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Interactions with Combined Chemical Cues Inform Harvester Ant Foragers’ Decisions to Leave the Nest in Search of Food, was coauthored by DM Gordon (2013) who also wrote the recently published monograph The Ecology of Collective Behavior.
Excerpt 1 from Gordon (2014): “Similar patterns of interaction, such as network motifs and feedback loops, are used in many natural collective processes, probably because they have evolved independently under similar pressures. Here I consider how three environmental constraints may shape the evolution of collective behavior: the patchiness of resources [e.g., nutrients], the operating costs of maintaining the interaction network that produces collective behavior [e,g., metabolism], and the threat of rupture of the network [e.g., failure to reproduce]. The ants are a large and successful taxon that have evolved in very diverse environments. Examples from ants provide a starting point for examining more generally the fit between the particular pattern of interaction that regulates activity, and the environment in which it functions.”
My comment: In Kohl (2012), I wrote: “Insect species exemplify one starting point along an evolutionary continuum from microbes to humans that epigenetically links food odors and social odors to multisensory integration and behavior.”
Excerpt 2 from Gordon (2014): “Both theoretical and empirical work are needed to investigate this fit, and to move toward a general understanding of the evolution of collective behavior. An ecological perspective can bring together current work in the investigation of diverse complex systems.”
My comment: In Kohl (2013) I wrote: “Minimally, this model can be compared to any other factual representations of epigenesis and epistasis for determination of the best scientific ‘fit’.”
Although Gordon and I appear to be interested in detailing the ecology of collective behavior, she is still attempting to frame the ant model in the context of evolution of collective behavior. To her credit, however, the title of her most recent article correctly represents biologically-based cause and effect. Simply put, we both appear to know that ecological variation is manifested in ecological adaptations, which include adaptations in behavior. And we both appear to know that behavior does not evolve.
Anyone who is interested in linking ecology to collective behavior can quickly learn about the role that food odors and pheromones play in ecological adaptations of morphological and behavioral phenotypes. Moving forward from ants (Gordon’s model organism) or honeybees (my model organism) to humans, others can also learn why evolutionary theory is being dismissed as mere speculation in Neanderthal ancestry drives evolution of lipid catabolism in contemporary Europeans.
In the prestigious journal Nature Communications, these authors claim: “It is appealing to speculate that genetic variants affecting lipid catabolism in modern Europeans were acquired by modern human ancestors through genetic flow from Neanderthals, and then spread rapidly though the ancestral population by means of positive selection.” In the absence of experimental evidence, their speculation loses its appeal. Experimental evidence shows what happens when ecological factors are considered in the context of natural genetic engineering and species diversity. In the authors’s words, it becomes clear that “…genetic variants provided an adaptive advantage to both Neanderthal and human populations in the conditions of prehistoric Europe.”
All genetic variants are nutrient-dependent — even those that arise due to mutations. Similarly, species diversity is nutrient-dependent. No speculation is required, because diversity in populations is controlled by the metabolism of nutrients to species-specific pheromones in species from microbes to man.
Ants and honeybees are model organisms that attest to the facts of how ecological variation results in ecological adaptations via species-specific behaviors associated with ecological variation in nutrient availability. That is why the example of a nutrient-dependent single base pair change and single amino acid substitution in a modern human population, which supposedly arose in what is now central China during the past ~30K years, is such a powerful example of biologically-based cause and effect. It links the conserved molecular mechanisms of ecologically adapted nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled insect behavior to ecologically adapted human behaviors via a mammalian model.
For example, the mouse model of ecological adaptations, which experimental evidence shows occur via the same amino acid substitution in humans, provides experimental evidence that differences in sweat, teeth, mammary tissue and hair can be linked to the pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction. That experimental evidence links food odors and pheromones to the ecology of collective behavior in ants, other invertebrates (e.g., honeybees) and the conserved molecular mechanisms of species diversity in all other species from microbes to man.
Now that others are revealing what is known about nutrient-dependent biologically-based cause and effect in articles like Neanderthal ancestry drives evolution of lipid catabolism in contemporary Europeans, it won’t be long until they also admit that the link from ecological variation to human behavior exemplifies ecological adaptation not evolution. Lipid catabolism is obviously nutrient dependent. If lipids aren’t ingested they cannot be catabolized. The first step is to clearly admit to speculation about evolution. Next, others can begin to link what is known about ecological variation and ecological adaptation to nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptations. The speculation about evolution can then be eliminated from any further consideration whatsoever via experimental evidence of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations. Clearly there is no evolution involved. Once everyone realizes that, serious scientists can begin to help others determine how long it take for ecological adaptations that result in species diversity to sweep through populations of organisms that once were thought to mutate and evolve into other species.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that the changes in the human population that arose in what is now central China took only 10,000 years at most. Indeed, one report indicated that 500 species of fish arose during 15,000 years, which suggests that evolutionary theorists may have other admissions to make about their speculations.