Dawkins missed the Widowbird

Dawkins wrote about the Widowbird in his book “The Blind Watchmaker.” He simply missed an obvious idea.

All it takes is one female widow bird that likes longer tail in her genetic makup, and so long as she and her lineage survive, it puts genetic pressure on other females, and provides the obvious winning genetic selectivity.

Here is the equation:

Chance of mating success >= chance of death from the bad mutation.

One female widow bird is broken! It likes longer tail as Dawkins noted in his book.

It’s easy if it’s a dominant gene. All those who have it prefer the longer tailed widowbird.

In the beginning, there isn’t much to choose from, but as females always reproduce, and maybe even push the gene through the male population as dominant, boom. That reproduction causes a lineage that has choice. The uninfected populace doesn’t care. Small, large, no difference. But now, in generation two, you take the one broken female, and two now have the dominant gene.

And one of the males with the dominant gene, even with a smallish tail, reproduces, and that makes two from him, and her female offspring reproduces makes another two. So, in reproduction 1 you get 2. Reproduction cycle 2, you get 4. Reproduction 4, you get 8. And yes, perhaps there are 128,000 female widowbirds, and 127992, don’t care, the ones who do care continue to reproduce but their dominant gene increases as a percentage of the population.

As the percentage gets larger, things get worse. Should 50% of the widowbird population have the evil gene, they will start selecting for bigger tail, and that will take root, and eventually the entire population will have it. That’s because selecting for a trait with this kind of dominance has no reason to cease.

And on it goes, male widowbirds start having longer tails, they are increasingly selected for, and soon the entire population of widowbirds has the genes, those with smaller tails are discriminated against, those with longer ones are selected for.

I read the most ludicrous idea, that this is a function of fitness. It can’t be! There is no fitness function to “Grow the tail.” So, it’s simply a random trait that is allowed to propagate throughout the species, despite that it in fact selects for more UNFIT males. Those with long tails who can barely fly and survive to reproduce.

That’s the end game. And it’s straight-forward.

What Dawkins and his ilk did not consider is the entire body of widowbirds is now fitness deprived. That is, with competition from other sources, these populations will be lesser under competitive pressure from other species that compete.

Maybe that’s why it’s the “Birds of Paradise,” which, while they are entertaining to us, are living a precarious life as a species. And underneath that is female selectivity. Under that is simply a fitness function, so it’s not a “Sex thing.” In fact, the preference for long tail could have been a male mutation that survived due to female selectivity.

So simple. Dawkins missed it. Oh well. Maybe Dawkins, who prides himself in his superior rationality, isn’t so rational after all. You want to follow this man around? He simply panders. But, I LOVED the selfish gene. I’ll owe this man a lot. But, his stupid memes MUST be stopped.

Unfortunately, his memes propagate due to reasons that have nothing to do with their correct analysis. But rather, simply because of the human nature that is so well described in the Bible.

Apparently many species have an eye for beauty or appreciation for symmetry.

Flowers have colors and aromas to attract pollinating insects, birds display incredible plumage, human females love muscle men , human men love large breasts ( and make-up on women).

In the end, as you observed, it is fitness and adaptation to the environment that will win out in the long run.

Evolution does not bother much which centuries. Ultimately it becomes expressed in millenia of small refinements allowing for a minor survival advantage.

Natural selection is always the determining process in the long run.

That why 95 % of all living organisms are now extinct, except for some of the simplest forms that adaptable to a large range of environments.

Tardigrades comes to mind. That critter is almost indestructible.

In a way, tardigrades are sort of cute. My question is, what do they see with? I don’t see any eyes on them or is possible he’s walking around like Mr MaGoo?

[quote=“mriana, post:3, topic:7804, full:true”]
In a way, tardigrades are sort of cute. My question is, what do they see with? I don’t see any eyes on them or is possible he’s walking around like Mr MaGoo?

I guess they have sensors in the snout. But that is the strength of simplicity. The fewer parts , the less damage the organism can experience.

They shot Tardigrades from guns. After it landed it scrambled to its feet and went merrily on its way. How it acquired this incredible resilience through evolution is a mystery. They seem to be exempt from natural selection altogether… :thinking:

Indeed! I can’t imagine how they take all that abuse and not end up dying from it. Ironically, we brought some of them to the moon and maybe even Mars (on the rover), which could be a bad thing for Mars. They tried not to do that, but it happened.

Hehe, would that not be something if tardigrades are the way to "terraform " inhospitable planets …

Come to think of it. Terraforming should always start with the simplest methods. Complexity must evolve naturally or it’ll go extinct as an invasive organism that kills its host.

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