Question / Is Common Sense even better than Empathy?

My posting has slowed to almost nothing since last Saturday:

Summer at last; warm winds, blue skies, puffy clouds. The dog and I are both delirious over the ability to “get out of” quasi imprisonment indoors.

Into the truck; a short drive to the south, up and over the canyon edge into the wide open space of the plateau. Out into “the world again” striding easily along a two-rut track that goes nowhere; the type that is established by the driver of a first vehicle, turning off the road, through the brush, and headed nowhere. Humans cannot resist such a “lure” – Who drove off the road and why? Maybe the track does go somewhere. And so, the tracks grow, simply by repetition of the “nowhere” pattern. Years pass; ruts widen, deepen, grow and are bypassed, smoothed out, and grow again, becoming as permanent and indestructible as the Appian Way.

This particular set of ruts is a habitual dog-walking path for me: the view, the wind, the light, the sky whipped into a frenzy of lovely clouds… and then, agony. Gravel underfoot has turned my foot, twisting my ankle and plunging me into a deep rut and onto the rough ground. Pain; not Whoops, I tripped pain, but OMG! I’m screwed pain. I make a habit of glancing a few feet ahead to check where my feet are going, but my head was in the clouds.

This isn’t the first time in 23 years that I’ve taken a fall out in the boonies: a banged up shin or knee, a quick trip to the gravel; scraped hands, even a bonk on the head, but now… can I walk back to the truck, or even stand up? One, two, three… up.

Wow! Real pain; there’s no choice. Get to the truck, which appears to be very, very far away, at this point. Hobble, hobble, hobble; stop. Don’t stop! Keep going. Glance up at the truck to check periodically to see if it’s “growing bigger” – reachable. I always tell myself the same (true) mantra in circumstances like this: shut out time, let it pass, and suddenly, there you will be, pulling open the truck door and pulling yourself inside.

There is always some dumb luck in these matters: it’s my left ankle. I don’t need my left foot to drive home. Then the impossible journey from the truck to the house, the steps, the keys, wrangling the dog and her leash, trying not to get tangled and fall again – falling through the doorway, grabbing something and landing on the couch. Now what?

That was five days ago. Five days of rolling around with my knee planted in the seat of a wheeled office chair, pushing with the right foot as far as I can go, then hopping like a  one-legged kangaroo the rest of the way. Dwindling food supplies; unable to stand to cook; zapping anything eligible in the microwave. No milk in my coffee. Restless nights. Any bump to my bandaged foot wakes me up. This is ridiculous! My life utterly disrupted by a (badly) sprained ankle. I think I’m descending into depression.

Bipedalism, of course, begins to takeover my thoughts. But first, I try to locate hope on the internet, googling “treatment for sprained ankle.” You’re screwed, the pages of entries say. One begins to doubt “evolution” as the master process that produces elegant and sturdy design. Ankles are a nightmare of tiny bones and connecting ligaments, with little blood supply to heal the damage, and once damaged, a human can expect a long recovery, intermittent swelling and inevitable reinjury, for as long as you live.

It seems that for our “wild ancestors” a simple sprain could trigger the expiration date for any individual unlucky enough to be injured: the hyenas, big cats, bears and other local predators circle in, and then the vultures. Just like any other animal grazing the savannah or born into the forest, vulnerability = death. It’s as true today as it ever was. Unless someone is there with you when you are injured, you can be royally screwed: people die in their own homes due to accidents. People die in solo car wrecks. People go for a day hike in a state park and within an hour or two, require rescue, hospitalization and difficult recovery, from one slip in awareness and focus. And, being in the company of one or more humans, hardly guarantees survival. Success may depend on their common sense.

So: the question arises around this whole business of Homo sapiens, The Social Species. There are many social species, and it is claimed that some “non-human” social species “survive and reproduce successfully” because they “travel together” in the dozens, thousands or millions and “empathize” with others of their kind. Really? How many of these individual organisms even notice that another is in peril, other than to sound the alarm and get the hell out of the danger zone or predator’s path? How one human mind gets from reproduction in massive numbers, that is, playing the “numbers game” (1/ 100, 1/100, 1, 100,000 new creatures survive in a generation), and the congregation of vast numbers in schools, flocks and the odds for “not being one of the few that gets caught and eaten” – how one gets from there to “pan-social wonderfulness” is one of the mysteries of the social human mind.

There are occasions when a herd may challenge a predator, or a predatory group; parents (usually the female), will defend offspring in varying manner and degree, but what one notices in encounters (fortuitously caught on camera, posted on the internet or included in documentaries) that solitary instances are declared to represent “universal behavior” and proof of the existence of (the current fad of) empathy in “lesser animals”. What is ignored (inattentional blindness) and not posted, is the usual behavior; some type of distraction or defensive behavior is invested in, but the attempt is abandoned, at some “common sense point” in the interaction; the parents give up, or the offspring or herd member is abandoned.

What one notices is that the eggs and the young of all species supply an immense amount of food for other species.

Skittles evolved solely as a food source for Homo sapiens children. It has no future as a species. LOL

I’ve been watching a lot of “nature documentaries” to pass the time. This is, in its way, an extraordinary “fact of nature”. Our orientation to extreme Darwinian evolution (reductionist survival of the fittest) is stunningly myopic. We create narratives from “wildlife video clips” edited and narrated to confirm our imaginary interpretation of natural processes; the baby “whatever” – bird, seal, monkey, or cute cub; scrambling, helpless, clueless, “magically” escapes death (dramatic soundtrack, breathless narration) due to Mom’s miraculous, just-in-the-nick-of-time return. The scoundrel predator is foiled once again; little penguin hero “Achilles” (they must have names) has triumphantly upheld our notion that “survival is no accident” – which in great measure is exactly what it is.

One thing about how evolution “works” (at least as presented) has always bothered me no end: that insistence that the individual creatures which survive to reproduce are “the fittest”. How can we know that? What if among the hundreds, thousands, millions of “young” produced, but almost immediately destroyed or consumed by chance, by random events, by the natural changes and disasters that occur again and again, the genetic potential “to be most fit” had been eliminated, depriving the species of potential even “better” adaptations than what those we see? We have to ask, which individuals are “fittest” for UNKNOWN challenges that have not yet occurred? Where is the variation that may be acted upon by the changing environment?

This is a problem of human perception; of anthropomorphic projection, of the unfailing insistence of belief in an intentional universe. Whatever “happens” is the fulfilment of a plan; evolution is distorted to “fit” the human conceit, that by one’s own superior DNA, survival and reproduction necessarily become fact. 

Human ankles (and many other details) of human physiology are not “great feats of evolutionary engineering.”

Like those two-rut roads that are ubiquitous where I live, chance predicts that most of evolution’s organisms “go nowhere” but do constitute quick and easy energy sources for a multitude of other organisms.

 

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Genealogy of Religion / Cris Campbell

Cris Campbell holds advanced degrees in anthropology, philosophy, and law. This (WordPress) blog is his research database and idea playspace. (The most recent post seems to be in 2015, but there is plenty to explore)

 

Why “Hunter-Gatherers and Religion”?

Anyone who surveys the “religious” beliefs of hunter-gatherers (or foragers) will almost immediately discover that many of them do not have a word that translates as “religion” and do not understand the Western concept of “religion,” as explained to them by ethnographers and others.  Anyone who engages in such a survey will also soon discover that hunter-gatherers have a dazzling and sometimes bewildering array of beliefs related to the cosmos, creation, spirits, gods, and the supernatural.  Within a single group, these beliefs may be different and contradictory from individual to individual; the beliefs are often fluid and change considerably over time.  When comparing groups, the details — at least on the surface — seem to be so different that nothing general can be said about foragers on the one hand and their beliefs on the other hand.  Despite this variety, one can identify certain common themes, motifs and tropes that are characteristic of hunter-gatherer metaphysics.  These include:

  • A generalized belief in higher powers, which may be gods, spirits, or other forces; (I would modify this based on those who are visual thinkers and do not make abstract “things”)
  • A spiritualized reverence for nature and everything of nature; (what does ‘spiritualized’ entail? This is one of those Weasel Words that is never defined)
  • A cosmology oriented horizontally rather than vertically; “egalitarian”
  • A cyclic notion of time and perpetual renewal; and (or non-time, ie “living in the present”)
  • A belief array that includes animism, ritualism, totemism and shamanism. (these are all “western” inventions. The people supposedly practicing these “religions” may not see any difference or separation between these categorizations and behaviors of everyday life. There are atheist hunter-gatherers)

Because humans have been foragers for the vast majority of their time on earth, understanding the supernatural beliefs and practices of hunter-gatherers is essential to any genealogy of religion.  This Category will examine those beliefs as part of a larger effort to trace the history of religion.

How ironic! It is modern social humans who are trapped in a supernatural dimension created by “magic words”

Big 5 Personality Traits / cont., The Evolution of Personality Variation in Humans

I would submit that these personality factors are not scientifically valid, but socially invented and constructed; not objective, but subjective. This “theory without proof” lies outside the scientific method of proof – but these “speculations” are the basis for Psychology; the socio-cultural Western religion.   

Note the highly “socially judgmental” descriptions of “low scorers” and “high scorers”. A polarized view of human personality, in which “socially approved” characteristics (outgoing, empathetic, warm, helpful) are given “high scores” The  trait categories are also skewed: extraversion, agreeableness, openness – conscientiousness, neuroticism! How do these highly subjective ideas drive the relentless push toward conformity to social prescriptions for “normal, typical, or idealized” behavior, which is determined by culture? What they “measure” is the opinion of the measurer – and his or her socio-cultural agenda. As the author points out, “However, it is important not to conflate social desirability with positive effects on fitness.” 

continued from: The Evolution of Personality Variation in Humans and animals by Daniel Nettle, Newcastle University in American Psychologist, 2006  Evolution and Behaviour Research Group, Division of Psychology, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle NE2 4HH, United Kingdom.

Human Personality Traits

The rest of this article follows the structure of the five factor model of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1985, 1992; Digman, 1990). Though the five broad factors, or domains, are decomposable into finer facets (Costa & McCrae, 1985) and certainly do not capture all the variation in human personality (Paunonen & Jackson, 2000), there is broad consensus that they are useful representations of the major axes of variation in human disposition (Digman, 1990). Following the considerations outlined in the previous section, I briefly examine the nature of each domain and consider the kinds of costs and benefits that increasing the level of the domain might have with respect to biological fitness. The reviews here are speculative, but they are offered in the hope of stimulating empirical work and of drawing psychologists’ attention to the idea that changing the level of a trait is associated with fitness costs as well as fitness benefits.

Extraversion

Note that many of the “negative risk factors” are actually admired and rewarded in American males: I would go so far as to say, that ‘extraversion’ is tailor-made permission for “boys to be boys” as defined culturally. In females, these same behaviors are viewed negatively. Also, my comments refer to the BIG 5 model, not to the author’s concepts. 

A dimension related to positive emotion, exploratory activity, and reward is a feature common to all personality frameworks and theories. Its most common label is extraversion, and its proximate basis is thought to involve variation in dopamine-mediated reward circuits in the brain (Depue & Collins, 1999). I have outlined a trade-offs-based evolutionary model for the maintenance of polymorphism in extraversion (Nettle, 2005). Extraversion is strongly and positively related to number of sexual partners (Heaven, Fitzpatrick, Craig, Kelly, & Sebar, 2000; Nettle, 2005), which, for men in particular, can increase fitness. High scorers are also more likely to engage in extrapair copulations or to terminate a relationship for another. This may lead to their securing mates of higher quality than those secured by individuals who are more constant in their choice of partners. The benefits of extraversion are not limited to mating, as extraverts, or those high on the closely correlated trait of sensation seeking, initiate more social behavior (Buchanan, Johnson, & Goldberg, 2005) and have more social support (Franken, Gibson, & Mohan, 1990) than others. Moreover, they are more physically active and undertake more exploration of their environment (Chen et al., 1999; Kircaldy, 1982). However, in pursuing high sexual diversity, and high levels of exploration and activity in general, extraverts also expose themselves to risk. Those who are hospitalized due to accident or illness are higher in extraversion than those who are not (Nettle, 2005), and those who suffer traumatic injury have been found to be high in sensation seeking (Field & O’Keefe, 2004). High extraversion or sensation seeking scorers also have elevated probabilities of migrating (Chen et al., 1999), becoming involved in criminal or antisocial behavior (Ellis, 1987), and being arrested (Samuels et al., 2004). All of these are sources of risk, risk that in the ancestral environment might have meant social ostracism or death. Moreover, because of their turnover of relationships, extraverts have an elevated probability of
exposing their offspring to step-parenting, which is a known risk factor for child well-being. One can thus conceive of extraversion as leading to benefits in terms of mating opportunities and exploration of novel aspects of the environment but carrying costs in terms of personal survival and possibly offspring welfare. It is unlikely that there will be a universal optimal position on this trade-off curve. Instead, local conditions, including the density and behavioral strategies of surrounding individuals, could lead to a constant fluctuation in the optimal value, and hence genetic polymorphism would be retained.

Neuroticism (Traditionally in psych / psych dogma, Neuroticism is by default the normal “female” condition.)

The neuroticism personality axis is associated with variation in the activity levels of negative emotion systems such as fear, sadness, anxiety, and guilt. The negative effects of neuroticism are well-known in the psychological literature. High neuroticism is a strong predictor of psychiatric disorder in general (Claridge & Davis, 2001), particularly depression and anxiety. Neuroticism is also associated with impaired physical health, presumably through chronic activation of stress mechanisms (Neeleman et al., 2002). Neuroticism is a predictor of relationship failure and social isolation (Kelly & Conley, 1987). A much more challenging issue, then, is finding any compensatory benefit to neuroticism. However, given the normal distribution observed in the human population, and the persistence of lineages demonstrably high in the trait, such a benefit seems likely. Studies in nonhuman animals, such as guppies (see the Evolution of Variation section), suggest that vigilance and wariness are both highly beneficial in avoiding predation and highly costly because they are quickly lost when predation pressure is absent. In ancestral environments, a level of neuroticism may have been necessary for avoidance of acute dangers. Anxiety, of which neuroticism can be considered a trait measure, enhances detection of threatening stimuli by speeding up the reaction to them, interpreting ambiguous stimuli as negative, and locking attention onto them (Mathews, Mackintosh, & Fulcher, 1997).

Because actual physical threats are generally attenuated in contemporary situations, (this is highly dependent on gender, race, socio-economic and class status and geographical location) the safety benefits of neuroticism may be hard to detect empirically. However, certain groups who take extreme risks, such as alpinists (mostly male?) (Goma-i-Freixanet, 1991) and Mount Everest climbers (Egan & Stelmack, 2003), have been found to be unusually low in neuroticism. Given the high mortality involved in such endeavors (around 300 people have died in attempting Everest), this finding suggests that neuroticism can be protective. There may also be other kinds of benefits to neuroticism. Neuroticism is positively correlated with competitiveness (Ross, Stewart, Mugge, & Fultz, 2001). McKenzie has shown that, among university students, academic success is strongly positively correlated with neuroticism among those who are resilient enough to cope with its effects (McKenzie, 1989; McKenzie, Taghavi-Knosary, & Tindell, 2000). Thus negative affect can be channeled into striving to better one’s position. However, here neuroticism certainly interacts with other factors. When intelligence or conscientiousness is high, for example, the outcomes of neuroticism may be significantly different than when such factors are low. Thus it is quite possible that very low neuroticism has fitness disadvantages in terms of lack of striving or hazard avoidance. Although very high neuroticism has evident drawbacks, it may also serve as a motivator to achievement in competitive fields among those equipped to succeed. Thus the optimal value of neuroticism would plausibly depend on precise local conditions and other attributes of the person, leading to the maintenance of polymorphism.

Openness

The trait of openness to experience again seems, at first blush, to be an unalloyed good. Openness is positively related to artistic creativity (McCrae, 1987). According to Miller’s (1999; 2000a) cultural courtship model, creative production in artistic domains serves to attract mates, and there is evidence that women find creativity attractive, (Again, we have the problem of just who is defining and judging what qualifies as “creative production”, a highly subjective culturally-dependent matter, often attributed in the U.S. to whatever/whomever makes a profit…) creative especially during the most fertile phase of the menstrual cycle (Haselton & Miller, 2006), and that poets and visual artists have higher numbers of sexual partners than controls (Nettle & Clegg, 2006). The core of openness seems to be a divergent cognitive style that seeks novelty and complexity and makes associations or mappings between apparently disparate domains (McCrae, 1987). Though such a cognitive style might appear purely beneficial, it is conceptually very similar to components of schizotypy, or proneness to psychosis (of course; creative types are “dangerous” in a rigid, impoverished culture of social conformity) (Green & Williams, 1999; Woody & Claridge, 1977). Indeed, five-factor Openness correlates positively with the Unusual Experiences scale of the Oxford–Liverpool Inventory for Feelings and Experiences schizotypy inventory (Mason, Claridge, & Jackson, 1995; Rawlings & Freeman, 1997). The Unusual Experiences scale is also correlated with measures of creativity (Nettle, in press-b; Schuldberg, 2000). Individuals scoring high in Unusual Experiences and on measures of creativity have increased levels of paranormal belief (McCreery & Claridge, 2002; Thalbourne, 2000; Thalbourne & Delin, 1994), and five-factor Openness itself is positively correlated with beliefs in the paranormal (Charlton, 2005). The Unusual Experiences trait is elevated in schizophrenia patients (Nettle, in press), and an extremely similar scale predicted the onset of schizophrenia in a longitudinal study (Chapman, Chapman, Kwapil, Eckblad,&Zinser,1994).Thus, openness and its covariates are associated with damaging psychotic and delusional phenomena as well as high function. Openness itself has been found to be associated with depression (Nowakowska, Strong, Santosa, Wang, & Ketter, 2005), as has a high score on the Unusual Experiences scale (Nettle, in press-b). Thus, the unusual thinking style characteristic of openness can lead to nonveridical ideas about the world, from supernatural or paranormal belief systems to the frank break with reality that is psychosis. What determines whether the outcome of openness is benign or pathological is not fully understood. It may be a simple matter of degree, or there may be interactions with developmental events. Poets, for example, differ from schizophrenia patients not in their Unusual Experiences scores, which are in the same range, but in the absence of negative symptoms such as anhedonia and social withdrawal (Nettle, in press-b).

And yet, we relentlessly promote creativity and “out of the box” thinking in American schools as social positives; are we actually promoting sexual promiscuity, schizophrenia, “Ancient Alien” “UFO” “Paranormal” delusion and psychotic behavior?

The Unusual Experiences trait is positively correlated with mating success in nonclinical populations, at least partly because it leads to creativity (Nettle & Clegg, 2006). However, when it leads to schizophrenia, reproductive success is much reduced (Avila et al., 2001; Bassett et al., 1996). Thus the fitness payoffs to openness appear to be very context or condition dependent, leading to the retention of variation.

Conscientiousness

The remaining two personality domains, conscientiousness and agreeableness, are often thought of as being unalloyed in their benefits, because they are generally negatively related to measures of delinquency and antisocial behavior (e.g. Heaven, 1996). However, it is important not to conflate social desirability with positive effects on fitness. Natural selection favors traits that increase reproductive success, including many cases in which this success comes at the expense of other individuals. It is likely that fitness can be enhanced by a capacity to demand a free ride, break rules, and cheat on others under certain circumstances. Conscientiousness involves orderliness and self-control in the pursuit of goals. A by-product of conscientiousness is that immediate gratification is often delayed in favor of a longer term plan. This leads, for example, to a positive association of conscientiousness with life expectancy (Friedman et al., 1995), which works through adoption of healthy behaviors and avoidance of unhygienic risks. Very high levels of traits related to conscientiousness —moral principle, perfectionism, and self-control—are found in patients with eating disorders and with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (Austin & Deary, 2000; Claridge & Davis, 2003).

Though some obsessional individuals can be very high achievers in the modern context, it is not evident that their fitness would always have been maximal in a variable and unpredictable ancestral environment. Their extreme self control not only may be damaging, as their routines become pathological, but may lead to the missing of spontaneous opportunities to enhance reproductive success. Highly conscientious individuals have fewer short-term mating episodes (Schmidt, 2004) and will forgo opportunities to take an immediate return that may be to their advantage. Adaptations that orient the organism toward working for long-term payoffs will tend to have the effect of reducing the opportunistic taking of immediate ones. This can have fitness costs and benefits, which will vary with local conditions.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness, with its correlates of empathy and trust, is also generally seen as beneficial by personality psychologists, and its absence is associated with antisocial personality disorder (Austin & Deary, 2000). Agreeableness is strongly correlated with Baron-Cohen’s empathizing scale (Nettle, in press-a), which is in turn argued to measure theory of mind abilities and the awareness of others’ mental states (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004). Several evolutionary psychologists have argued plausibly that as a highly social species, humans have been under strong selection to attend to and track the mental states of others (Byrne & Whiten, 1988; Dunbar, 1996; Humphrey, 1976). Others have noted that we seem to be unique among mammals in the extent of our cooperation with unrelated conspecifics. Inasmuch as agreeableness facilitates these interactions, it would be highly advantageous. Agreeable individuals have harmonious interpersonal interactions and avoid violence and interpersonal hostility (Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1996; Heaven, 1996; Suls, Martin, & David, 1998). They are much valued as friends and coalition partners. Although this may be true, a vast literature in theoretical biology has been devoted to demonstrating that unconditional trust of others is almost never an adaptive strategy. Across a wide variety of conditions, unconditional trusters are invariably outcompeted by defectors or by those whose trust is conditional or selective (see, e.g., Axelrod & Hamilton, 1981; Maynard-Smith, 1982; Trivers, 1971). Levels of aggression can often be selected for (Maynard-Smith, 1982). Very high agreeableness, if it led to an excessive attention to the needs and interests of others, or excessive trusting, would be detrimental to fitness. Among modern executives, agreeableness is negatively related to achieved remuneration and status (Boudreau, Boswell, & Judge, 2001), and creative accomplishment (as distinct from creative potential) is negatively related to agreeableness (King, Walker, & Broyles, 1996). Though it is an uncomfortable truth to recognize, it is unlikely that fitness is unconditionally maximized by investing energy in positive attention to others. Instead, though an empathic cognitive style may be useful in the whirl of social life, it may have costs in terms of exploitation or inattention to personal fitness gains.

Moreover, sociopaths, who are low in agreeableness, may at least sometimes do very well in terms of fitness, especially when they are rare in a population (Mealey, 1995). The balance of advantages between being agreeable and looking after personal interests will obviously vary enormously according to context. For example, in a small isolated group with a limited number of people to interact with and a need for common actions, high agreeableness may be selected for. Larger, looser social formations, or situations in which the environment allows solitary foraging, may select agreeableness downward.

Conclusions

This article has had several purposes. The first has been to stress that heritable variation is ubiquitous in wild populations and therefore should be expected as the normal outcome of evolutionary processes acting on human behavioral tendencies. Thus, personality variation can be understood in the context of a large literature, both theoretical and empirical, on variation in other species.

Second, I have suggested that a fruitful way of looking at variation is in terms of trade-offs of different fitness benefits and costs (summarized in Table 1 for the Big Five personality factors). Theories based on trade-offs have been very successful in providing an understanding of evolution in other species. Moreover, the idea of trade-offs can be usefully married to the notion of fluctuating selection to explain the persistence of diversity. Such accounts are not speculative. Studies such as those on great tits, guppies, finches, and sunfish (see the section on Evolution of Variation) have demonstrated how fluctuations in environmental context change the fitness outcomes associated with particular phenotypes, which in turn affects the future shape of the population through natural selection. Thus, researchers examining nonhuman variation have been able to go well beyond post hoc explanations and actually observe evolution in action. The current trade-off account builds on the ideas of MacDonald (1995), who argued that the observed range of variation represents the range of viable human behavioral strategies and who stressed that there are fitness disadvantages at the extremes. Thus, he stressed stabilizing selection. The present argument is that selection can fluctuate, such that it may sometimes be directional for increasing a trait and sometimes be directional for decreasing it. Among the great tits, for example, selection on exploration is clearly directional in any given year (Dingemanse et al., 2004). The retention of a normal distribution is a consequence of the inconsistency of the direction of selection, not its stabilizing form. That said, I agree with MacDonald that there could be quite general disadvantages at the extremes of some personality dimensions, such as chronic depression with high neuroticism, or obsessive–compulsive personality disorder with high conscientiousness. It is not a necessary feature of the current approach that there always be stabilizing effects. The other major difference between the current approach and that of MacDonald (1995) is that he did not fully develop the notion of trade-offs across the middle range of a continuum, and in particular, he did not develop empirical predictions for the nature of trade-offs for all the different five-factor dimensions. It is important to stress that trade-offs and fluctuating selection are not the only possible approaches to the maintenance of heritable variation. Biologists have also observed that there are a number of traits that are unidirectionally correlated with fitness and yet in which substantial heritable variation is maintained (Rowe & Houle, 1996). An example would be physical symmetry. In general, the more symmetrical an individual, the higher its fitness, and yet heritable variation in symmetry persists. The maintenance of variation in such cases appears paradoxical, because directional selection might be expected to home in on perfect symmetry and winnow out all variation. The solution to the paradox appears to be that such global traits as symmetry are affected by mutations to many, if not most, genes. Most mutations that arise are to some extent deleterious, so deviation from physical symmetry becomes an index of the load of mutations an individual is carrying.

Selection, particularly that operating via mate choice, favors symmetry, and thus individual deleterious mutations are winnowed from the population. However, so many genes are involved that there is a constant stream of new mutations maintaining population diversity. Thus, symmetry is a fitness indicator trait in that it is a reliable signal of genetic quality. Some heritable human traits may be better explained by fitness indicator theory than by trade-off theory. Miller (2000b), for example, has applied such reasoning to intelligence. Intelligence is correlated with physical symmetry, (reallsuggesting that it taps overall quality (Prokosch, Yeo, & Miller, 2005). Thus, a fitness indicator approach seems likely to be fruitful in such a case. For personality, however, I suggest that an evolutionary trade-off account is likely to be useful. This does not mean that all personality differences are to be explained by the same mechanism. There are likely to be developmental calibration effects, too, as indicated by behavior genetics data showing a role for the unique environment and also as suggested by recent studies on early life stress and adult behavior (Figueredo et al., 2005). However, for the heritable basis of personality, the combination of trade-off and genetic polymorphism seems a fruitful avenue to pursue. It might be objected that the particular costs and benefits put forward here are speculative and as such amount to just-so stories about how personality variation has arisen. The former is true; as for the latter, such a charge misunderstands the utility of adaptive explanation in psychology. The evolutionary framework used here is hypothesis generating. That is, an article such as this one, which draws on evolutionary biology, is not an end in itself but rather an engine for generating testable empirical ideas.

The particular costs and benefits listed here may not turn out to be the correct ones. However, the framework makes testable predictions that would not have been arrived at inductively. For extraversion, the hypothesis that high scorers will have greater numbers of sexual partners but more serious injuries has already been confirmed (Nettle, 2005). For neuroticism, the current framework makes the prediction that performance on certain types of perceptual monitoring tasks, such as detecting an artificial predator, will actually be improved by neuroticism. Because neuroticism impairs performance on many kinds of tasks, this is a novel prediction.

For openness, the model predicts that high scorers will either be socially successful through creative activity or be socially and culturally marginalized through bizarre beliefs, (who decides which beliefs are “bizarre beliefs? This is highly culturally and individually determined) and the determinants of which outcome prevails may depend on overall condition. This is a hypothesis that certainly merits further investigation (see Nettle & Clegg, 2006).

For conscientiousness, the model predicts that high scoring individuals might perform badly on tasks in which they have to respond spontaneously to changes in the affordances of the local environment, because they will be rigidly attached to previously defined goals. Finally, for agreeableness, the theory predicts that high scorers will avoid being victims of interpersonal conflict but may often emerge as suckers in games such as the public goods game and the iterated prisoner’s dilemma game, which are well studied by psychologists and in which the usual equilibrium is a mixture of cooperation and exploitation. Thus, the current framework should be seen not as a post hoc explanation of the past but as an engine of predictions about the consequences of dispositional variation in the present. Such consequences are a central explanatory concern of personality psychology, and as such, the evolutionary framework, with its emphasis on costs, benefits, and trade-offs, could be of great utility.

Herzog / Into the Inferno / Humans and Volcanoes

Go watch this on NETFLIX. “Odd” human behavior against the backdrop of spectacular volcanic forces. Don’t miss segment on north Korea…

Personal thoughts on anxiety in ASD / Asperger Types

My quest is to “untangle” the bizarre mess that “researchers” have created around ASD / Asperger’s symptoms and the “co-morbidity” of anxiety.

How difficult a question is this?

Is anxiety a “big problem” for individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s? If yes, then is it commonly “debilitating” in that it prevents the person from engaging in successful employment, satisfying relationships, and “freedom” to engage the environment by participating in activities that are important to their “happiness”?

And yet, what I encounter are articles, papers, and studies that focus on the argument over whether or not anxiety is part of ASD Asperger’s, the diagnosis, or a co-morbid condition. Anxiety, for “experts” has taken on the “power” of the Gordian knot! Honestly? This is the typical “point” at which an Asperger “looses it” and wants to simply declare that neurotypicals are idiots… but, I’m on a mission to help myself and my co-Aspergerg types to survive in social reality. We’re not going to find logical reality-based “answers” in psychology or even in neuroscience…we are on our own. 

So let’s look at anxiety, another of those words whose meaning and utility have been destroyed by neurotypical addiction to “over-generalization” and fear of specificity!

Over the past few months, I have experienced an increase in “sudden onset” panic attacks: it’s not as if I can’t assign a probable cause. The facts of my existence (age, health, financial problems) are enough to fill up and overflow whatever limit of tolerance that I can summon up each day. Severe (and sometimes debilitating) anxiety has been integral to my existence since at least age 3, which is the time of my first “remembered” meltdown. I can honestly say, that if it were not for “anxiety” manifesting as sudden meltdowns, panic attacks, “background radiation” and other physical  reactions, (who cares what they are labeled?), my life would have been far easier, with much more of my time and energy being available to “invest” in activities of choice, rather than surviving the unpredictable disruptions that I’ve had to work around. The fact that I’ve had an interesting, rich and “novel” existence, is thanks to maximizing the stable intervals between anxiety, distress, and exhaustion – and avoiding alien neurotypical social expectations and toxic environments as much as possible.

Here is a simple formula that I have followed:

Life among NTs is HELL. I deserve to “reserve” as much time as possible for my intrinsically satisfying interests; for pursuit of knowledge, experiences and activities that enable me to become as “authentic” to “whoever and whatever I am” as possible.

This realization came long, long before diagnosis, and I had to accept that a distinct possibility was that there was no “authentic me” and if there was, it might be a scary discovery. But, ever-present Asperger curiosity and dogged persistence would accept no other journey. It is important to realize, that Asperger or not, this type of “classic quest” has been going on in human lives for thousands of years, and for the most part has been in defiance of social disapproval (often regarded as a serious threat) by societies world-wide, which impose on individuals the carefully constructed catalogue of roles and biographies handed down from “on high”.

The point is that the choice to “go my own way” was “asking for it” – IT being endless shit (and the accompanying anxiety) dumped on human beings existing on all levels of the Social Pyramid, but especially directed toward any group or individual who is judged to be “antisocial” or inferior. I have encountered conflicts large and small, and was exposed to “human behavior” in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What I have confronted in “normdom” is the strange orientation of “experts” who ignore the contribution of environmental sources to hyperarousal, a physiological reaction to conditions in the environment. (Note: Fear, anxiety, and all the “emotion-words”  are merely the conscious verbal expression that infants and children ARE TAUGHT to utilize in social communication, and for social purposes) These words are not the physiological experience.

A feedback “loop” exists between the environment and the human sensory system.   The physiology of fear and anxiety is an ancient “alarm system” that promotes survival, but in the human behavior industry, anxiety has been “segregated” and  classified as a pathology – an utterly bizarre, irrational, and dangerous idea. The result is that “normal” human reactions and behavior, provided by millions of years of evolutionary processes, and which  PROTECT the individual, are now “forbidden” as “defects” in the organism itself. Social involvement and culpability are “denied” – responsibility for abuse of humans and animals by social activity is erased!

Social indoctrination: the use of media, advertising, marketing, political BS and constant “messaging” that presents “protective evolutionary alerts and reactions” (awareness of danger; physiological discomfort, stress and illness) are YOUR FAULT. You have a defective brain. It’s a lie.

Due to an entrenched system of social hierarchy (inequality), social humans continue to be determined to “wipe out” the human animal that evolved in nature, and replace it with a domesticated / manufactured / altered Homo sapiens that just like domesticated animals, will survive and reproduce in the most extreme and abusive conditions.

This “domestic” hypersocial human is today represented as the pinnacle of evolution.

Human predators (the 1 %  who occupy “power positions” at the top of the pyramid)merely want to ensure that the status quo is maintained, that is, the continued  exploitation of the  “observation” that domesticated humans will adapt to any abuse – and still serve the hierarchy. This “idea” also allows for the unconscionable torture and abuse of animals.

The “expert” assumption is that a normal, typical, socially desirable human, as defined by the “human behavior” priesthood, can endure any type and degree of torture, stress, abuse, both chronic or episodic, and come out of the experience UNCHANGED; undamaged and exploitable. Any variation from this behavioral prescription is proof of a person’s deviance, inferiority and weakness.

The most blatant example of this “attitude” is the epidemic of PTSD and suicide in soldiers returning from HELL in combat. Not that many wars ago, militaries literally “executed”  soldiers suffering from this “weakness, cowardice and treason” on the battlefield, or “exiled” them to asylums as subhuman and defective ‘mistakes”. Now we ship soldiers home who have suffered extreme trauma and “treat them” so badly, that suicide has become the only relief for many. Having the afflicted remove him or herself, rather than “murdering” them is considered to be compassionate progress.  

And my point is about relief: I concluded long ago that chronic and episodic “hyperarousal” must be treated immediately with whatever works; in my experience, that means medication. Despite limiting one’s “exposure” to toxic social environments, one cannot escape the damage done to human health and sanity.

Some relief can be had by employing activities and adjustments in thinking patterns, that often (usually by trial and error) can mitigate physical damage. But what we must remember is that anxiety, fear, distress and the “urge to flee” are healthy responses to horrible human environments. How many mass migrations of “refugees” are there at any time, with thousands, and even millions of people, seeking “new places” to live a life that is proper to a healthy human?

 

 

 

Exciting Paper / Enhanced Perception (Autism)

Royal Society Publishing
Note: I think this “pattern-structure perception” applies also to Asperger individuals who are visual sensory thinkers, but proficient in verbal language. That is, it’s not an “either or” situation in actual brains. (This “either or” insistence is NT projection of their black and white, oppositional, competitive obsession). Specific brains can and do process and sensory info and utilize verbal language; these are not “matter-antimatter” interactions as NTs imagine.  

Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity

Laurent Mottron, Michelle Dawson, Isabelle Soulières / .

Full paper: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1522/1385.long

5. Savant creativity: a different relationship to structure

Savant performance cannot be reduced to uniquely efficient rote memory skills (see Miller 1999, for a review), and encompasses not only the ability for strict recall, requiring pattern completion, but also the ability to produce creative, new material within the constraints of a previously integrated structure, i.e. the process of pattern generation. This creative, flexible, albeit structure-guided, aspect of savant productions has been clearly described (e.g. Pring 2008). It is analogous to what Miller (1999, p. 33) reported on error analyses in musical memory: ‘savants were more likely to impose structure in their renditions of musical fragments when it was absent in the original, producing renditions that, if anything, were less ‘literal’ than those of the comparison participants’. Pattern generation is also intrinsic to the account provided by Waterhouse (1988).

The question of how to produce creative results using perceptual mechanisms, including those considered low-level in non-autistics, is at the very centre of the debate on the relationship between the nature of the human factor referred to as intelligence and the specific cognitive and physiological mechanisms of savant syndrome (maths or memory, O’Connor & Hermelin 1984; rules or regularities, Hermelin & O’Connor 1986; implicit or explicit, O’Connor 1989; rhyme or reason, Nettlebeck 1999). It also echoes the questions raised by recent evidence of major discrepancies in the measurement of autistic intelligence according to the instruments used (Dawson et al. 2007).

A combination of multiple pattern completions at various scales could explain how a perceptual mechanism, apparently unable to produce novelty and abstraction in non-autistics, contributes in a unique way to autistic creativity. The atypically independent cognitive processes characteristic of autism allow for the parallel, non-strategic integration of patterns across multiple levels and scales, without information being lost owing to the automatic hierarchies governing information processing and limiting the role of perception in non-autistics. (Remember; in visual perception and memory the image is the content; therefore it is dense with detail and connections – “patterns”. NTs “fill-in” the gaps in their perception with “magical / supernatural” explanations for phenomena)

An interest in internal structure may also explain a specific, and new, interest for domains never before encountered. For example, a savant artist newly presented with the structure of visual tones learned this technique more rapidly and proficiently than typical students (Pring et al. 1997). In addition, the initial choice of domain of so-called restricted interest demonstrates the versatility of the autistic brain, in the sense that it represents spontaneous orientation towards, and mastering of, a new domain without external prompts or instruction. How many such domains are chosen would then depend on the free availability of the kinds, amounts and arrangements of information which define the structure of the domain, according to aspects of information that autistics process well. Generalization also occurs under these circumstances, for example, to materials that share with the initial material similar formal properties, i.e. those that allow ‘veridical mapping’ with the existing ability. In Pring & Hermelin (2002), a savant calendar calculator with absolute pitch displayed initial facility with basic number–letter associations, and was able to quickly learn new associations and provide novel manipulations of these letter–number correspondences.

The apparently ‘restricted’ aspects of restricted interests are at least partly related to pattern detection, in that there are positive emotions in the presence of material presenting a high level of internal structure, and a seeking out of material related in form and structure to what has already been encountered and memorized. Limitation of generalization may also be explained by the constraints inherent in the role of similarity in pattern detection, which would prevent an extension of isomorphisms to classes of elements that are excessively dissimilar to those composing the initial form. In any case, there is no reason why autistic perceptual experts would be any less firm, diligent or enthusiastic in their specific preferences for materials and domains than their non-autistic expert counterparts. However, it must also be acknowledged that the information autistics require in order to choose and generalize any given interest is likely to be atypical in many respects (in that this may not be the information that non-autistics would require), and may not be freely or at all available. In addition, the atypical ways in which autistics and savants learn well have attracted little interest and are as yet poorly studied and understood, such that we remain ignorant as to the best ways in which to teach these individuals (Dawson et al. 2008). Therefore, a failure to provide autistics or savants with the kinds of information and opportunities from which they can learn well must also be considered as explaining apparent limitations in the interests and abilities of savant and non-savant autistics (see also Heaton 2009).

6. Structure, emotion and expertise

While reliable information about the earliest development or manifestations of savant abilities in an individual is very sparse, biographies of some savants suggest a sequence starting with uninstructed, sometimes apparently passive, but intent and attentive (e.g. Horwitz et al. 1965; Selfe 1977; Sacks 1995) orientation to and study of their materials of interest. In keeping with our proposal about how savants perceive and integrate patterns, materials that spontaneously attract interest may be at any scale or level within a structure, including those that appear unsuitable for the individual’s apparent developmental level. For example, Paul, a 4-year-old autistic boy (with a presumed mental age of 17 months), who was found to have outstanding literacy, exceeding that of typical 9-year olds, intently studied newspapers starting before his second birthday (Atkin & Lorch 2006). It should not be surprising that in savants, the consistent or reliable availability of structured or formatted information and materials can influence the extent of the resulting ability. For example, the types of words easily memorized by NM, proper names, in addition to being redundant in Quebec, share a highly similar structural presentation in the context where NM learned them, including phone books, obituaries and grave markers (Mottron et al. 1996, 1998). However, a fuller account of why there is the initial attraction to and preference for materials with a high degree of intrinsic organization, and for specific kinds of such structured materials in any particular individual, is necessary.

Positive emotions are reported in connection with the performance of savant abilities (e.g. Selfe 1977; Sloboda et al. 1985; Miller 1989). Therefore, it is possible that a chance encounter with structured material gives birth to an autistic special interest, which then serves as the emotional anchor of the codes involved in savant abilities, associated with both positive emotions and a growing behavioural orientation towards similar patterns (Mercier et al. 2000). Brain structures involved in the processing of emotional content can be activated during attention to objects of special interest in autistics (Grelotti et al. 2005). So-called repetitive play in autism, associated with positive emotions, consists of grouping objects or information encompassing, as in the codes described above, series of similar or equivalent attributes. In addition, in our clinical experience, we observe that repetitive autistic movements are often associated with positive emotions.

One possibility worth further investigation would be that patterns in structured materials, in themselves, may trigger positive emotions in autism and that arbitrary alterations to these patterns may produce negative emotions (Yes! Stop f—ing with our interests!)—a cognitive account of the insistence on sameness with which autistics have been characterized from the outset (Kanner 1943). Individuals who excel in detecting, integrating and completing patterns at multiple levels and scales, as we propose is the case with savants, would have a commensurate sensitivity to anomalies within the full array of perceived similarities and regularities (e.g. O’Connell 1974). In Hermelin & O’Connor (1990), an autistic savant (with apparently very limited language skills) known for his numerical abilities, including factorization, but who had never been asked to identify prime numbers, instantly expressed—without words—his perfect understanding of this concept when first presented with a prime number. The superior ability of autistics to detect anomalies—departures from pattern or similarity—has accordingly been reported (e.g. Plaisted et al. 1998; Baron-Cohen 2005).

Overexposure to material highly loaded with internal structure plausibly favours implicit learning and storage of information units based on their perceptual similarity, and more generally, of expertise effects. Savants benefit from expertise effects to the same extent as non-autistic experts (Miller 1999). Among expertise effects is the recognition of units at a more specific level compared with non-experts and the suppression of negative interference effects among members of the same category. Reduced interference has been demonstrated between lists of proper names in a savant memorizer (Mottron et al. 1998). Another expertise effect is the ‘frequency effect’, the relative ease with which memorization and manipulation of units, to which an individual has been massively exposed, can be accomplished (Segui et al. 1982). For example, Heavey et al. (1999) found that calendar calculators recalled more calendar-related items than controls matched for age, verbal IQ and diagnosis, but exhibited unremarkable short- or long-term recall of more general material unrelated to calendars. These two aspects of expertise would favour the emergence and the stabilization of macrounits (e.g. written code in a specific language, or set of pitches arranged by harmonic rules), which are perceptually the spatio-temporal conjunctions of recognizable patterns related by isomorphisms. Conversely, pattern detection may be unremarkable or even diminished in the case of arbitrarily presented unfamiliar material (Frith 1970).

Identifying savant syndrome as aptitude, material availability and expertise, combined with an autistic brain characterized by EPF, is also informative on the relationship between savant syndrome and peaks of ability in non-savant autistics. Perceptual peaks are largely measured using materials with which the participant has not been trained, whereas savant syndrome encompasses the effects of a life spent pursuing the processing of specific information and materials. We therefore forward the possibility that the range and extent of autistic abilities may be revealed only following access to specific kinds, quantities and arrangements of information. However, we do not expect savant abilities to differ from non-savant autistic peaks of ability in their basic mechanisms. According to this understanding of differences between savant and non-savant autistics, the fact that not all autistics are savants is no more surprising than the fact that not all non-autistics are experts.

NTs fill-in the gaps in their perception of the environment with magical beliefs; magical thinking is a developmental stage in young children.  

What psychologists say: Stage by Stage, age 3 – 4

  • Threes and fours often use magical thinking to explain causes of events.
  • Preschoolers sometimes assign their own thinking as a reason for occurrences that are actually out of their control.
  • Three- and 4-year-olds believe, with their powers of magical thinking, that they can change reality into anything they wish.

How to Exterminate Aboriginal Peoples / Re-Post

The idiotic European belief that dressing up indigenous people in "white" clothing will magically convert them into being "tame" or "domesticated."

The idiotic European belief that dressing up indigenous people in “white” clothing will magically convert them into being “tame” or “domesticated.” This same magical belief inspires the crazy idea that training Asperger children to mimic social behavior will make them acceptable to Neurotypicals. 

The extinction of aboriginal Tasmanians by Europeans is a believable model for the disappearance of many native populations worldwide.

I want to focus on a cause or strategy that we tend not to think about – the gender-based behavior that modern social humans follow when encountering indigenous populations.

The extinction of full-blooded Tasmanians is a seriously contentious topic and I’m not taking sides in the “who killed how many” debate. People take sides, of course, blaming imported diseases or the Christian need to rescue savages from barbarism and sin, or simple racist indifference – the conclusion is a terrible cliché. Aboriginal peoples disappeared because they were inferior to white people. Some insist that no ill-treatment on the part of white people occurred. All of these are truly dishonorable “weasel”  excuses.

We hear the claim of Homo sapiens superiority (white Europeans) also in the persistent belief that Neanderthals “failed” because they couldn’t compete; in a pseudo-Darwinian sense “they had to die.” 

Imported disease is the explanation given the most credit for aboriginal deaths, since it confers the absence of intent on the part of invading Europeans: The bringers of death turn out to be “victims of disease and therefore Good Christians after all.

Few quantitative records exist for death by disease events, and the estimates given for percentage of population lost in any given European – Native encounter are as flexible as the person writing an account needs them to be. In fact, we have very little data about the history of indigenous peoples, because the white people who triggered their demise thanked God for their disappearance. Unless the natives were suitable for enslavement, childbearing and forced labor, they were eliminated.

_____general information: Tasmanian

Tasmanian, any member of the extinct Australoid population of Tasmania. The Tasmanians were an isolate population of Aboriginal Australians, not a separate or distinctive population, who were cut off from the mainland when a general rise in the sea level flooded the Bass Strait about 10,000 years ago. Their population upon the arrival of European explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries has been estimated at about 4,000. They were a relatively short people, with generally Australoid physical characteristics. The Tasmanians spoke languages that were unintelligible to mainland Aborigines.
The island was divided among several tribes speaking different dialects, each with a delimited hunting territory. Subsistence was based on hunting land and sea mammals and collecting shellfish and vegetable food. In warm months the Tasmanians moved through the open forest and moorlands of the interior in bands or family groups of 15 to 50 people; in colder months they moved to the coast. Occasionally, bands gathered together for a corroboree (a dance celebrating important events), a hunt, or for protection against attack.Wooden spears, waddies (clubs, or throwing sticks), and flaked-stone tools and weapons were produced. Bone implements, basketry, and bark canoes for coastal travel were also made. A few rock carvings depicting natural objects and conventionalized symbols have survived.

The first permanent white settlement was made in Tasmania in 1803; in 1804 an unprovoked attack by whites on a group of Tasmanians was the first episode in the Black War. The whites treated the Aborigines as subhumans, seizing their hunting grounds, depleting their food supply, attacking the women, and killing the men. Tasmanian attempts to resist were met with the superior weaponry and force of the Europeans. Between 1831 and 1835, in a final effort at conciliation and to prevent the extermination of the approximately 200 remaining Tasmanians, the Aborigines were removed to Flinders Island. Their social organization and traditional way of life destroyed, subjected to alien disease and attempts to “civilize” them, they soon died. Truganini (d. 1876), a Tasmanian woman who aided the resettlement on Flinders Island, was the last full-blooded Aborigine in Tasmania. Another Tasmanian woman is said to have survived on Kangaroo Island in South Australia until 1888.

Gender Strategy to come, next post…

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How to Exterminate Aboriginal Peoples, cont. / Reproductive Elimination

 

From: National Library of Australia 1866 Photograph "Aborigines of Tasmania: William Lanney, Coal River Tribe, 26 year. Lallah Rookh, or Truganini (Seaweed), female, Bruni (i.e. Bruny) Island Tribe, 65 year.

From: National Library of Australia 1866 Photograph “Aborigines of Tasmania: William Lanney, Coal River Tribe, 26 year. Lallah Rookh, or Truganini (Seaweed), female, Bruni (i.e. Bruny) Island Tribe, 65 year. Truganini died in the mid-1870s. She is believed to be the last Aboriginal Tasmanian.

The Process of DOMESTICATION:

How to wipe out an indigenous population, subculture, ethnic group, wild population, or wild species.

As is usual among social humans, there is bitter conflict over “who is right” concerning the history of European – Tasmanian conflict. I could not care less about these social battles; arguments are not about the facts, but about who “owns” history. What does interest me is a pattern of “knocking off” small populations of wild humans, by the reduction of females allowed to reproduce with “wild males.” This pattern applies to the collision of peoples and cultures, in which one is powerful, numerous and RUTHLESS and the other is an indigenous population sheltered by geography from contact with human predators for hundreds to thousands of years. This process has been repeated countless times around the globe.

The Pattern:

locationJPG Bassian_Plain

TIMELINE

1790-ish: British and Americans arrive to hunt seals in the Bass Strait.

1800-ish Seal hunters are dropped off on uninhabited islands in Bass Strait, staying November to May, the seal hunting season. Sealers establish camps on islands close to Tasmania and make contact with Aboriginal Tasmanians, who had been isolated from their origins in Australia for 8 – 10,000 years.

Trade develops – Tasmanians want dogs & food items; sealers trade for kangaroo hides. No surprise – a trade in Aboriginal Tasmanian women developed: women were excellent seal and bird hunters. Some women were purchased outright, others were “gifts.” Some sealers raided coastal Aboriginal settlements and abducted women.

Each seal hunter “required” 4-5 women to work for him as hunters. The women were marooned on uninhabited islands, and if not enough seals had been killed by the time the sealer returned, the women were brutally beaten and “stubborn” ones killed. 

By 1810 the seal population was severely reduced and the hunters moved on; some remained with Aboriginal women they had “married.” Children of these mixed European / Aboriginal reproductions survived while native children stopped being conceived.  

Tales are remembered of women who “went rogue,” attacking and killing the sealers because of the brutality they suffered. Female slaves became a force against white authority and fought in conflicts. Women who fought back, resisted enslavement, or proved too difficult to be “domesticated” were eliminated.

After mere decades the number of Aboriginal Tasmanian women declined: it is reported that by 1830 only 3 Aboriginal women remained in northeast Tasmania, along with 72 men. This lack of females made it impossible for Aboriginal Tasmanians to reproduce in enough numbers to survive as a distinct and original population.

Domestication depends on juvenalization (neoteny) – a brutal, but simple, process. Select “tame” females for reproductive use: Childlike traits of obedience, passivity, and easy manipulation and handling are valued by “captors” just as tame traits are valued in the selection of wild animals for domestication. 

The idiotic European belief that dressing up indigenous people in "white" clothing will magically convert them into being "tame" or "domesticated."

The idiotic European belief that dressing up indigenous people in “white” clothing will magically convert them into being “tame” or “domesticated.”

Truganini ca. 1812-1875 Her life and image have been exploited, similar to freaks in a carnival or the head of a trophy animal hung on the wall.

Truganini ca. 1812-1875
Her life and image have been exploited, like a freak in a carnival sideshow or like the head of a trophy animal hung on the wall.

 

___Article by: Aaron Greenville and Paddy Pallin

____________________________________________Will we hunt dingoes to the brink like the Tasmanian tiger?

A dead dingo in 2013 (left) and a Tasmanian tiger, last seen in the wild in 1932. Dingo photography by Aaron Greenville; a hunted thylacine in 1869, photographer unknown.

The last Tasmanian tiger died a lonely death in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, just 59 days after new state laws aimed at protecting it from extinction were passed in parliament. But the warning bells about its likely demise had been pealing for several decades before that protection came too late – and today we’re making many of the same deadly mistakes, only now it’s with dingoes. Earlier this month the Queensland government announced it would make it easier for farmers to put out poison baits for “wild dogs”. In Victoria, similar measures have already been taken. Lethal methods of control have lethal consequences. It is time to rethink our approach in how we manage our wild predators.

______________________________________________

A deadly history lesson

(A familiar impasse to those of us in Wyoming who want the Wolf to retain its natural status as top predator in our state versus cattle and sheep ranchers who demonstrate a pathological fury against the wolf and want it exterminated (again.)

________________________________________________

Commonly known as Tasmanian tigers because of their striped backs, thylacines were hunted due to the species alleged damage they were doing to the sheep industry in the state. However, the thylacine’s actual impact on the industry was likely to have been small.

Instead, the species was made a scapegoat for poor management and the harshness of the Tasmanian environment, as early Europeans struggled implementing foreign farming practises to the new world.

The tiger [thylacine]… received a very bad character in the Assembly yesterday; in fact, there appeared not to be one redeeming point in this animal. It was described as cowardly, as stealing down on the sheep in the night and want only killing many more than it could eat… All sheep owners in the House agreed that “something should be done,” as it was asserted that the tigers have largely increased of late years. – The Mercury, October 1886.

More than a century later, and it’s now the dingo in the firing line.

Since 1990, the number of sheep shorn in Queensland has crashed 92 per cent, from over 21 million to less than 2 million. Although there have been rises and falls in the wool price and droughts have come and gone, it’s the dingoes that have been the last straw.ABC Radio National, May 2013

An ancient predator vs modern farmers

Producing sheep is an incredibly tough business, with droughts, international competition and volatile markets for wool and meat – mostly factors that are well beyond the control of an individual farmer.

Dingoes are seen as one of the few threats to livelihood that producers can fight back against. As a result, the dingo has experienced a severe range contraction since European settlement and there is mounting pressure to remove the dingo from the wild, despite dingoes calling Australia home for 4000 years.

Dingoes are now rare or absent across half of Australia due to intense control measures. While they are more common in other areas, we have seen how species populations can collapse quickly. For example, bounty records from Tasmania showed the thylacine population suddenly crashed in 1904-1910 due to hunting pressure from humans.

Will the dingo’s demise be like that of the thylacine? We simply do not know, but the social conditions and a rapidly changing environment mirror the story of the thylacine.

 

Down and Dirty Primitive Hunting Technology / Videos

HUNGER: The prime motivator of human behavior and technology. Primitive tools compensate for “puny human” lack of claws, reduced olfactory sense, and other assets possessed by the competition: other hungry animals, including many much smaller than humans, had superior strength, speed, meat-or tough vegetation-tearing teeth (cooking required), protective fur, athletic ability, specialized body parts and instinctive tactics. Early humans HAD TO develop tools!

Our type of brain most likely developed as a “tool” that compensated for (and competed with) the “equipment” of other animals in particular environments. The brain as technology – think about it! LOL

Paper / Climate Effects on Birds and Mammals (That’s Us)

Despite persistent belief, both inside and outside the supposed “science / religion” boundary, that humans are “a special supernatural creation,” and therefore require magical and murky socio-supernatural explanations for our behavior, we are animals. Thanks to the work of “animal scientists” we do have access to REAL information about Homo sapiens: mammal, primate, ape. Via papers such as this, we can understand how physical parameters (not manmade social constructs) drive physiology and behavior in Homo sapiens, just as in any other mammal.   

Calculating Climate Effects on Birds and Mammals: Impacts on Biodiversity, Conservation, Population Parameters, and Global Community Structure

https://academic.oup.com/icb/article/40/4/597/101662

Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 40, Issue 4, 1 August 2000, Pages 597–630, https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/40.4.597

INTRODUCTION

A brief history

Ever since the era of Charles Darwin biologists have been intrigued by how and why animals live where they do and what is it about their properties that makes them appear where they do, and appear in the species associations that they form. Hutchinson (1959) defined the concept of the niche. MacArthur et al. (1966), Roughgarden (1974) and many others explored aspects of how size and habitat may influence community structure. Norris (1967) and Bartlett and Gates (1967) were the first to calculate explicitly how climate affects animal heat and mass balance and the consequences for body temperature in outdoor environments. The climate space concept emerged from steady state heat and mass balance calculations and was used to explore how climates might constrain animal survival outdoors (Porter and Gates, 1969).

Those early animal models of the 1960s were limited by the lack of models for distributed heat generation internally, distributed evaporative water loss internally, and a first principles model of gut function. Batch reactor, plug flow and other models were already in existence in the chemical engineering literature (Bird et al., 1960) and it would take time for the biological community to rediscover them. Also missing were a first principles model of porous insulation for fur or feathers, an appendage model, and a general microclimate model that could use local macroclimate data to calculate the range of local microenvironments above and below ground. It became possible to estimate convection heat transfer properties knowing only the volume of an animal (Mitchell, 1976). Another useful development was the appearance of a countercurrent heat exchange model for appendages (Mitchell and Myers, 1968) and the measurement of heat transfer characteristics from animal appendage shapes (Wathen et al., 1971, 1974). It also became possible to deal with outdoor turbulence effects on convective heat transport (Kowalski and Mitchell, 1976). A general-purpose microclimate model emerged in the early 1970s (Beckman et al., 1971; Porter et al., 1973; Mitchell et al., 1975) that calculated above and below ground microclimates. The ability to deal with local environmental heterogeneity and calculate percent of thermally available habitat came later (Grant and Porter, 1992). Over time general-purpose conduction–radiation porous media models for fur appeared in the biological literature (Kowalski, 1978) and it became possible to refine and test them in a variety of habitats and on many species (Porter et al., 1994). The extension of the models to radial instead of Cartesian coordinates and the implementation of first principles fluid mechanics in the porous media (Stewart et al., 1993; Budaraju et al., 1994, 1997) added important new dimensions to the models, which could now calculate temperature and velocity profiles and therefore heat and mass transfer within the fur from basic principles. A test of the ectotherm and microclimate models to estimate a species’ survivorship, growth and reproduction at a continental scale appeared in the mid 1990s (Adolph and Porter, 1993, 1996).

Thanks to these developments and the ones reported in this paper, such as the temperature dependent behavior linked to the new thermoregulatory model, it is now possible to ask: “How does climate affect individual animals’ temperature dependent behavior and physiology and what role(s) does it play in population dynamics and community structure?” This paper attempts to address some of these questions.

We approach the problem from the perspective of a combination of heat and mass transfer engineering and specific aspects of morphology, physiology and temperature dependent behavior of individuals. We show how this interactive combination is essential to calculate preferred activity time that minimizes size specific heat/water stress.

Preferred activity time is a key link between individual energetics and population level variables of survivorship, growth and reproduction, since it impacts all three population variables. Both individual and population level effects may place constraints on community structure. At the individual level, climate at any given time and food type and quality affect the optimal body size that maximizes discretionary mass and energy, the resources needed for growth and reproduction. Climate also affects community structure by affecting individual survivorship directly (heat balance/metabolic costs) and indirectly (activity time overlap of predator and prey). Climate affects seasonal food availability, distribution of food in space and time, and the cost of foraging for that food at different times during a day. Survivorship is affected by temperature dependent behavior changes that allow animals to move to less costly microenvironments at any time. For small mammals, underground burrows or under snow tunnels provide temperatures that never stay below 0°C due to local heating effects of the animal’s metabolic heat production.

At the population level,climate plays a very important role in population numbers. Each species interacts in its own way with climate, affecting its abundance, and community structure. As Ives et al. (1999 p. 546) have pointed out

Our main result is that interspecific competition and species number have little influence on community-level variances; the variance in total community biomass depends only on how species respond to environmental fluctuations. This contrasts with arguments (Tilman and Downing, 1994; Lawton and Brown, 1993) that interspecific competition may decrease community-level variances by driving negative covariances between species abundances. We show that negative covariances are counteracted by increased species-level variances created by interspecific competition.

Consequently, assessing the effect of biodiversity on community variability should emphasize species-environment interactions and differences in species’ sensitivities to environmental fluctuations (for example, drought-tolerant species and phosphorus-limited species) (McNaughton, 1977, 1985; Frost et al., 1994). Competitive interactions are relatively unimportant except through their effects on mean abundances. We have focused on competitive communities, because much current experimental work has addressed competition among plants. Nonetheless, the same results can be shown to hold for more complex models with multiple trophic levels.

Exactly how climate variation, vegetation differences, animal morphology, and foraging behavior all interact to constrain multiple functional types’ existence as a community is still largely unknown. Very little is known about temperature dependent foraging in mammals, although this has been well studied in reptiles and insects. Quantitative consequences of functional morphology on encounter probability and food handling time also are relatively unexplored as yet in mammals.

Temporal climate variation in a locality creates the opportunity for multiple optimal body sizes over annual cycles. The spatial local variation in topography and vegetation creates multiple local climates. Thus temporal and spatial variation in climate creates opportunities for multiple functional types (sizes) to coexist as communities, because as we shall see below, different body sizes interact differently with climate. Qualitatively, this idea is not new. However with likely major shifts in global climates and the rapid global changes in land use, there is urgent need to move these qualitative ideas to a quantitative framework for protection of biodiversity, conservation biology, and a number of other applications. We focus in this paper on applications to mammals and birds.

An overview of this paper

The structure of the paper begins with an overview of how macroclimate drives microclimates, which in turn impact individual animal properties. We then show how key individual properties determine population level parameters that can be used to calculate population dynamics variables. We then illustrate how individual properties also impact on community structure, that in turn feed back to temperature dependent animal properties of individuals.

The initial overview provides a context for an analysis of the model components and their interactions in hierarchical contexts. We start with the model components from the core to the skin, then from the skin through the insulation to the environment. We demonstrate how these components collectively can define the metabolic cost to mammals ranging in size from mice to elephants. We show how the empirical mouse-to-elephant metabolic regression line for animals of different sizes changes depending upon the animal’s climate and posture.

Then we explore how changing mammal body size affects discretionary energy across all climates. Once the mammal model is explored, we repeat the process for the bird model. We demonstrate how we can estimate metabolic cost across bird sizes ranging from hummingbirds to ostriches. We show how postural changes and air temperature can alter metabolic cost estimates for birds.

Once sensitivity analyses are completed, we explore how temporal and spatial variation in global climate impact body size dependent discretionary energy assuming no food limitation and thereby place constraints on the potential combinations of body sizes (community structure) of mammals at the global scale.

Finally, we show how these models can be applied to estimate for the first time from basic principles the metabolic costs and food requirements of an endangered species of bird, the Orange-bellied Parrot of Tasmania and Australia. We show these results for body sizes ranging from hatchling to fully mature adult for a wide range of environmental conditions.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

(go to original paper for text and figures; topics and some sample text follow) 

Survivorship (mortality) probability/hour

Growth and reproduction potential

Different sizes of animals

Model cross section

Inside the body

Heat generation models

Respiration

Temperature regulation model

The gut

Temperature dependent feeding

Porous insulation

Fur vs. feathers

Finite elements and flow through the fur

Appendages

Modeling an individual

Internal body temperature profiles

The insulation

Flow at very low wind

Scaling across mammal body sizes

Mouse to elephant metabolic rate

Mouse to elephant discretionary energy uptake

Diet effects on optimal body size

Bergmann’s Rule

These results are reminiscent of Bergmann’s rule, an empirical observation that as climates get colder, animal sizes tend to get larger. Body size increases with decreasing temperature provide the greatest advantage at small size (Steudel et al., 1994). At larger body sizes, changes in fur insulation confer a greater advantage Steudel et al., 1994). Experimental data from different types of fur on a flat plate (Scholander et al., 1950) suggested this, but animals of larger size also have thicker boundary layers. A thicker boundary layer reduces convective heat loss and simultaneously enhances radiation temperature effects (Porter and Gates, 1969). Larger animals are taller, which means exposure to greater wind speeds higher above the ground. Higher wind speed reduces boundary layer thickness and may engender greater wind penetration of the fur. A first principles fur model can separate boundary layer effects due to size and wind from fur properties effects and provide better estimates of combined effects.

Assessment of consequences of Bergmann’s rule have pointed out that larger animals have the advantage of longer fasting ability under conditions of climate or food availability stress (Morrison, 1960). However, smaller animals have the advantage of lowering body temperature and seeking much more favorable microclimates, especially underground habits in severe cold. Careful transient modeling analyses of these two strategies in the animals’ microclimates would yield a testable hypothesis of the relative benefits of these different solutions to the same problem of dealing with cold.

Of course, survival in extreme temperature events is also important in affecting community structure. However, extreme temperature survival may be overrated in terms of its effects on community structure, at least for mammals. Temperature dependent behavior and selection of microhabitats by both small and large animals can greatly reduce cold or heat stress. For example, moving under or into trees and modifying the solar and infrared radiation and wind protection they provide can change equivalent local microenvironment temperatures by 20°C or more. Underground burrows or tunneling beneath the snow can provide habitats that typically do not drop below 0°C in winter when an animal is present, due to local heat from metabolism. Photoperiod-induced temperature dependent physiology, such as hibernation or estivation is another way that mammals can persist in habitats during periods of extreme heat or cold stress and thereby maintain community structure. Birds typically opt to migrate from extremely cold habitats in winter that they occupy in the summer. By exercising temperature dependent behavioral selection of microclimates through migration, the scale of their selection movements is simply larger due to the short time and lower costs of long distance bird transport.

Scaling across bird body size

Hummingbird to ostrich metabolic rates—Air temperature effect

Global communities-climatic constraints

Figure 16 shows temporal and spatial variation in optimal body size based on discretionary mass/energy for mammals for the months of January and July on a global scale. In January (winter) in the Northern Hemisphere, the optimal sizes are larger as one moves north. Large topographic features, such as the Rocky Mountains, are also predicted to have larger animals with their optima. In the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, topographic features do not stand out as strongly.

In July (winter) in the Southern Hemisphere there is somewhat of a “mirror image” effect on optimal body size. However, different topographic and latitudinal features create somewhat different patterns. In general, though, the model suggests that larger animals have the advantage. In the Northern Hemisphere at the same time smaller animals should have the advantage. Large topographic features like the Tibetan plateau with its cool weather in summer still show up fairly clearly as affecting optimal body size. For clarity, variation in vegetation type and food quality were not included in these graphs.

The criteria for optimization were maximum discretionary energy uptake for a given temperature at all possible body sizes. This figure was generated from the endotherm model driven by global weather data at half-degree intervals in latitude and longitude.

The map of optimal body size is different at different seasons of the year. This suggests that climate places important constraints on what functional types can coexist in a locality. Because the environment is constantly changing, it creates a constantly changing optimal body size in any locality. Changing environments create the opportunity for multiple functional types to coexist in the same area.

What is unknown at present is over what time intervals does natural selection integrate time and environmental conditions to “choose” body size? Figure 16 represents the beginnings of the effort to understand climatic constraints on community structure from basic principles. The vegetation on the landscape is certainly a very important variable that will modify the current version of the model. The spatial and temporal distribution of available food places important additional constraints on optimal body size. These constraints include encounter probabilities, handling time, food energy value and metabolic cost to get to the food. Three of these variables are related to body size and the “packaging” and “distribution” of food on the landscape. It is clear that this construct can also be applied to species of birds to study migratory patterns and other aspects of bird ecology.

It is important to note, as one reviewer did, that “evolution may select less for optima under average daily climate cycles and more for adaptations that increase survivorship during winnowing events. At any given time a population may consist of individuals with below or above optimal body sizes, should recent history include high mortality linked to extreme climate, with availability, or predation.” These important considerations have not been added to these models yet.

Conservation application: The Orange-bellied Parrot, Neophema chrysogaster

Ontogeny of metabolic costs

DISCUSSION

Surrogates for size in modeling metabolism

Body weight is a surrogate for body radius. Posture is a surrogate for body geometry. Empirical metabolism data collected since the time of Benedict in the 1930s have related metabolic heat production to body mass. However, mass is only one of the variables that drive metabolic heat production. A key variable is the radius of the trunk of the animal, which is in turn a function of the posture. Most of the analyses of metabolic scaling in the literature that we know ignore this important aspect. Furthermore, the role of a variety of environmental variables and different types of porous insulation in modifying metabolic demand have not been predictable because of the lack of reliable quantitative models.

However, our new animal models and the microclimate model that links them to macroclimate data have changed the outlook for understanding the quantitative relationships of these variables. Fortunately, there have been some careful experiments on endotherm heat loss in wind tunnels with solar radiation. They make it possible to test these models in much more realistic settings than metabolic chambers (Bakken, 1991; Bakken and Lee, 1992; Bakken et al., 1991; Hayes and Gessaman, 1980, 1982; Rogowitz and Gessaman, 1990; Walsberg, 1988a, b, c; Walsberg and Wolf, 1995).

Climate/body size effects on biodiversity

Body size affects discretionary mass and energy intake. Growth and reproduction potential affects fitness. As Figures 11 through 15 demonstrate, body size has important impacts through geometric form and radial dimensions on energy expenditure and intake. The surrogate for these primary variables is body weight (mass). We have pointed out here how air and radiant temperature and posture can make important modifications in energy cost in different environments. These energy costs are not linear with body size. Heat transfer mechanisms are not all linear with body size and neither are temperature regulation responses. Scaling of the gut is not linear with body size, either (Calder, 1984). The combinations of these nonlinear functions result in calculations that suggest discontinuous optimal body size with temperature. This is consistent with empirical data (Brown et al., 1993; Brown and Maurer, 1987; Brown and Nicoletto, 1991; Holling, 1992; Maurer et al., 1992; Peterson et al., 1998). However, there is an important reanalysis questioning these empirical results (Siemann and Brown, 1999). Our results of climate/body size/gut modeling suggest that whether or not animal sizes are clumped in nature may depend on the digestive efficiencies of foods consumed and the locations of those foods. High quality foods suggest greater clumping, low quality foods suggest very little in the way of body size clumping (Fig. 13a–d).

Body size effects on cost of foraging: temperature dependent foraging/activity time

Body size has multiple effects on cost of foraging. It affects heat and mass balance (Figs. 12, 13, 15, and 16). Body size affects cost of locomotion, which is constrained by the respiratory and mitochondrial systems of animals, as Taylor and his colleagues have so eloquently demonstrated (Mathieu et al., 1981; Taylor et al., 1982; Weibel et al., 1991). Their studies interface very nicely with recent work on animal scaling (Enquist et al., 1998; West et al., 1997, 1999).

The work presented here explains that changes in boundary conditions, such as environmental constraints on heat and mass exchange, alter fluxes and therefore alter internal scaling requirements that must adapt to changing needs. Thus, we suggest that temperature dependent behavior may be an important response to environmental change that tends to keep the organism as close as possible to optimal function as dictated by its internal and external anatomy, thereby maximizing fitness.

Body size determines whether a species can be fossorial or not, which affects diurnal microclimates and heat and mass balances. Body size affects likelihood of predation, which can be cast as a cost of foraging (Brown et al., 1994). Body size affects competition, which alters temperature-dependent activity time, which also affects cost of foraging.

Body size effects on total annual activity time

Body size effects on total annual activity time are mediated through heat and mass exchange with the environment. The onset of heat or cold stress appears to be an important constraint in limiting activity. That is, temperatures that force skin temperatures below 3°C or conditions where evaporative water loss must be elevated to protect organism integrity are bounds on activity time that impact animal fitness.

The boundary layer thickness in the air next to the animal surface constrains mass and heat transfer from an animal. Boundary layer thickness is a function of the friction between the animal surface and the air. The amount of friction depends on the dimension of the animal, fluid and animal speed relative to each other, and fluid properties of density, viscosity and thermal conductivity. On the one hand small animals have thin boundary layers and are more responsive to convective environments than to radiant heat exchange (Porter and Gates, 1969). On the other hand, large animals have thicker boundary layers and are more sensitive to the diurnal changes in infrared radiation and solar radiation fluxes in the environment. For large animals, absorption of radiant energy is a much greater challenge, since cooling by convective heat transfer is diminished because of the thicker insulating boundary layer around the larger animal.

Body size affects competitive success, hence temperature-dependent behavior including habitat utilization, which impacts on total annual activity time.

Vegetation/body size effects on biodiversity

Vegetation modifies microclimate conditions available to animals in predictable ways. Animal body size determines where animals spend their time in the wind patterns near the ground. Figure 16 is based on empirical climate data. Those empirical data reflect how vegetation may modify local microclimates. Vegetation also affects animal energetics either by direct shading of the animals or by providing cool surfaces that radiate back to animals. Thus, by directly and indirectly affecting the animal heat fluxes, vegetation impacts optimal body size and constrains functional types that might coexist in a community.

The distribution and quality of food in space and time changes in an annual cycle. Animal food encounter probabilities, and food handling time are consequences of vegetation structure and type. The calculations used in Figure 16 do not yet incorporate various possible distributions of food of various types in the environment. Diverse food distributions have not yet been explored using our models. Food encounter probabilities and handling times, which are a key part of food intake, are only beginning to be explored. The different food types, sizes and spacing also place important constraints on the range of body sizes of animals, which can efficiently utilize them.

Body size, cost of locomotion, and home range size are also interconnected. Home range size must be a function of body size, cost of locomotion, and the foraging thermal and vegetative environment. The minimum time and cost to forage for a particular type, distribution and size of food should be calculable for a broad range of body sizes and environments.

Feathers and plumage

When we watch the development of feathers through the ontogeny of a bird, it is apparent that the down structure is very much like the extremely dense fur of some mammals. Both types of fibers emerge from single openings in the skin as multiple fibers and then “fan out” in three dimensions as multiple fibers as they grow. In so doing they extend the layer of still air above the skin (and in the insulation) substantially. The second stage of plumage development with the eruption of feathers that tend to seal off air flow even further from the skin is unique in its efficiency of cross linking elements to hold complex units together and seal out air flow. The only fur that seems even closely comparable is that of the snowshoe hare that has fur tips that are flattened like tiny shovels (Porter, unpublished data). These structures probably assist in minimizing air and snow penetration into the coat.

The restriction of feather tracts to portions of a bird’s skin provide for flexibility in opening up skin areas to much more rapid heat transfer is also unique to birds. Some mammals like polar bears have inguinal regions that are highly vascularized and lightly furred. Polar bears sometimes apply them to the snow to dissipate heat, but mammals, unlike birds, have not evolved the ability to open large areas of nearly bare skin to dissipate or absorb heat.

CONCLUSIONS

1. Temporal and spatial variation in physical environments impose important constraints on functional types of animals that can coexist in biological communities. These constraints are further refined locally by food diversity representing different digestive qualities.

2. Morphology, physiology, and temperature-dependent activity in animals link individual energetics to population dynamics and community structure by specifying total annual activity time and mass/energy available for growth and reproduction.

3. Porous insulation in birds at rest can be modeled with current state-of-the-art fur models. Resting birds have feather positions that tend to seal off convective transport. This creates a conduction–radiation heat transfer environment. This is simpler to calculate than an environment where three heat transfer mechanisms are all important.

4. Posture plays an important role in metabolic heat loss. This is true mainly because posture affects the radial dimension of the animal, which is a key variable in the equation governing an animal’s total heat generation requirements. Posture is typically ignored in metabolic chamber metabolism studies. The model presented here allows the calculation of the upper and lower limits of metabolic expenditure for a wide variety of climatic conditions.

5. Animal geometry and posture, insulation properties, and environmental conditions influence “thermal conductance.” Thermal conductance is a term implying a passive transport of heat through a non-heat-generating medium. Thus, it is inappropriate for describing fluxes through flesh, where heat generation is occurring. It is also inappropriate in porous media that “act alive” by absorbing solar radiation in the insulation. Thermal conductance is affected by properties and boundary conditions that can have nonlinear effects on heat transport through the medium in question. It can be useful as a descriptive concept for heat source-free systems if all of the relevant boundary conditions and properties are specified.

6. The novel thermoregulatory model in conjunction with user specifications for diurnal/nocturnal/crepuscular activity allows for estimates of activity time that are in good agreement with published data.

7. Climate/body size/gut model calculations for different food types suggest that optimal body size (maximizing discretionary mass/energy) changes with different food types and their associated digestive efficiencies and the temperature. This suggests that vegetation diversity in a locality allows for specific multiple body sizes to coexist at the same point in time. As food quality declines from high digestive efficiencies of flesh/seeds to lower digestive efficiencies of grasses/leaves, optimal body size increases, lowest survival temperature rises, and the degree of clumping predicted for species in nature declines. Land use changes that tend toward monocultures would appear to dictate that fewer species would survive as vegetation diversity declines. Global warming trends would lead to smaller optimal body sizes with no change in vegetation. However vegetation changes associated with climate warming would specify larger or smaller body sizes depending on whether vegetation digestive qualities decrease or increase respectively.

8. Application of the microclimate and endotherm models to rare or endangered species requires relatively few, easily measured data to estimate food and water requirements, potential for activity time, growth, and reproduction for a wide variety of habits. This information will be useful as an aid for identification of potential reserves/transplantation sites and modification/management of existing habitats.

1

From the Symposium Evolutionary Origin of Feathers presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, 6–10 January 1999, at Denver, Colorado.