"adaptation" to non-natural dietary items impossible?

Mary K.Kuhner mkkuhner at kingman.genetics.washington.edu
Fri Sep 8 11:09:30 EST 2000

In article <8pashs$foj$1 at mercury.hgmp.mrc.ac.uk>,
Laurie  <Xlaurie at the-beach.net> wrote:

>[Moderator's Note: I will post this response and the following one to the
>replies that Laurie received to her/his original posting, but I have some
>concerns about the way this thread is headed. I would like to urge posters
>to this newsgroup to maintain a civil tone in their discourse (especially
>when they receive responses that they don't agree with). 

I won't respond to the rest -- it does seem off topic -- but I wanted a factual
comment on one point.

>> _Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest_ documents extensive hunting of colubus
>> monkeys by wild chimpanzees.

>    Nothing personal, but I always find it interesting that people who make
>this claim _never_ quantize it, thus implying it is somehow numerically
>significant, and they also never present the rest of the observations that
>clearly indicate that this activity in chimps is strictly social, not
>nutritional, in origin and function.

Most of the questions you ask later are, in fact, answered in the book.  The Tai
troupe seemed to have a higher frequency of meat-eating than previously
studied troupes.  I strongly recommend looking at this.  I'm not going to type
in the extensive tables and graphs, but they are there, and well documented.

Other than that, I have to say as a geneticist that we are absolutely not
at the point where we can say "an adaptation to X is impossible".  We have
nothing like the required knowledge of possible adaptation pathways.  In
bacteria, we know that rapid adaptation to an amazing variety of conditions
*is* possible, but we simply cannot do the required experiments in higher
organisms, and the more complex genome may affect the answer in unpredictable
ways, both pro- and anti-adaptation.

Mary Kuhner mkkuhner at genetics.washington.edu


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