Well, we’re finally back from our “one-day” jaunt to the Great Rainy North, and I brought home a souvenir in the form of the kind of migraine that wraps around your temples and sets up base camp in the base of your skull. Suffice to say, this one’s going to be short … but entertain you I must.
Today is a red letter day for creationists everywhere. They have found yet another example of God’s handiwork in action, and it completely baffles the minds of soulless atheist evolutionists all over the world.
The gears in question are found in the upper portion of the hind legs of young and adolescent issus insects – a species of planthoppers – that serves as an extremely effective way to precisely synchronize their leg movements to ensure a stable, directed jump.
This miniature marvel is an adolescent issus, a kind of planthopper insect and one of the fastest accelerators in the animal kingdom. As a duo of researchers in the U.K. report today in the journal Science, the issus also the first living creature ever discovered to sport a functioning gear. “Jumping is one of the most rapid and powerful things an animal can do,” says Malcolm Burrows, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the paper, “and that leads to all sorts of crazy specializations.”
The weird thing about the issus is that they’re the only ones who have ended up developing this method of synchronization. Every other insect that relies on jumping to escape predators has surfaces on their inner thighs consisting of either rough, bumpy, or high-friction type textures. So, as Steve Vogel of Duke University points out, there must be some specific advantage to this particular configuration. At this stage, though, they don’t know what it is.
Therefore God! [shut up, Joe. -ed.]
Even stranger is the fact that once the issus reaches adulthood, it sheds the gears in favor of the much more popular high-friction surface. Scientists propose that this is because the ones that kept the gears were toast when they lost a tooth through injury or misgrowth after the molting process, but they’re not sure. Both the intricacy and uniqueness of the gears present in the young issus combined with its abandonment in adulthood is currently a source of speculation for biologists.
Obviously there’s no doubt that these features evolved; it certainly makes sense that legs that originally possessed rough or bumpy surfaces could have developed increasingly complex and better-fitting gear-like structures after they showed a vastly increased ability to effectively escape predators. The article mentions that a number of other species have different ways of accomplishing this that are more effective: they jump higher, faster, farther, etc. What we’re likely seeing here is the effect of evolution reaching a “local maximum” in survivability. In other words, there are more effective solutions out there, but genetic variation in addition to the selective pressures specific to this species’ environment pushed its evolution in this direction … and found a solution that is apparently “good enough”. We see examples of this all the time: the vagus nerve of the giraffe, the human blind spot, our inability to manufacture Vitamin C, among countless others. It’s easy to make the argument for evolution when faced with such examples. It’s a poor argument indeed for the existence of even a marginally competent designer – to say nothing of an infinitely wise and intelligent one.
To Frank, who sent me the article on why women shouldn’t go to college … I should have that ready by Monday. Thanks again.