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Show ALL Forums  > Science/philosophy  > Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection      Home login  
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 Crabby_McCrabberson
Joined: 8/11/2010
Msg: 1
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selectionPage 1 of 1    
It's not uncommon to see a cat or dog who appears to know how to cross a street safely.

But in my observation squirrels are getting smarter or if not smarter, less indecisive.

Whereas all my life I'd been seeing squirrels who double-back on their paths several times, and I was like "gosh if you'd've just run in one direction, you'd be out of the street by now" I'm rarely seeing this behavior any more and I can't decide if that means the trait is being squished out of the population...

...wondered this to my S/O who remarked "funny you should say that, I saw a deer this morning who appeared to be watching traffic waiting for an opening."
 motown cowgirl
Joined: 6/30/2010
Msg: 2
it's all one big process of elimination
Posted: 11/3/2010 5:42:47 AM
yes, even critters can get darwin awards.

i've also noticed a change in squirrelly road behavior. darting back & forth is actually a defense mechanism that works extraordinarly well with predators but becomes an epic fail with my yukon denali. so if squirrels can actually adjust their behavior to meet the very different threats of fox vs. truck, then that's a pretty amazing thing.

i've seen many deer waiting for an opening in the traffic. but, at this time of year they tend to forego their powers of reason as the rutting season kicks in and lust takes over. you can almost see their eyes go all glassy. lots of squashed deer on the road right now. and if that isn't a metaphor for the so-called "highly evolved" human race, then i don't know what is.
 abelian
Joined: 1/12/2008
Msg: 3
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/3/2010 8:16:59 AM
I guess I'd say that what counts is being able to make good decisions based on the least amount of information, so being decisive is the way I'd describe a person (or animal) who is more intelligent than average and able to make a decision quickly. To whatever extent squirrels have gotten better at not becoming flattened fauna, natural selection might play a part if it favors squirrels who are somewhat more intelligent and have more intelligent offspring than the ones who get flattened.
 sum1reel
Joined: 6/5/2005
Msg: 4
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/3/2010 2:58:50 PM

i've also noticed a change in squirrelly road behavior.


NY squirrels are much more evolved.........while sitting in my car parked waiting, i saw a squirrel climb up a phone pole from 1 side of the street...run across the power line to the other side of the street (while the traffic flow was constant on the street below)....then climb down on the opposite side!
 IgorFrankensteen
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 5
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Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/3/2010 4:03:00 PM
The only thing that goes AGAINST the idea that Natural Selection has made itself effective in this, is that cars have been running over squirrels for over a hundred years now. That the evolutionary change would have waited 75 years, and THEN showed up, doesn't make sense to me. If it DID happen, then there must be a factor other than cars hitting squirrels at play. I think that they would logically be learning also, but this has to be figured in.
 Macgyver_Spider
Joined: 9/26/2010
Msg: 6
playing chicken
Posted: 11/3/2010 5:22:33 PM
^^...OR maybe there are more cars on the road driving faster leaving fewer gaps between the cars for the little critters to slip between. I drive through about 20 miles of "country" to and from work and i've noticed the steady decline in roadkill. I still see lots of deer though but they're usually watching traffic. If I see one with a radar gun....
 Crabby_McCrabberson
Joined: 8/11/2010
Msg: 7
Phoenix, the X-Squirrel
Posted: 11/3/2010 5:27:33 PM
Just like moomoo, I have darted into traffic without looking both ways when I smelled something across the street I needed to hump (or spied a pointy-hatted man who I wanted to "get to know better") yet survived to adulthood (so called)
but
how does that relate to the car issue? It doesn't. Modern cars go faster, and more congestion/more bad drivers sped up the process ? Or it's one of those times when evolution leaps forward?

I wannnnt to knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I'm not saying I want them smashed, but the last thing this world NEEDS is SMARTER SQUIRRELS.
 slybandit
Joined: 7/10/2006
Msg: 8
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/4/2010 6:31:15 AM
Why are we assuming it's natural selection?

Dogs, cats, mice etc. have all been quite clearly proven to be capable of learning, and certainly teach things to their young.

Now I'm not saying mama squirrel stood by the roadside with the brood and said (just imagine an Alvin & the Chipmunks song & dance routine) "Run straight across, or you'll wind up flat dead like your uncle Ross", but I'd guess one or two observations of crushed compatriots might impress the notion that a flat-out sprint's the way to go.
 Gashlycrumb_Briny
Joined: 9/26/2010
Msg: 9
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/4/2010 9:58:25 AM
You forgot to ask, why did the squirrel cross the road? Maybe rather than getting better at crossing, they have fewer reasons for going. Or they went over and didn't come back (greener grass? bigger nuts?). Maybe your municipality has increased the funding or changed the policy for roadkill collection. Maybe the squirrel population is declining overall.

Could be natural selection. Could be other things. Commission a study. Maybe someone's been praying for them. (Lol!)
 abelian
Joined: 1/12/2008
Msg: 10
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/4/2010 10:21:03 AM
Dogs, cats, mice etc. have all been quite clearly proven to be capable of learning, and certainly teach things to their young.

Natural selections favors faster learners who are better able to generalize their knowledge to situations they haven't explicitly been taught.

but I'd guess one or two observations of crushed compatriots might impress the notion that a flat-out sprint's the way to go.

Not necessarily. Haven't you ever seen a squirrel decide to turn around and run back? Running as fast as you can go is no assurance of not getting flattened. Running at the right speed to not get flattened and turning back when you can't determine that very well is the way to not get flattened.

I'm not saying I want them smashed, but the last thing this world NEEDS is SMARTER SQUIRRELS.

The squirrels out back found that hysterical.
 IgorFrankensteen
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 11
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Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/4/2010 3:24:52 PM
Another element that needs to be taken into account: in my area at least, there has been an increased effort to CLEAN UP road kill over the last couple of decades. Perhaps just as many creatures are dying, but the corpses are being removed more quickly than they once were.
I do like the idea that they are learning, but I doubt that cars are acting as an evolutionary "selector." The requisite basic parameters of an evolution-causing phenomenon have not been met. For one thing, to have an evolutionary effect, the "destroying device" has to eliminate the subjects BEFORE they can have children. All the squirrels I see challenging traffic, are grown-ups. All that the cars are accomplishing, is to reduce the load on the squirrels social security system.
 Ed Bear
Joined: 5/19/2007
Msg: 12
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Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/6/2010 11:20:56 AM
I suspect that increased homelessness has led to a dearth of roadkill.
ED BEAR

Saw a man clubbing rats down by the McDonald's by the tracks last Monday. We also have lots of coyotes cleaning up small animals in these here parts.
 lateā„¢
Joined: 2/1/2010
Msg: 13
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/6/2010 3:58:04 PM

But in my observation


= anecdotal

= not evidence

That simple
 ChillinChill
Joined: 10/2/2010
Msg: 14
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/12/2010 4:44:26 AM
I used to be indecisive.... but now I'm not so sure.
 IgorFrankensteen
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 15
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Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/12/2010 5:12:51 AM
Och! But mister Gary, you are presuming SEGREGATION of souls in your concept of reincarnations! If that were the case, then as populations expanded, intelligence would DECREASE, as the "soul" knowledge would be diluted across more bodies. JUUUUUSSTT sayin'.
Mistress made me laugh again.
 nated012
Joined: 10/29/2010
Msg: 16
Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/12/2010 5:23:57 AM
There have not been enough generations of squirrels during someones life for this to have anything to do with natural selection.
 FrogO_Oeyes
Joined: 8/21/2005
Msg: 17
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Demise of the trait of indecisiveness by natural selection
Posted: 11/13/2010 9:44:17 PM
It only requires ONE generation.

Even though the roadkills are mainly seen as adults, it should be remembered that they could include SUBadults or adults which have not yet reproduced. It should also be remembered that roadkills will not reproduce AGAIN. Thus, they will contribute LESS to the gene pool, ensuring that the genes of the survivors make up an increasing portion of the gene pool.

More cars, faster cars, more roads...but also plenty of places where they might never have to cross a road, not to mention plenty of places where it's only a rare necessity. How many squirrels might reside in one square residential block with lots of trees?

It's an interesting idea. Certainly natural selection IS at work, and this includes influences of traffic flow. What actual results that induces, and how they are offset by other factors, remains to be seen. It actually could be an interesting study. Squirrels have already shown themselves quite able to adapt to anthropogenic environments and their quirks - like stealing food from "squirrel-proof" bird feeders.
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