Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe

Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe
Fossil of frond-like Ediacaran species found in Namibia. Credit: Sarah Tweedt, Smithsonian Institution

In the popular mind, mass extinctions are associated with catastrophic events, like giant meteorite impacts and volcanic super-eruptions.

But the world's first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, now appears to have had a more subtle cause: evolution itself.

"People have been slow to recognize that can also drive mass extinction," said Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University. "But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world's first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as 'ecosystem engineers,' that resulted in the Ediacaran's disappearance."

The study is described in the paper "Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota" published Sept. 2 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"There is a powerful analogy between the Earth's first mass extinction and what is happening today," Darroch observed. "The end-Ediacaran extinction shows that the evolution of new behaviors can fundamentally change the entire planet, and we are the most powerful 'ecosystem engineers' ever known."

The earliest life on Earth consisted of microbes - various types of single-celled microorganisms. They ruled the Earth for more than 3 billion years. Then some of these microorganisms discovered how to capture the energy in sunlight. The photosynthetic process that they developed had a toxic byproduct: oxygen. Oxygen was poisonous to most microbes that had evolved in an oxygen-free environment, making it the world's first pollutant.

But for the microorganisms that developed methods for protecting themselves, oxygen served as a powerful new energy source. Among a number of other things, it gave them the added energy they needed to adopt multicellular forms. Thus, the Ediacarans arose about 600 million years ago during a warm period following a long interval of extensive glaciation.

Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe
Ediacaran fossil found in the Swartput Farm site. Credit: Sarah Tweedt / Smithsonian Institution

"We don't know very much about the Ediacarans because they did not produce shells or skeletons. As a result, almost all we know about them comes from imprints of their shapes preserved in sand or ash," said Darroch.

What scientists do know is that, in their heyday, Ediacarans spread throughout the planet. They were a largely immobile form of marine life shaped like discs and tubes, fronds and quilted mattresses. The majority were extremely passive, remaining attached in one spot for their entire lives. Many fed by absorbing chemicals from the water through their outer membranes, rather than actively gathering nutrients.

Paleontologists have coined the term "Garden of Ediacara" to convey the peace and tranquility that must have prevailed during this period. But there was a lot of churning going on beneath that apparently serene surface.

After 60 million years, evolution gave birth to another major innovation: animals. All animals share the characteristics that they can move spontaneously and independently, at least during some point in their lives, and sustain themselves by eating other organisms or what they produce. Animals burst onto the scene in a frenzy of diversification that paleontologists have labeled the Cambrian explosion, a 25-million-year period when most of the modern animal families - vertebrates, molluscs, arthropods, annelids, sponges and jellyfish - came into being.

"These new species were 'ecological engineers' who changed the environment in ways that made it more and more difficult for the Ediacarans to survive," said Darroch.

He and his colleagues performed an extensive paleoecological and geochemical analysis of the youngest known Ediacaran community exposed in hillside strata in southern Namibia. The site, called Farm Swartpunt, is dated at 545 million years ago, in the waning one to two million years of the Ediacaran reign.

Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe
Simon Darroch in Namibia searching for fossils. Credit: Sarah Tweedt, Smithsonian Institution

"We found that the diversity of species at this site was much lower, and there was evidence of greater ecological stress, than at comparable sites that are 10 million to 15 million years older," Darroch reported. Rocks of this age also preserve an increasing diversity of burrows and tracks made by the earliest complex animals, presenting a plausible link between their evolution and extinction of the Ediacarans.

The older sites were Mistaken Point in Newfoundland, dating from 579 to 565 million years ago; Nilpena in South Australia, dating from 555 to 550 million years ago; and the White Sea in Russia, dating also from 555 to 550 million years ago million years ago.

Darroch and his colleagues made extensive efforts to ensure that the differences they recorded were not due to some external factor.

For example, they ruled out the possibility that the Swartpunt site might have been lacking in some vital nutrients by closely comparing the geochemistry of the sites.

It is a basic maxim in paleontology that the more effort that is made in investigating a given site, the greater the diversity of fossils that will be found there. So the researchers used statistical methods to compensate for the variation in the differences in the amount of effort that had been spent studying the different sites.

Having ruled out any extraneous factors, Darroch and his collaborators concluded that "this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first of complex life."

Explore further

Study ties most severe extinction to ancient volcanic activity

More information: Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2015.1003
Citation: Evidence that Earth's first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe (2015, September 2) retrieved 20 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-09-evidence-earth-mass-extinction-critters.html
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Sep 02, 2015
And we are following the script precisely.

Sep 02, 2015
So... the autotrophs began to drool?

Sep 02, 2015
I like this hypothesis. It adds to our database of knowledge which will allow us to arrive at more conclusive answers to our questions of where we came from...
I do believe extinctions are of a combinatory nature, tho...
Never just ONE thing....

Sep 02, 2015
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Sep 02, 2015

The Cambrian Explosion was around 530 million years ago, a time when all animal life was confined to the ocean. Kind of difficult to flood the ocean and that's a few years before Noah's flood that never happened.

Sep 03, 2015
Obviously all kinds of animals just don't suddenly/magically appear on the earth due to evolution.
Very strange. I was under the distinct impression that you believe these things to be very sudden and tremendously magical, due to loose interpretations of tales of neolithic sheep-shaggers.

Not to get too far off topic, but is it proper to hyphenate sheep-shaggers?

Sep 03, 2015
Maybe not a meteoric catastrophe, but a great flood
so... a great flood killed the fish? did you read the part about
a largely immobile form of marine life
which would mean they typically lived in a "marine' environment... that doesn't mean they are at Paris Island or running around on Navy ships shooting at terrorists... that actually means oceans, etc
Which likely caused the Cambrian Explosion
so, the flood killed off all the marine life and then caused the cambrian explosion? WTF?
are you taking psychotropic substances? do you even bother to READ the articles at all?

NICE ONE, Vietvet... i didn't read your post till i responded, so sorry for the double post on that topic!
hyphenate sheep-shaggers?
that depends on the present company, and how often you intend to hyphenate... of course, it may be illegal in certain places too

Sep 03, 2015
Obviously all kinds of animals just don't suddenly/magically appear on the earth due to evolution
ok, then they can only magically appear based upon your holy comic? except, your comic also says the plants were created before the sun/moon
They were from before
still trying to wrap my head around drowning aquatic species... but now they were buried, eh? the great flood was also a great dirt ball?
were you there
so you're going to pull a ken ham? WTF? were YOU there? you do know that claiming to know and speak the mind of your deity is blasphemy
Prove your points
YOU made the claim, the onus of proof is on YOU
It's a bunch of gibberish
that sums up your posts perfectly
Then how to account for fish fossils?
wait? drowning fish in a flood accounts for the fish fossils?

What are you smoking?

Sep 03, 2015
"Although more sites (especially those recording different palaeoenvironments) are undoubtedly needed, this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life."


Like the authors state, more evidence is needed.

Sep 03, 2015
Many of these had to have happened suddenly in order to become fossils, or else the fish would rot
but, the point was, how do you bury/drown a fish in a flood? the fossils you speak of have been buried underwater by dirt or some means of collapsing undersea land, something we STILL SEE TODAY. and yes, the event of burying the aquatic fauna is quick, but the fossilization process takes long periods of time: you would know this if you read ANY of the links i've given you
ALSO: fish rotting has nothing to do with being buried, it has to do with access to the carcass by marine scavengers, bacteria, etc etc etc
floods cause massive mud will can also bury marine animals
but that doesn't mean the fossils you are talking about were buried in a flood, because, as i said above, we can STILL SEE processes where they're buried today undersea by cave in, collapse or various other typical undersea instabilities

Sep 03, 2015
Those "neolithic sheep-shaggers" did quite a good job
i am gonna disagree... now, perhaps, in a very vague and philosophical way it can be construed as being more accurate than, say... the Aztec creation myths, however they still get a lot wrong, like creating plants (GEN 1:11) before the sun/moon (GEN 1:16-17)

and yes, the worst part is that the weak minded and easily controlled person will be like verkle, clinging to their "interpretation" of it

Sep 03, 2015
"were you there".

Oldest trick of an old myth book. Yes, the evidence was there. How stupid do you think your readers are?

@mytwocts: "The genesis account is closer to the modern account than any other myth."

Which of them? They are two, and they are in conflict (different time order). I don't understand how anyone can say that they are close to anything but an open claim that "This book lies to you. Oh, and it obviously doesn't know what it is talking about".

If you know evolution you would know that "humans" aren't "last". There is still 1-2 billion years of evolution left! So even if you try to cherry pick matches, the myth is not only incomplete but lacks most of the interesting evolution, geology and evolution story of the universe.

[Also, it got evolution of humans (as well as other explicitly mentioned species) incorrect, there never was its mythical single breeder pair. And so on.]

Sep 03, 2015
Soooo, if all of the hype about global warming is true, the people who consider humankind to be a parasite can rest assured that ''Mother Earth'' can and will heal herself since she has done it before without their help..

Sep 03, 2015
@mytwocts: "Well, scientists and phys.org have been saying so for decades."

No, they have said that it is an open, multicausal issue. "There is still debate about the causes of all mass extinctions. In general, large extinctions may result when a biosphere under long-term stress undergoes a short-term shock.[47]" [ https://en.wikipe...on_event ]

It is in the haphazard reader's/media's hands that complex issues becomes undue simplified. That is nothing new, it happens all over the scale of issues from social [politics!] to science and technology [GMO].

@qitana: "I haven't found anything conclusive in this article though."

The article describes the science well enough I think. (The change in diversity is the evidence, and wouldn't be predicted any other way - but the data isn't extensive enough yet.) If not, read the paper for clarification, then contact the authors if you need, et cetera.

Sep 03, 2015
@Joker: You have lost the script. Not even climate science denialists deny global warming anymore, they try to confuse the fact that human society is providing the driving force.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2014 that scientists were more than 95% certain that most of global warming is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other human (anthropogenic) activities."

[ https://en.wikipe..._warming ]

Sep 03, 2015
Admitting that organisms can cause extinctions might require an honest bit of introspection. nah

Sep 03, 2015
Those "neolithic sheep-shaggers" did quite a good job
i am gonna disagree... now, perhaps, in a very vague and philosophical way it can be construed as being more accurate than, say... the Aztec creation myths, however they still get a lot wrong, like creating plants (GEN 1:11) before the sun/moon (GEN 1:16-17)

and yes, the worst part is that the weak minded and easily controlled person will be like verkle, clinging to their "interpretation" of it

Of course things can be construed in vague and interpretive ways. This is how fortune tellers and con artists work - make a vague statement, get a reaction, and then get a little more interpretive in their vagueness. Exactly like revealing how Nastrodamos (sp?) foretold everything....
Anything that validates a delusion is eagerly and desperately snapped up by the delusional.

Sep 03, 2015
-> Wow. You believe in magic. That cannot be science
Bwahaahaaaaaaaa oh stop ahaahaaaa

God makes all the evidence for the 2M hebrew slaves in goshen, the exodus through egyptian-owned sinai and palestine, the joshuan genocide, the great solomonic/davidic kingdoms etc DISAPPEAR and replaces it with thoroughly convincing contrary evidence... in other words he LIES to us to find out how much we TRUST him.

This is exactly the sort of thing a magician wants you to believe when he pulls a rabbit out of an empty hat.

And no there was no flood. Similarly, no evidence whatsoever FOR but tons AGAINST. You would know this if you read the right material instead of wallowing in the mush you find on religious websites.

You can lie to yourself all you want. Your book allows it. It DEMANDS it.

Here, try this one. A fundamantalist turned atheist biblical scholar.

Sep 04, 2015
To come up with such an explanation, back then, is an achievement
yes and no
if you consider what was known, couple it with logic and serious consideration, then it stands to reason that (barring emotional or subjective arguments from supernatural deities or superstition) that the world evolved and continued to do so

this can be seen in behaviour as well as natural observations (from camels/horses to multiple climate spcialisation, all known by observation)

if you remove superstition, logic says that evolution must occur (that is ignoring the empirical evidence known) and the world is made out of smaller particles that are not seen by the naked eye (as seen in Atomism, philosophy etc)

it was already apparent to any sailor that the world had to be round(ed)

more important: we also know a lot of the bible was plagiarized from other religions, from the virgin birth son-deity death/resurrection to monotheistic preferences


Sep 04, 2015
@myTwo -cont'd

now lets push in the whole world of statistics...
eventually, you will see that someone had to get a few things right, IMHO... kinda like the old argument: if you had a million monkeys typing...

so, if we look at this, and we look at a people who typically had to rely upon their natural connections to the world (from all around the globe) then it stands to reason that a lot of the arguments that support evolution, or our movement from simplicity to complexity, can be argued out of logic alone

we can also see this in historical scientific/engineering advancements... from gunpowder to building Pyramids, IMHO

as for the whole purpose of religion: it really is a great way to control others with minimal effort, including exciting them to do things that are NOT natural, or go against cultural beliefs (like terrorism)

i can see your point, but i also disagree because of the (factual) history of religion and specifically the bible

Sep 05, 2015
evolutionary communist mythology
religious rhetoric is now equivalent to scientific discourse? really?
is full of apparent lies and is a bright demonstration of the unscientific emotional approach and wishful thinking
and if you had evidence that was equivalent to the scientific method which could prove, in ANY way, that Evolution was: a myth OR wishful thinking; you would have a nobel as well as world recognition for doing what no other creationist idiot has ever done- you might even get to be pope or something!
Mass extinctions are needed for the theorists evolutionists
from delusion to outright lies?
wow, what a jump!
they would live on one another because of their multiplicity
and you can't do math either! imagine that!
of course, your argument assumes that there is no such thing as: sickness, pandemics, war, predation, accidents, infection, birth defects, birth mortality or any other usual causes

ya gonna disprove gravity and air now too?

Sep 05, 2015
Under the spreading chestnut tree the village verkle sat
Amusing himself by abusing himself
And catching it in his hat

Sep 06, 2015
Vietvet, Oh, were you there 530 MY ago?
How can you be so sure?
Prove your points.
Obviously, you can't.
It's a bunch of gibberish.
Ah, it just never gets old, does it? These are always among my favorite claims from Christian fundamentalists, who were no more there 2000 years ago to see Christ crucified or however many years ago they think the Noah flood delusion happened, but they're happy to obliviously throw this claim around at any scientific deduction about the past.
Pot. Kettle. Black. Except that science's pot has evidence to support it.

Sep 06, 2015
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Sep 06, 2015
"There is a powerful analogy between the Earth's first mass extinction and what is happening today,"

Physorg articles never miss an opportunity to preach the "H. Sap. is evil" gospel. :-/

Sep 06, 2015
Ren, we will not survive as a species unless we outgrow this terrible and pathetic need for a Cosmic Daddy, a Santa for grownups, someone to love us, punish us severely and tell us we won't die.

But we will, all of us, will return to the nothingness from which we came. Get used to it.

Mass extinctions did not occur just so we could be here, and the next one could take us out with it.

And we have already started it.

Sep 06, 2015
If you want to understand an ancient text
agreed: i grew up studying & raised to believe- i educated myself out of it
We should not make the error of comparing religion of thousands of years ago with religion now
i don't
Reading Genesis now reminds us of pastors and priests trying to oppress science
actually, most pastors etc are fully open to science... it is the (minority) fundamentalists that are trying to oppress. also, historically speaking: most religions oppressed science (not always, and not at all times, either- otherwise we would not have arabic names for stars, math, etc...)
basic point is: historically, science was considered more "magic" than science, thus far too many religions took it as heresy
we see these actions repeated in the fundamentalists of our day (history repeats itself - and human nature is cyclical)

like i said: i understand your point and partially agree... just not fully because historical facts clash

Sep 06, 2015
It is stupid to say that everything in the OT is fantasy...Ancient texts need careful analysis and cannot be lightly discarded
this a AGREE with

Atheist forged to inspect the prophesies recorded in the Bible thousands of years ago
no, they didn't- just like they don't ignore nostradamus, the psychic hotline, or daily horoscopes. they just dismiss vague un-provable assertions that can be applied to various similar occurrences with equal validity, especially when there is no reason to accept something as validated fact without a means to nail down or validate it's claims! you can apply all prophecies from your holy comic to just about ANY civilization and see a trend... that trend is: being vague and non-specific is the best means to CON a person into thinking you are psychic (you need proof? call the psychic hotline and ask them why you called... then ask them to provide a specific date of death for you...)

Sep 06, 2015
It is obvious that this world will fails due to ignorance of majority of piople
when the majority cling to delusional beliefs that cannot be proven, then YES, it is obvious failure is possible because of said delusion... but you just described RELIGION
The God It warned as thausend of years ago
which one? Jewish? Islamic? Athabaskan? Myan? Egyptian? Hindu? Usen? Wakan Tanka?
ALL times are perilous- the problem is, our days today are FAR LESS perilous than 2000 years ago, and that is demonstrated in the population boom as well as falling mortality rates... your deity didn't predict that one, did it?
God will destroy those who destroy life
and i can prove this an absolute lie: Holy wars, Witch burning, inquisition, etc
or RELIGION PERIOD... religion is anti-life and prejudice wrapped in sanctimonious semantics to control people

you don't see mass eradication of religion, therefore: you LIE

Sep 06, 2015
before the seconf comming,
you mean the third, right? the second visit would be after your deities death and being observed (eye witness testimony) to people... or is your deity not able to count?
Nothing unclean will enter the kingdom of God because the sin is incompatible with life
you do realise that means you, right?
you do NOT follow the old laws for eating Kosher in your bible, and i can prove you violated the ten commandments simply because you post on the Sabbath and LIE, as well as have pictures (graven images) of heavenly objects created by your deity... OOPS!

you're not worthy and you're unclean per your holy comic... or did you forget that your own new testament deity said he didn't come to eradicate the old laws or the laws of moses?
you really should read your comic more... and learn what is in it

Sep 06, 2015
Stumpy, faith is based on fear and denial. No amount of reason can overcome it.

Sep 06, 2015
Of course, if he makes the right gestures and the right noises, then everything changes for him. Then, he won't die, but will go somewhere else, while his body rots and stinks here.

It said so in a book. It was from stories told and told for over a hundred years before they were written down, so you know they are accurate.

Sep 07, 2015
I take issue with characterizing this mass extinction 540 million years ago as the 'first.'

It almost certainly was not. it's just that it's difficult to nail down prior extinction events due to a dearth of fossil evidence.

It's very likely that the rise of photosynthetic organisms also produced a mass extinction event which disfavored anaerobic life forms. Most anaerobes were probably wiped out. The survivors were driven into niches; they live deep in the ground, or protect themselves from exposure to oxygen with biofilms, or live inside of animals as pathogens and symbionts (sometimes, both).

Anaerobes were our distant ancestors. In fact, human cells still have anaerobic metabolic pathways which work, though they aren't used much in healthy cells.

In cancer cells, aerobic respiration is mostly disabled, and those old anaerobic pathways are all that keep them alive. As a consequence, the energy budget for a cancer cell is considerably less than for a healthy cell.

Sep 07, 2015

Live Science has an article that lends support to your comment.


Sep 07, 2015
all its words and works are righteous
yeah. right
is slavery or torture righteous? bible says yes: LEVIT 25:44-46 & PROV 20:30
you worked on the Sabbath by posting, Ren: that means you should die NUM 25:32-36
if you don't beat your kids, you hate them PROV 13:24
unruly kids should be killed EXO 21:15,17
selling your daughter is OK EXO 21:7-8
rape is a crime against the husband, not the wife DEUT 22:23-24
women cannot teach or hold authority 1TIM 2:12
illness is due to lack of faith MAT 9:22
jesus didn't come to bring peace MAT 10:34
ALL the old testament laws are still in effect MAT 5:17-19

IOW- your "righteous" beliefs state clearly that you should be a violent psychotic beating kids, torturing anyone not your religion and that you should also die for violating your own commandments!
why aren't you condemned to death for violating your own laws in your book? From your issues with working on the sabbath and non kosher eating to graven images...????

Sep 07, 2015
God wants to have people to be happy and to develop in a positive direction
by killing everyone who doesn't agree with your OWN interpretations of the bible LEVIT 25:44-46
sounds peaceful and righteous to me!
No one else could love in such way
yeah, i got that impression when he said kids should be beaten and not obeying parents should be a death sentence... wo, what if the parents are wrong? you can't take death back, you know...!!
The punishment of the sinners who are not repented is because they attempt to impede the righteous to live by the God's way
but YOU don't live by your own god's laws, so why should everyone else?
that means simply paying lip service is adequate to get to heaven, BY YOUR OWN WORDS, because you yourself ignore the tenets in your own book!
i can tell you never read JER... because it states that you shouldn't be proselytizing due to the 2nd covenant!
JER 31:28-end

Sep 07, 2015
Guys, religious beliefs, whatever they happen to be (there is a tremendous lot of variety), have nothing to do with science.

This is a science site.

Please take your religious debating (pro/con) elsewhere. Keep comments on-topic.

Sep 07, 2015
People assume, that because we're sentient that we can stop this as a species. It is quite possible that we can't influence what we do as a whole. We can to a certain degree, but not completely. So the question is: Are we that different from those animals? Sure, human is only known animal that we can blame so the blame will land on Homo sapiens. But is it really warranted? I would call it just our natural state an emergent property of human hive trying to build their nests and societies.

Sep 07, 2015
Please take your religious debating (pro/con) elsewhere. Keep comments on-topic
i totally agree... problem is: when you have someone like verkle, ren, viko and the others flooding with religion, sometimes it must be dealt with

until you can get them perma-banned from the site for proselytizing, they will not go away

they are flooding with religion due to their refusal to accept their own bible (see: JER 31:27-37) and they actually feel compelled to share their beliefs because that is how they get converts and increase power/$$ etc

unless you can convince the site to actually moderate or abide by their own rules of posting... then you will have to deal with them and the refute

and i don't think the site will comply: i've been asking for years

and trolls - they provide padding (increased volume of posts/perceived social interest) which allows them to get $$ from advertising

Sep 07, 2015
I forgot about the advertising since I do not see it. I paid for the privilege, thinking it had more science and many fewer lurkers and snipers, folk here to play their games. I assumed we would be discussing real science, not pushing politics or religion.

And it irritates me when I see myself responding in kind, even when trying to end the game.

Sep 07, 2015
I am 'ignoring' the worst off-topic offenders. But that doesn't work very well when regulars (interested in science) jump in and debate trolls who have no interest in science at all, who are here hoping to start a flame war.

And succeeding.

The little twits will tell their moms, ha-ha, they got the pro-science people's goats. And they did.

Don't feed the trolls - at least, not the worst ones. Use the 'ignore' button. You can't change the minds of people who think that faith - the total disinterest in skeptical inquiry and reason - is a virtue.

Wen the comments section fills up with trash having nothing to do with the article itself, all that can happen is we'll drive away people who *do* have an interest in discussing the article. That impoverishes us, guys.

Sep 07, 2015
But that doesn't work very well when regulars (interested in science) jump in and debate trolls
point taken. My sincerest apologies
Wen the comments section fills up with trash having nothing to do with the article itself, all that can happen is we'll drive away people who *do* have an interest in discussing the article. That impoverishes us, guys.
there is a serious negative side to this as well... pseudoscience

i can understand using this tactic with idiots like verkle, ren, viko, etc (again, i am sorry.. i got a wild hair)

but some people get confused by the pseudoscience of posters like jvk, alchie, dung, zeph etc... so there must also be those who debunk the pseudoscience BS

you are correct
i will endeavor to ignore the obvious trolling and baiting from religious ignoramuses who don't know their own bible as well as i do

Thanks for the slap in the face

Sep 07, 2015
"Thanks for the slap in the face"

And thank you Stumpy for doing the slapping when needed.

Sep 07, 2015
Stumpy, I don't think I've criticized regulars about arguments about scientific theories - if the discussion is at least somewhat related to the article's subject.

Though I think it may impoverish us when pseudoscience dominates the discussion board. Most actual scientists and people interested in science will be turned off by it. Which means that when they feel the urge to talk about science, they'll take that urge elsewhere, leaving this board dominated by asylum refugees.

We should make an effort to stay on-topic, at least. Some of the vocal advocates of various fringe causes ignore this voluntary restriction, but some do not ignore it, and post their hair-on-fire ideas on articles where, just possibly, they might have at least a tangential relevance.

When they're on-topic, that's sort of okay with me, even as it often annoys me. It probably doesn't hurt to have a discussion reminding us why those hair-on-fire ideas aren't mainstream and aren't likely to make it there.

Sep 07, 2015
In cancer cells, aerobic respiration is mostly disabled, and those old anaerobic pathways are all that keep them alive. As a consequence, the energy budget for a cancer cell is considerably less than for a healthy cell.
So, could cancer possibly be the result of these anaerobes quest for survival within us?

Sep 07, 2015
antigoracle, no, I don't think so. Cancer is the product of a particular suite of gene knock-outs (DNA damage) characterized by: 1) lost ability to self-repair its own DNA and 2) disabling mitochondria.

Mitochondria orchestrate the death (called 'apoptosis') of a cell when it is too damaged to function normally. Disabling mitochondria disables this self-destruct safety mechanism. In order for cancer to thrive, mitochondria must be put to sleep.

Once the cell's self-repair mechanism is disabled, mutations skyrocket, which is why cancer cells produce such a wide variety of DNA signatures, moreso as the cancer advances.

But disabling mitochondria poses an energy problem for the cancer cell. Aerobic respiration mostly takes place in mitochondria. So the cancer cell falls back on anaerobic respiration pathways, which are intact. They aren't as energetic, relying on those pathways. But they're energetic enough to survive and multiply.

Sep 07, 2015
Mitochondria are interesting little beasts. They have their own DNA and are descended from ancient pathogens or symbiotes which probably infected our distant single-cell ancestors. They've co-evolved with multi-celled animals; the extra metabolic boost they provide is what makes energetic multi-celled animals possible. We need the efficient aerobic respiration they provide to exist.

The symbiotic nature of aerobic respiration requires that two sets of genes be working in harmony: the human DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Cancer interferes with this harmony by messing with human DNA, so the cell no longer cooperates with mitochondria and the mitochondria either die or all but suspend operation.

At least, that's my summary-level grasp of the subject. The details are intricate, complex and not fully understood. I've probably oversimplified.

Sep 07, 2015
One way to attack cancer cells, in theory, is to interfere with anaerobic respiration. Theoretically, healthy cells won't be discommoded much, since they are perfectly happy respiring aerobically. But finding and proving a drug which causes no harm to healthy cells while disabling cancer cells is no easy trick.

Sep 07, 2015
I didn't address the source of damage to human DNA which produces cancer cells.

The truth is, this is not well understood in science. We can correlate certain carcinogenic toxins to the production of cancer in laboratory animals, but there's definitely more going on.

When the HPV link to cancer was discovered, it was almost a revelation in the field. Now we had proof that a virus could produce the specific mutations required to convert a healthy cell into a cancer cell. There may be other microorganisms capable of this feat - viruses, bacteria (aerobic and anaerobic), maybe even fungi.

It may be that carcinogens do not act directly on DNA to produce cancer, but rather act to suppress a cell's immune system so that pathogens have a freer hand in modifying the cell to suit itself. But I admit, I'm speculating furiously here.

Sep 07, 2015
I guess Ren82 may be a follower of his derangedness Martin Luther, who wrote:
"Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."

Wow, my2....
SO I guess I'm the slut I am for a reason...
er, for reason...;-)

Sep 08, 2015
I do believe extinctions are of a combinatory nature, tho...
Never just ONE thing....

- Gyre (more of a slit not slut).

With an interconnectedness of things then that's likely stating the obvious. Without splitting hairs and something to dwell upon, other than religious feuds, while sipping a fine bourbon ...

The Dodo - we ate them.
Smallpox - we prevented it's reproduction.

No other particular cause of extinction in these two, off the top of my head, examples.

Next extinction - humans. We destroy ourselves, one way or another.

Sep 08, 2015
Nature is disruptively inventive.

Every new invention advantages some, disadvantages others. All by itself, nature is the architect of extinction; it needs no helping hand from humans.

Every innovation of nature is an experiment. Most such experiments don't go the distance. Some are very long-lasting.

The development of so-called intelligence in humans is one such disruptive invention. It has already sent into extinction countless species; more are headed that way. Others have benefitted - dogs, for example.

Rats. Rats always do well where humans are.

We are intelligent enough to drive species into extinction and change the Earth's ecosystems. But the question to ask is, are we intelligent enough to refrain from imperiling ourselves?

Alas for humanity, the answer to that question is self-evident.

Sep 08, 2015
Next extinction - humans. We destroy ourselves, one way or another.

There are many things that can cause our extinction, but absolutely only one that can prevent it, us, well the rational amongst us. If your statement should ever come true, I wager it would be by the hands of those who share your belief.

Sep 09, 2015
@Camptan Stumpy

Do not remove from the context separate sentences to confuse people and quote whole passages to make it clear what God wants to say to people. God has a special attitude to those who except themselves are trying to mislead others to not walk in the truth. If the law of God recreates His character, the ideas that you suggest sound pretty ridiculous.

Proceeded to Jesus, the lawyer asked, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind" This is the first commandment! The second is: "Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these "/ Mk. 12: 28-31 /.

Well, there is where the confusion starts - a lawyer was involved...

Sep 09, 2015

I think that you have quite unrealistic ideas about the world. You profess pantheism or worship to nature - idolatry. Druids do the same.

Isn't nature an exemplification of god?
Only intelligent beings who have imagination can invent different things.

They just re-invent what nature already does..
Nature is not an intelligent being.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. It's something to be bent to you and your gods will. Good luck with that...
It is well balanced physical environment through physical laws and constants, to be able to support favoriable human environment. It is a complex machine created and set by the Creator.

It also turns out to be "favourable" (You can mispell it, so can I) for every other creature on the planet - Why would you give us (the late arrivers on the scene) more importance? Anthropocentric nonsense.
What's so hard to accept in Nature BEING the "creator"? Why this desperate need to have a someone to feel inferior to?

Sep 09, 2015
- Gyre (more of a slit not slut).

Sheesh, BH... I'm not sure how to take that...:-)

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