental ungrokking of the undirectedness of evolution.

Re:Saved the earth (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 2 months ago | (#47625311)

So then we need to thank Xenu and his space borne 707 and the alien greys, whites etc for all their contributions to our wonderful earth? No. You are oversimplifying it. There is far more built in redundancy that you realize.

The Wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621433)

Because you gotta Run Like Hell before you get to Waiting for the Worms.

Soylent Green - it's laddies and lassies because how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your mates.

Welcome to my nightmare.

Re:The Wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621567)

Remember when you were young you Crazy Diamond?

Did they make the Stargates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621543)

These Ancients you speak of, they seeded the Milky Way Galaxy and plopped down Stargates to make travel between planets possible, didn't they?

Naah (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 3 months ago | (#47621589)

This is referencing Doctor Worm by TMBG.

So... (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#47621681)

Should all patents now belong to the worms?

"a chemical called phosphate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621795)

Says sciencemag. Because science, it is hard! Also chemical. CHEMICAL, I'm telling you.

Credit? (1)

MiniMike (234881) | about 2 months ago | (#47621893)

scientists say, these creatures kept oxygen concentrations at just the right level to allow animals and other complex life to evolve.

And they've regretted it ever since.

Re:Credit? (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about 2 months ago | (#47624925)

Well, we do take them fishing. That's kind of fun.

alternately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47621899)

Other life took advantage of those oxygen levels and evolved in the direction we now see.

Anthropic principle (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 months ago | (#47621925)

Isn't this just the anthropic principle at work?

Yes, the action of these worms kept oxygen levels at "just the right level" for animals and other species to evolve...but isn't it simpler to expect that (lacking these worms, and with I suppose the much-higher oxygen levels) some other feedback mechanism would have eventually kicked in and THEN life would have evolved around that norm instead?

Obviously, with a sample size of precisely one, it's hard to say.

Then things went to hell after ... (1)

CaptainDork (3678879) | about 2 months ago | (#47622217)

... the early birds showed up.

Wait ! (1)

TTL0 (546351) | about 2 months ago | (#47622249)

I thought it was the dolphins the whole time ??!

Ok. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47622831)

Alright.

Shades of Pern (1)

tsstahl (812393) | about 2 months ago | (#47623161)

Ancient Worms May Have Saved Life On Earth ...from threadfall?

number one limit to O2 production (1)

doug141 (863552) | about 2 months ago | (#47623977)

is limit on the raw material. CO2 is a rare gas by comparison. O2=21% of the atmosphere, CO2 = 0.04%. It used to be the reverse, back before photosynthesis evolved.
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