Friday, December 11, 2015



The Polymerase Chain Reaction

One of the most significant discoveries speeding the rise of molecular genetics was the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction by Kary Mullis.  The following two paragraphs were notes I made 23 years ago based on an 1993 article by Jim Dwyer in Parade, “The quirky genius who is changing our world”, October 10, pages 8 & 10. They are from page 10.

“Mullis speaks with some bitterness about the years that followed his discovery.  He was turned down flat by prestigious journals when he tried to publish his findings.  He remembers the reception to his idea by colleagues at Cetus as ice cold.  Then, he maintains, as PCR was taking off, they sought to attach themselves to its development.”

“ ‘There’s two kinds of stuff in science,’ he says, ‘the thinking and the doing.  I’m not good at accomplishing things.’ ”

Is there a conspiracy against creativity?  Not likely
I’ve commented elsewhere that James Garfield, former editor of Current Contents, frequently found citation classics (research papers highly cited) had many rejections before they were accepted for publication.  My conclusion is that it is difficult to recognize the value of new views.  An equally valid comment might be that some researchers need criticism from reviewers to enable them to produce an acceptable manuscript.  It is difficult to recognize our own mistakes without help from others.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    December 11, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015


Related Posts

The topic was briefly addressed in the post on April 26, 2015.  A bit about it can be found in posts on June 17 and June 20 in 2013.  More general approach to the topic may be elsewhere but the citation of research critical to placing the sponges in the evolutionary sequence depends heavily upon Kazmierczak, 1984, cited in the July 18, 2013 post.

Neglected research

An otherwise outstanding 2004 paper in Invertebrate Biology, does not agree with the position I take.  Manuel Maldonado, in his paper "Choanoflagellates, choanocytes, and animal multicellularity", pages 1-22 in volume 123, reviews and analyzes an extensive literature but does not include Kazmierczak's report.  A similar comment could be made for the paper that follows, Antonio C. Marques and Allen G. Collins, "Cladistic analysis of Medusozoa and cnidarian evolution", pages 23-42 of the same issue.   They also are handicapped by omitting the Kazmierczak report.

I had the issue on top of a small pile or journals I had retained but not examined very thoroughly.  More concern about it would be appropriate if my peers did not all seem to be misled by not realizing the error in molecular phylogeny noted in my post of May 31, 2013.  Until they recognize that I will not be too concerned about what they have to say.

A note about family trees

Common ancestry could be determined by taking a phylogeny and treating it as a branching string.  By anchoring the most reasonable earliest ancestor and pulling up on the two more recent groups of interest, the most recent common ancestor is where the two lines join.  All others that are not ancestral to those groups will be hanging loosely.  Just as in a computer program to determine relationships, it gives an answer that might change greatly with new information taken into consideration.

The best results will eventually be obtained by combining molecular and classical biology in many cases.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    December 7, 2015

Exactly 74 years ago today I was a 13 year old on the ground watching my older brother fly around an airport in northwestern Ionia County.

Monday, November 9, 2015



The end of life is ever more close.  But it isn't of great concern when you truly believe you go on in a better way in the hereafter.  In about thirteen years I will be 100.  I keep getting warnings the end is near.

Eight years ago I had a case of shingles in the right trigeminal nerve region.  Fortunately, my eye escaped the damage it often causes.  Blood work at the time showed some immune deficiencies and a marrow sample indicated I had the same disease that Carl Sagan had died from about six months after a successful bone marrow transplant.

One or two shots a week at the local cancer/blood diseases center have maintained neutrophils at low levels, but high enough that they seem to prevent infections.  But an accompanying low level of platelets means a minor accident could be fatal- hence my internist son wants me to promise not to drive when schools are closed and roads are icy.


I've given some thought to a final post so a daughter could click on the publish button after I am gone.  Because of the mix of topics I'd like to cover, I probably should write separate ones.  If I mention God, half my readers are likely to tune out.  If I mention evolution, the other half are likely to tune out.  I have already tried to discuss why the two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  It appears to me that some teachers in Europe and Asia have focused on a few evolution posts to have classes access them; it is just my guess based on peaks in page views.


A February 27, 2015 post, on Evolution: the body cavity, covers a topic presumably given very little attention although it is important in understanding physiology and evolution.  The content could help you understand why I think the biggest gap in the origin of coelomate animals can be filled by an ancestor of nemerteans.

The May 2, 2014 post, on Evolution of Macromolecules, when applied to cell physiology, can help one understand the natural selection biochemical features of cells had as most of the important underpinnings developing before the origin of multicellularity.

The April 8, 2015 post, Cnidaria: nematocyst origin, provoked renewed interest in the July 19, 2013 post on Acoelomate evolution, 2, cnidarians.  They should be helpful in understanding the sponge-cnidarian-flatworm sequence of early evolution that had to be completed in the Pre-Cambrian before the protonemertean-polychaete-pogonophoran sequence led to hemichordates, then chordates.


In order to understand the major errors infecting current evolutionary theory attempting to determine the "Tree of Life", the errors made in proposing the Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa need to be seen.  The post of May 31, 2013, Science Screw-Up No. 1 points out the errors that should have been seen by reviewers and stopped the publications involved.  There are many other posts that provide a more rational answer to explain the "Tree of Life".  It is necessary to understand the ecology of the deep sea to see how the pogonophorans have answered many important unasked questions about evolution.


My interests had jumped around in animals of interest over the years, as well as thinking of moon origin and the early environment on earth, continental drift, and unfortunately, or fortunately, not in a well-planned way.  Without my chaotic background, I doubt I would have arrived at the role of pogonophorans and extreme longevity answering major questions of evolution.  I accumulated a stack of mostly unpublished papers that I looked at and thought I should assemble them in a book.  I think I picked the title, "Animal Evolution: A Serial Symposium" to accommodate my eclectic collection.  That was almost thirty years ago when I started printing it out on a dot-matrix printer.  The files saved on floppies, hard disks, and tape never got fully transferred to CDs and thumb drives before the old hard drives were corrupted; probably a good thing they are not swamping me with redundant data.

When I retired nineteen years ago, I was going to write the book that turned out to be "Evolution Insights", my 2010 unpublished manuscript.  That might never have been done if I hadn't had the health problems noted above warning me time was limited.  This blog was conceived of when it was apparent publishers were not looking for such books from new (though ancient) authors in 2010.  Again golf and other things became distractions until other health problems jarred me in to getting a blog going. So I thank Google for their support of this blog and hope that it will survive my demise - whether tomorrow or ten years from now.  This is not meant to be morbid, but you start to think about such things when you return from a memorial service for a WMU colleague first met about 51 years ago.

So while I work on my final post I will probably continue posting.

Joseph G. Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan    November 9, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015



Pogonophora are the previously unknown link in the evolutionary sequence connecting annelid worms to vertebrates via the hemichordates.  Some items of evidence not mentioned in earlier posts on this topic include information compiled by Libbie Hyman and presented in her 1959 volume on The Invertebrates, volume V, 1959.  The link status demonstrates the error of the widely assumed evolutionary separation of deuterostomes from advanced protostomes.

The confusion of the features of pogonophorans blending features of protostomes and deuterostomes was easily dismissed as caused by lack of adequate availability of well preserved specimens or some such estimation of the recently discovered group.

On page 59, she noted that, prior to the recognition of the pogonophorans as a phylum, one was described as "a vermiform animal with a crown of tentacles and was considered by its describer to be a polychaete annelid of the family Sabellidae".

Also, on page 59 she says "These outstanding studies by Ivanov have shown that the pogonophores are closely related to the hemichordates and belong among the Deuterostomia."

Webb's (1964) discovery of the segmented posterior of a pogonophoran helped endorse their annelid origin.  Later, the contrary view was demonstrated by  Gans and Northcutt (1983) affirming their connection to the deuterostomes despite the obvious annelid connection demonstrated by the generally unknown work of Webb.

So, Gould's (2002) contention that the evidence for elimination of the annelid theory should be dismissed means that the annelid theory should be reinstated as a leading explanation for the inversion of annelid features shown in the chordates.  [  and  ]  The second of the two posts just mentioned illustrates the larval similarity of pogonophoran larvae to solitary hemichordates.  Hyman, on page 219, notes Caullery's 1944 observation that one pogonophoran's developing young "strikingly resemble young stages of the buds of Cephalodiscus", a colonial hemichordate.

I have tried to clarify the protostome-deuterostome connection demonstrated by the pogonophorans in numerous posts on this blog.  By the time I realized the connection existed when provoked by the 1983 assertions of Gans and Northcutt, I had already published two revisions of Hegner's invertebrate zoology text, one in 1968 the other in 1981.


The stumbling block for accepting the link is the drastic change in embryology that occurs.  I might not have realized how it occurred if I had not revised Hegner's Invertebrate Zoology for its second edition (1968).  In the process I had to deal with the proper classification of pogonophorans and realized the affinity that seemed impossible.

I tend to think there are answers for everything.  I did not have the answer, but the needed facts were already in my background.  As a result of the book preparation I had come to the conclusion that pogonophorans were extremely long-lived. [ ]  I did publish that conclusion in a 1978 abstract (Engemann, J. G., Indirect evidence shows deep-sea benthos may reach extreme ages as individuals.  Am. Zoologist, 18:666).

My 1963 doctoral thesis at Michigan State University made me aware of the extreme affects environment can have on selection and evolution.  I had not made much attempt to publish bits of the thesis because they were not greatly different from many other studies.  But it made me aware of some necessary bits of information that helped explain the way embryological shift had been expedited.

The peculiar egg appendage of the isopod Asellus had been illustrated in Sar's work on the crustacea of Norway in the 1800's.  K. H. Barnard had studied phreatoicid isopods in South Africa in the early 1900's and noted a bulge in embryos in a homologous position with the egg appendage that persisted briefly after the embryo hatched.  My sections of phreatoicid eggs showed a thin-walled, yolk-filled homologue of the appendage existed before hatching as described in - .

The big thing to take from the above is that embryological features can evolve separately from the rate of adult features.  Thus the old presumption that the earliest features in the evolution of the embryology of an organism correspond to the older ancestral stages in its evolution is not always true.

The thesis comparison of Tasmanian and Michigan isopods from comparable latitudes but quite different ecological circumstances in temporary pools showed drastically different rates of development and how r- and K- selection can work before the theory was described (MacArthur, R. H., and E. O. Wilson.  1967.  The Theory of Island Biogeography.  Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J.  203 pp.).  It made it possible for me to understand the extreme age due to the abyssal conditions caused loss of some features enabling the development of the inverted deuterostomes.  Some of those ideas are in other posts.


The exquisite work molecular biologists can do is remarkable.  But it is limited and not easily applied to discovering ancestral relationships at the phylum level.  Those limitations have been discussed in the post -  .

My understanding of the slow rate of DNA changes in the pogonophora was confirmed by seeing how they showed up in phylogenetic studies among clusters of disparate groups due to little change in the over half-billion year old group almost in suspended animation in the abyssal sediments.  Unfortunately, the generation time error affecting molecular clocks has not been considered in most work on molecular phylogeny.


What do you call a missing link, such as the pogonophorans, once they are discovered?


I never expected to have work on an obscure invertebrate lead to the above understanding.  But, in retrospect, I realize that much credit goes to unknown biologists and scientists of the past as well as many known ones.  Thanks to Dr. V. Hickman of the University of Tasmania for calling the phreatoicid isopod to my attention, Dr. T. W. Porter of Michigan State University and the rest of my doctoral committee for keeping me focused on the comparative thesis study, the U. S. Fulbright Agency for the award for study at the University of Tasmania, Western Michigan University for allowing me to teach a ridiculous range of classes whose subject matter provided some needed insights, and the Macmillan Publishing Company for contracting with me to revise their texts.  A book would be needed to explain how students, family, friends and strangers contributed to my development under the guidance of the same Creator that made evolution a reality.

Joseph Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan      October 24, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015



Insects have numerous isolating mechanisms that enable sub-populations of species to avoid hybridization and take different evolutionary routes to formation of new species.  Darwin found the isolation of finches on different Galapagos islands may have been responsible for enabling them to evolve specializations leading to different species.  Island populations of insects may produce new species by a similar mechanism.

Geographic isolation and population size

These two factors interact.  In the island populations of finches in the Galapagos Islands.  The ancestral finches that first reached the islands after their volcanic origin presumably were few in number and consequently had fewer variations in the total "gene pool" than the larger continental populations from which they originated.  When new genes or combinations arose, that were better suited to survival on the various islands with varied conditions, selection might act more rapidly than in enormous potentially interbreeding continental populations.  Such selection can also operate on small semi-isolated populations of continental populations on the periphery of the species range.

Lock and key genitalia

Insect species have an effective way of preventing interbreeding between previously interbreeding populations.  Because of the need for, or value of, internal fertilization for reproduction of terrestrial adults there has been the evolution of specialized male organs for introducing sperm into the reproductive system of the females.  Selection has made the male and female genital openings of the semi-rigid exoskeleton match up in a "lock and key" arrangement of various shapes dependent on species.

The lock and key relationship of male and female genitalia presumably becomes better established over time so closely related species can no longer have cross-fertilization possible.  Other mechanisms may have helped the reproductive isolation occur.  Geographic isolation is not the only spatial mechanism to facilitate reproductive isolation.

Micro-habitat isolation

Some butterfly species in tropical forests isolate themselves from other similar species living in the same region, but at different elevations from the ground, some near the ground, other high in the canopy, and still others at an intermediate height.  Other insects may isolate themselves by their preference for a single species of plant species.  Many animals have parasitic species of insects found only on their species.  Various environmental conditions are often required by small organisms, sometimes in very small patches within what is a generally similar habitat by casual inspection; moisture, nutrients, soil particle size and texture, and chemical factors are features of micro-habitats that determine suitable environment for small organisms.


Lorenz discovered imprinting when he found that young geese responded to the first large moving animal they see after hatching as the object to follow.  They would follow him instead of the mother goose if they saw him first.  Imprinting of various types may occur at other times in the life cycle

A similar phenomenon occurs with the imprinting of the olfactory cues of a stream being imprinted on young salmon as guides to return to the same stream to breed.  It is thought that some insects preferentially lay eggs on the same plant type they fed upon as larval insects; a few times of use of a different plant variety could lead to separate evolutionary lines of the same species.

Temporal isolation

When the breeding season is extended over time it is possible for new species to evolve from populations separated by time of breeding.  I think this may have been a factor in evolution of species of isopods in Tasmania when the life cycle took three years for production of a new brood.  Cross-breeding would be less likely and three new species could evolve, especially when adults did not survive for a second breeding season.  Some intertidal populations of invertebrates have pairs of closely related species with separate reproductive seasons.  Many marine species have external fertilization and would benefit from a short breeding season giving specialized predators less time to prey upon them.


Chemical signals species give off include sex attractants given off by the females to facilitate their being found by the opposite sex.  Some tortricid moth species have been found to have sex attractants composed of two or three chemical components; ratios of the different compounds were different in each species and males only responded to the ratio characteristic of the species.

Pheromones of insects include other behavioral controls.  Formic acid is an alarm pheromone common to most species of ants; in fact, their family name, Formicidae, is based on that fact.

Beetle speciation

Beetles have more species than any other order of animals.  Their especially thick exoskeleton made the lock and key genitalia more effective in preserving the genetic isolation of new species once other adaptions became specialized.  The appearance of the new species may be almost identical to related species, something less common among related vertebrate species.  The hardened first pair of wings of beetles adapts them for survival without damage to their underlying membranous wings when crawling in forest floor debris.

Genetic factors in speciation

The important role of the genes in controlling development and function of organisms may be complicated by the complex life cycles of those with complete metamorphosis from larvae to pupae to adult.  It would seem that a lesser sequence of shifting controls would be found in insects with a gradual metamorphosis from wingless stages otherwise similar but preceding the adult stage.  The hormones regulating such changes have some parallels with vertebrate hormones.

Population size may affect the rate of evolutionary change although the loss of a better gene can occur by chance from mortality unrelated to a gene's value.  Local and/or broad scale catastrophes can ignore the fitness of a genome.  Barring loss of all with a better gene, it will probably become the most prevalent gene in a small population sooner than in a large population; if it is not lost, it will eventually be the norm in both.

The advantage of a complex life cycle

Most insects have a sequence of stages from egg, to larva, to pupa to adult.  The complexity might seem like a disadvantage exposing them to many different hazards during the course of their life cycle.  But consider the different ways they have developed to survive winter in temperate regions.  A species may overwinter in the egg stage, hidden away from predators and not a target food item for birds or other predators specializing on eating the adult or larval stage.

The sequence of stages through the year are less likely to enable excessive buildup of a predator population specialized to feed on one or two of the the stages.  When all stages are present at the same time, their different requirements may isolate them from competition with the other stages in feeding; it may also enable species survival by providing replacements if a particular stage has excessive predation.

An advantage of proper timing of stages of the insect species occurs when growth of the individual and its food organism, whether plant or animal, is at an optimal stage of growth.  Many insects feed on dead and/or decaying organisms that are present in accumulations soil or aquatic sediments.  Termites utilize wood effectively because they have symbiotic protozoans and bacteria in their gut that enable them to utilize cellulose, a plant material not digestible by large animals without such symbionts.


Speciation is undoubtedly continuing among insect groups.  Most orders and families are quite ancient in their origin.  Fossils of insects much like those today have been found that are as ancient as the dinosaurs.

The previous post, , gives a probable reason insects have remained small.  Their small size has been a factor for their successful speciation into the largest number of species of any group of comparable sized organisms, with numbers of individuals far exceeding those of vertebrates and advanced invertebrates.

It is amazing that such diversity can be packed into the same adult body format- a head with compound eyes, antennae, and mouthparts; a thorax of three segments, three pair of legs and often two pair of wings; and an abdomen of about ten segments usually lacking appendages but bearing the genitalia.

There is great diversity in the specialization that insects have evolved for survival. It is a topic that could provide information for many interesting posts.

Joseph G. Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan     October 12, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015



There may be several reasons insects are all rather small.  But the principle reason limiting size of insects is the design of their respiratory system.  A clue to this may be found in comparison of insects and crustaceans.
Crustaceans also have an exoskeleton that must be shed for growth to occur, but they can be many times larger than any insect.  There are no truly marine species of insects beyond shoreline regions.  But large crustaceans are found in the ocean, in freshwater, and upon land.  So molting and the support provided by living in water are not the answer.

Both have blood in the body cavity. Blood enters the heart and is pumped out through arteries, bathing the organs in the body cavity as it returns to be pumped out again.  In the crustaceans the blood entering gills or flattened appendages is oxygenated as carbon dioxide is discharged.  That respiratory exchange takes place in the interior of the insect as the blood passes around the smaller tubules of the tracheal system.

The tracheal system is a system of tubules with openings on the surface of the insect.  The interior surface of the tracheal tubes and tubules is continuous with the outer chitinous exoskeleton layer covering the insect.  The tubules are closed on the end inside the insect.  The finer terminations may be water filled when the insect is inactive.  Increased numbers of solute molecules due to metabolic activity can cause water to leave the tubules and assist movement of oxygen into the blood.  The highly branched system's fine terminations in all parts of the body substitute for the need for a capillary network of a circulatory system.

The main factor for size limitation

Two facts may be responsible for limiting the insect size due to tracheal system function.  1- large size means greater hydrostatic pressure on the tubules may collapse them and inhibit respiration.  2 - large size means greater length of tubules may slow diffusion of oxygen into the regions more distant from the spiracle on the exterior surface.

The limitations of the circulatory and respiratory system and the resultant small size may also be a factor in preventing warm-blooded insects from developing.  Some larger insect such as certain bees and moths have larger bodies and ability to sustain a warmer temperature than the environment by "furry" bodies and a high rate of activity.

It is of interest that even aquatic insects have air-filled tracheal systems.  Several different mechanisms are used in different aquatic insects to oxygenate those tracheal systems.

It is likely that a crustacean ancestor, perhaps now extinct, gave rise to insects.

Small organisms have the advantages- of finding more hiding places, needing less food per individual, reaching adult size more rapidly, higher reproductive potential, and as is evident around us - having more species and specializations exist in a small area.

Joseph G. Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan   October 8, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



It is refreshing that the legalism Christ decried in synagogue officials that seemed to have reappeared in the church hierarchy and almost made the pope a captive of the Curia may be lifted due to the efforts of Pope Francis.  His call for fresh input from clergy and laity for consideration in an upcoming Synod of Bishops will no doubt be answered with abundant contributions representing many viewpoints.  I appreciate his willingness to consider topics with wide input beyond the tunnel vision of others such as the view of Cardinal Schonborn noted in the post at .

The problem of whether or not to ordain women was dealt with in the post - - , but the implementation of bringing women in to the priesthood might be easier if the church was not so world encompassing, not only geographically, but culturally.

The environment

A post - - dealt with climatic aspects of his recent encyclical..

In remarks related to environmentalism, and our role as caretakers of our world, he made a comment involving reproduction and rabbits that was not too well received.  But it is refreshing that he does not look at human reproduction as demanding large families.  The command in Genesis to "increase and multiply and fill the earth" has already been fulfilled.  In fact it is more than filled if a sustainable world is desired.  When the coffee cup is full, you don't need to keep pouring and overflow it.

In spite of such considerations, families should be the ones that determine their own family sizes.  Realistic knowledge of appropriate numbers could go a long way toward providing societal norms as a guide.  We don't need to have starvation, disease, and war as implements of population control.

Marriage and family

A post [ ] included comments suggesting the rights of those with alternative life-styles could be better served with legislation and/or judicial decisions providing contractual rights without calling it marriage and impinging on religious freedom.  In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about marriage and notes some are born, others develop, into states presumably incompatible with participating in a traditional marriage of bisexuals.

Christ made clear statements forbidding divorce.  But he also was generous in forgiving those failing in doing what was the ideal way.  It seems a reasonable approach would be to recognize that and extend forgiveness if a wrong has been done.  Blame would not have to be established.  Let all parties move on and act according to their consciences.

Birth control normally involves two people.  When they have conflicting view of what is acceptable, it would seem that a loving relationship could lead to compromise in some instances.  I don't see how abortion could be an acceptable compromise, although forgiveness is up to God.  But other forms may be of different degrees of errors in moral behavior.

A spectrum of behavior from virtual to sinful, or vice versa

The degrees of good or bad are not easily defined by clergy accustomed to thinking in terms of theological truth.  The previous pope railed against relativism.  But the circumstances may be part of the definition of an act.  Yes, there is an objective ideal that could be determined for an act involving morality.  But it would be much worse if it was done with relish, whereas there might be no moral fault if it was done to accommodate their families need in some way.  To sever your relationship with God, you need to know that what you are doing is a serious violation of God's law, and it must be done with full consent of the will.  It seems like that would take a very evil person to do such a thing.

A positive view of God

If you have a hard time realizing God made us and loves us, I encourage you to read a brief post - - and especially concentrate on the last two paragraphs.  It is worth reading even if you don't know the implications of John 3:16.  If you have an interest in how to find God, you might get an idea of how simple it is from reading the post -

I don't expect Pope Francis will read this post.  If you get any inspiration from it and want to tell the pope, please pass it on.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan   September 15, 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015



Understanding the story of animal evolution is very dependent on knowledge of invertebrates.  Vertebrates are recent (ok, the last half billion years), but very important, contributors to understanding the evolutionary history of animals.  Darwin mostly used vertebrate examples in explaining his understanding of natural selection, Darwin's finches being the primary example.  His studies of domestication of vertebrates also helped.   But he also contributed to our understanding of invertebrates such as coral reefs, barnacles, and earthworms.

What make invertebrate zoology so useful?

There are many species representing different parts of the evolutionary tree of life.  They provide steps along the transition from simple to complex structure and diversity.  As research subjects many of them have the advantages of
1 short life cycles
2 small size
Together it greatly simplifies getting adequate data in studying many phenomena.  It keeps costs down for care of subjects and allows varied approaches to be used in a short time.  The ethical problems of care of subject animals seems less, but should not be ignored.
3 abundant numbers are usually available in nature for field observation.
4 many extinct species have left fossils; their small size often providing intact fossils.

Examples of contributions of invertebrate zoologists

E. O. Wilson observed social behavior of ants and other insects and conceived the sub-discipline of ecology and/or animal behavior termed SOCIOBIOLOGY.

Paul Ehrlich developed his understanding of population ecology, in part, from his studies of lepidopterous insect populations, and applied it to his concerns for overpopulation by humans in an influential book, The Population Bomb.

Alfred Kinsey transferred from years of studying wasps to studies of human sexuality.

Libbie Hyman [ ] studied hydras and planarians and stayed mostly an invertebrate zoologist of great breadth.

Robert Pennak was my hero for his excellent book on aquatic invertebrates of the United States.  It has an excellent introductory discussion of the the transition of marine groups to fresh water.

Robert Barnes wrote an excellent invertebrate zoology text, especially in coverage of his specialty, polychaete worms.  If he had put insects and parasites in his first edition I would probably never have undertaken the revision of Hegner's invertebrate zoology text.  Meglitsch produced an impressive invertebrate zoology text that never received the recognition of Barnes' text which had largely been adopted by invertebrate zoologists.

A two volume text by Beklemishev (translated from the Russian) was a remarkable comparative anatomy of invertebrates.  Its value as a reference is somewhat marred by his belief that animals should be grouped according to the extent of their segmentation.

As invertebrate zoology becomes a minor part of biological education in today's universities, it is unlikely that it will attract authors to update the subject to the extent it was done in the past.  The digital age has made it unlikely that many will read the specialty journals and be exposed serendipitously to insights inspired by seemingly unconnected topics.  On the other hand, I have seen some weird results produced by search engines, so maybe there is hope.

Why did I become an invertebrate zoologist?

The reasons are somewhat lost in time.  But my first application for graduate school was to a botany department.  I had actually had more interest in invertebrates from using Hegner's Invertebrate Zoology text.  The variety was amazing, there were so many species, I thought maybe I could become the world's expert in some obscure group (I don't think I was very competitive).  I had been a little put off by the extreme need for grades motivating pre-Med student friends.  Plants were soon eliminated along with vertebrates due to sneezing and wheezing triggered by pollen and animal dander, factors seldom a problem with aquatic animals.

I had some vague notion that I might make some momentous discovery studying an obscure invertebrate.  I knew that was unrealistic.  Even so, dabbling in varied topics, I seem to be the only zoologist who realizes the abandoned annelid theory should be reinstated with modification to include the role of the pogonophorans as a central part of the theory.  The evidence that abyssal animals can live extremely long lives [ ] and provide reason molecular phylogenies need reworking is something I hope to make others understand.

Joseph G. Engemann      Kalamazoo, Michigan     September 7, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015



A TV business news item said Google was going to do some genetic engineering of mosquitoes to control pest populations.  Why the thank you?

The technology for doing such work is over thirty years old.  But business in general will not fund such biological control projects because once they are in place they tend to be self-sustaining and not a source of continuing profits.

Such projects should be funded by government research and other grants because they can benefit all in much greater proportion than their cost.  But in our anti-taxing environment there is no one to effectively compete with other research that is more likely to benefit big business.

So Google deserves a big thank you from all of us for putting money into an important project with small monetary reward.  It gets money put to good use a little quicker than waiting for the owners to fund good projects with their estates.

Notice that pharmaceutical companies go to great lengths to produce new drugs to keep their profits high from non-generic versions that may be no better than generic drugs.

An example of the biological control of pests is the introduction of milky spore bacteria into soil where Japanese Beetles are established.  One treatment is likely to give long lasting control keeping populations very low.  The chemical companies probably prefer you use a pesticide that need repeated applications.

The genetic modification of mosquitoes is almost assured to only control the species modified.  Chemical controls are seldom so well targeted.  Environmental modification can help.  In Michigan, malaria is no longer naturally occurring due largely to screened windows, drained swamps, and perhaps some other measures.  But draining swamps has made it difficult for some populations of fish, birds, amphibians, and perhaps others to resist extinction.

The techniques likely to be used for mosquito control do not include the introduction of genes hazardous to other organisms or ourselves.  Most genetically modified organisms are not a hazard when incorporated in the food chain.  Some that use genes for toxins would need to be further studied.

The likely approach for mosquito control will introduce genes into the male that will cause the female they fertilize to only produce male offspring with the same engineered feature.  Male mosquitoes don't feed on blood, only the female does.  A variety of parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is the major worldwide threat.

Thanks again, Google

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan   August 12, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015



The study of evolution encompasses all of biology.  So we face a problem in understanding evolution much as the ant faces in understanding the tree it is climbing.  It can climb all over it.  But much is hidden in the ground and under the bark.  Even the living part of the tree is mostly hidden by the dead outer layer of bark.  If all the tissues and functions that make up the tree were known, it would still be a monumental task to understand how it worked and how it was affected by its environment.


The fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, comparative physiology, and nucleic acid analysis have been the major entries to understanding evolution used by past and present researchers.

1 - The fossil record has left a partially connected chain of organisms leading to the present living world.  It has not left an unambiguous source due to- gaps in fossil bearing sediments - soft bodied forms rarely leaving fossils - and our inability to always determine if a line of fossils was gaining or losing a feature.  Ancestral forms may appear in strata with later descendants as shown by an example in  [ ].

2 - Comparative anatomy and related microscopical studies, especially embryology, did the heavy lifting in bringing evolution studies toward maturity.  It still is a major source of new understanding; for an unusual example connecting anatomy and psychology see [ ].  Many studies need a combination of factors other than anatomy considered, an example is shown in how the extreme longevity of pogonophorans was determined [ ] and [].  The anatomical similarity of pogonophorans and hemichordates is illustrated in [ ].

The sponge-cnidarian transition was first hinted at by a fossil comparison [ see ] supported by a hypothetical argument based on spicules in both sponges and some cnidarian nematocysts [ and illustrated in ].

The cnidarian-flatworm transition is further discussed in [ ] and illustrated in [ ].

3 - Comparative physiology provides many insights regarding relationships.  An example is noted in a comment about vitamin C in the previous post [ ].  The same post mentions the anatomical evolutionary connection of our appendix with the cecum of herbivores, noting that function lacking structures are often rapidly lost by lacking selection for their retention; the appendix may have value from the lymphatic tissue it contains as well as for possible retention of gut organisms for re-inoculation of a gut purged of them by diarrhea.

4 - Comparative biochemistry studies, especially DNA and RNA studies, are still the gold standard of determining close evolutionary relationships.  It is far less useful in determining relationships of phyla because rates of change can vary among the chromosomes as well as differing in different organisms.  This has been discussed in many posts, especially [ ]


Systematics indirectly confirms the reality of evolution.  When Linnaeus classified plants and animals he is thought to have assumed the different forms were created separately by special creation.  Consequently, the groups named were clustered in a hierarchy based primarily on anatomy.  When groups are determined by scientists using an evolutionary hypothesis, they approximate the relationships in the classification designed by Linnaeus.


No one knows the mind of God.  Lacking direct revelation of the creation of diversity that is not clouded by inspired story, parable, and limitations of knowledge among inspired writers, we are left with only science to give us a clear look at the details of how God did it.  Even the best intentions of christian writers can go astray as noted in [ ].  My recent post [ ] might be helpful in providing greater understanding of other arguments.  The tools of science are adequate to prove the existence of evolution, but not the existence of God; they are inadequate to prove God does not exist.


The complexity of the interrelationships of biological sub-disciplines is most fully appreciated in the study of evolution and ecology.  Genetics is also an excellent organizing principle making sense of the diversity of life and evolutionary processes.  One or more of the first three entry points are often missing or insufficiently well known in the education of today's biological scientists.  For those well versed in genetics and molecular biology, just realizing the limitations of those areas are cause for not rejecting the older scheme of phylum relationships, prior to the invalid acceptance of Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa as natural groups.  The post of 2013/05 listed at the end of 4 above tells why.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    August 1, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015



Or, more accurately, what evolution can tell us about diet, started in my mind as a semi-humorous post that soon evolved into one with some serious messages.  It was triggered by a conversation I overheard discussing someones weight problem and the persons lack of knowledge of what I thought were bits of information one could not overlook if they kept up with the news and opinion over the past few dozen years.

The evolutionary aspects of diet

We are a product of a long evolutionary history.  One would think our more recent ancestors had a more direct impact on our genetic heritage.  That is probably true, but more remote ones often leave their imprint on our genetic code.  Many fundamentals of our biochemistry go back to one-celled ancestors common to both plants and animals.  So it is not surprising that vegetation has a store of nutrients useful for a healthy diet.

We may worry about exposure to foreign organisms, especially bacteria.  When our ancestors left that primordial soup in which they evolved they were accompanied by a varied flora and fauna.  So today, after a course of antibiotics that kill off useful members of those organism inhabiting our gut, it is a good idea to eat yogurt and perhaps other things that will reintroduce those useful organisms back in to the gut.  Doing so can lead to rapid return of comfortable intestinal function.

Even our skin may benefit from the presence of useful organisms that compete with pathogens trying to establish themselves on or in our skin.

Fast forward to the present and we see diets that rely on excessive distortion, not truly natural diets based on our evolutionary history.

A fatal diet

A few decades ago, a liquid protein diet worked wonders in providing rapid weight loss.  But some died when they reached their desired weight and tried to resume a normal diet to prevent further weight loss.  It was thought the lack of carbohydrates and/or fats in their diet had fostered the deterioration of the parts of their biochemical cellular features which could not be retooled quickly enough to preserve life.

A balanced diet

Is balanced on a tray carried by the waitperson?  No, it is one that should contain all needed nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates as well as fiber and some less easily characterized nutrients.  Would an egg diet be a balanced diet, it has all the nutrients needed to form the systems of a bird?  No, most adults need a larger supply of energy. But some eggs are probably beneficial.  Fats are food having the most calories (stored energy), about 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates and proteins each have about 4 or 4 1/2 calories per gram, and alcohol has about 9 calories per gram.  So, if you are serious about a diet, reduce the alcohol consumption to the equivalent of a small glass of wine; none is far better than too much.

Nutrients do not all provide energy.  For example-  Our need for vitamin C in our diet is almost certainly a result of having tree-dwelling primate ancestors that had so much vitamin C laden fruit in their diet that random mutations destroying the ability to make vitamin C did not get eliminated by natural selection.  Non-primates ancestors such as your pets retained the ability to make vitamin C from earlier common ancestors we share.

Fat was the most efficient material to use for storing energy.  Not only for its high energy content, but it has very low impact on the aqueous based metabolic processes of cells.  Thus enough can be more easily stored to get an animal through seasons of low food supply.  We don't have that need now so our natural tendency to stock up does not get followed by a season to use up the excess reserves.  We still need fats and/or oils in our diet to aid uptake of fat soluble vitamins in our food.

Because we cannot digest fiber it does not provide dietary calories.  We lost that ability sometime way back in our evolutionary history.  Our appendix is thought to be a vestigial organ representing the cecal sac of an ancestor that could use it as a location to use microorganisms to break down fiber and otherwise indigestible plant parts, like cellulose, into usable carbohydrates.

High protein diets may put an excessive load of breakdown products on the excretory system.  More details of protein metabolism can be found in [ ] a post which also indicates the important role protein break-down products had in adaptation for animals emerging from water to occupy terrestrial habitats.  The views count for the protein post is zero.  The views count for carbohydrates [ ] was one.  The views count for fats [ ] was two.  But the next post on macromolecules was more than an order of magnitude more popular [ ].


Our teeth include biting (incisors), piercing and tearing (canines), and chewing or grinding (molars), a combination of forms characteristic of omnivores.  That could suggest that our transition from one diet to another was fairly rapid in an evolutionary sense; it also makes us more adaptable to a variety of diets.

Evolution of diet

Our earliest animal like ancestors fed on small microorganisms like bacteria.  That method of nutrition can still be seen in us as the white blood cells that go around ingesting bacteria that invade our body.  Things go awry when disease causing bacteria get too good a start in our body.

The large eggs, part of the diet of many of us, developed in part because birds and reptiles were able to form them with a shell because the waste products of protein metabolism could be largely in the form of nearly insoluble uric acid.  Before that ammonia that was the first nitrogenous waste product of protein metabolism could diffuse in to the water.  We have partially gotten away from uric acid by using urea as a soluble nearly non-toxic alternative.  But for most of us, too much protein can lead to gout and other problems of excess uric acid accumulation.  Egg, dairy, and meat eaters face other problems from cholesterol and saturated fats although most of us can use moderate amounts if adequate vegetable, fruits, and whole grain fiber gets to our diet.  Some fish, not all types of fish, each week seems to have a beneficial role in nutrition.

Trans-fats, refined sugars and refined grains were not part of our remote ancestors diets, and we would probably be better off without them.  But even if we could study middens or other evidence of diet of distant ancestors it does not necessarily mean that roots, leaves, fruits, and berries form an essential diet.  We do not know the health and disease problems of those ancestors in sufficient detail to know that we should try to be like them.

My wife tells me that if I eat like my grandparents did on the farm, then I should work like them too.

An important consequence of a vegetarian diet is better avoidance of toxic chemicals we have introduced into our environment.  Animal protein can accumulate heavy metals, the animal fats can accumulate organic toxins when animals get food or medicines that contain those compounds.  Fortunately, the scary numbers are partly due to our ability to often identify pollutants in parts per billion amounts, a few generations ago when tests identified parts per million amounts, we didn't know they were there.  The bad thing is that some can poison at extremely low concentrations if they mimic or interfere with hormones or their functions.

Part of the bureaucracy many complain about is doing its best to see that we get safe food, drugs, air, and water.  That is not to say that improvements cannot be made.

Joe Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan       July 21, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



In his remarks on TV today, about the pending agreement to ban nuclear weapons development in Iran, came across as sincere and convincing, in my estimation.  Seeking to work out a solution, although somewhat temporary, between the mutually assured destruction policy of the past, and the hoped for elimination of all nuclear weapons use, he presented a case that was a reasoned approach that seems to have some safeguards.  It could be a win-win situation rather the present lose-lose one.  The fact that it incorporates input from many other countries makes it more palatable and more likely to succeed with sustained vigilance.


The volatile Middle East is a tough place to have reason take a leading role.  Factions that recruit child suicide bombers and rule through fear and mass beheadings are difficult to deal with once they are established.  So the proposed agreement is probably as good as is possible in such an environment.  So Iranian officials may have to soft pedal their statements and live with factions that say "death to America."  In such a hostel environment an Israel spokesperson can hardly be expected to endorse an agreement short of destruction of nuclear facilities rather than a well designed inspection program and related other contingent measures.


The indication that the Federal Reserve System will start raising interest rates later this year brings some uncertainty about the direction the economy will take.  In the past such a measure might have spooked the stock market.  But rates are so low it might have the opposite effect.  If rates continue to rise, companies may eventually borrow and expand at such a great rate that it could lead to a boom then a bust with a dramatic fall of the economy.

The political will to do a good job of maintaining stable growth, jobs, and reasonable interest rates is sometime difficult to get.  There is some correlation of economic results and the four year presidential election cycle.  It is made more difficult by the idiotic no-tax increase pledges signed by some legislators; it is a pledge to not use your brain when needed.

I was only an infant when the economy tanked in 1929.  I would hope that the economists and politicians can work together to prevent a decline of that magnitude.  Everyone can help by not taking on excessive personal debt and having a personal savings program to supplement social security when they retire.  My father noted that some he knew that were worst hit by the depression had really been flaunting their wealth and spending beyond their means before it struck.

This is neither an endorsement nor a criticism of Democrats or Republicans, they can be equally offensive, but deserving of praise when they show some bipartisan progress.

How did this get in an evolution blog?  Extinction via nuclear destruction could loom with no progress on arms control.  Nuclear destruction could give a fresh evolutionary start without us, but would take millions of years for recovery.

Joe Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan    July 15, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015



There seems to be a lull in Creation/Evolution debates now that court cases about how it should be taught or not taught in schools are not in the news each day.  The attempt to make such debates a God versus Science contest should be abandoned.


The debates represent an unrecognized case of cognitive dissonance that was acquired shortly after Darwin presented his evolution ideas in the The Origin of Species as was noted in my 12th post "Darwin and God "[ ].

I never connected the debates to cognitive dissonance until today (July 10, 2015) even though I had blogged about it [ ] and had talked about the pertinent opposing concepts on the first page of my manuscript's preface that can be read in my post [ ].

The clash of ideas did not start with Darwin, he was originally viewing evolution as the work of the Creator.  But the vocal views of colleagues that science proved evolution and disproved any possibility of a spiritual component in the process was soon countered by vehement objections that it couldn't be true since evolution contradicted some of the literal interpretations of the creation stories in the biblical book of Genesis.

Vocal scientists and religious leaders kept the controversy going by overstating their cases in a way excluding the possibility of both having truths that are not mutually exclusive.  So when each side convinces you of the truth of their position it becomes a case of acquired cognitive dissonance.

MERGING THE VIEWS eliminates the dissonance if you can grasp the truth of each position.

Many of my posts are intended to help people along the way to such peaceful coexistence of science and spirituality.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    July 10, 2015

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Tuesday's Quake

According to Julie Mack's report in the July 2, 2015 Kalamazoo Gazette, the earthquake that occurred at 11:42 A.M. Tuesday was a 3.3 magnitude one and an aftershock of the 4.2 one May 2.  I have two comments that I think may be of interest about the two that are not likely to be considered by the earthquake experts.


First, although I agree it is appropriate to label it an aftershock, the assumption that the depth of over three miles detaches the question of fracking being part of the cause is most likely but not necessarily correct for two reasons.  Fissures and boreholes could possibly divert fracking fluids to greater depths; I think that is not likely, but possible.  Of greater probability is the fact that if fracking fluids are spread in the quake region but at considerably shallower depths, they could detach the overlying strata from the ones below and reduce resistance to movement at different rates in the separated strata.  THE SLIPPING LAYER COULD BE EITHER ABOVE OR BELOW A FRACKED LAYER.  Although that should be true, it also seems that in reference to surrounding areas the upper layers would be more likely to demonstrate movement.


Second, the timing of both quakes came near the approaching full moon's peak effect on tides that may have a cyclic effect on stresses of continental plates.  I presented this as a possibility in the blog of May 3,[ ].  If I had more confidence in this as a partial cause, I would look up the phase of the moon, to see if was either near full or near new moon status on August 10, 1947, when a 4.6 magnitude quake was the strongest recorded in Michigan.  The three quakes seem to be clustered in the same fault system.

I think that years ago I saw some data presented showing tides exist in the crust of one or both bodies of the earth-moon system.  They were of much smaller magnitude than the movement seen in ocean tides.

The effect of the moon would seem to peak near noon and midnight (ignoring the position of the sun).  The monthly peak of those peaks would be near the new moon and the full moon - about every 14 days.  It seems, if quakes correlate with the lunar cycle, a scatter graph of earthquakes by intensity and time of the lunar monthly cycle and another by intensity and time of the lunar daily cycle might reveal if the moon has an affect.  Possibly smaller quakes would be more likely the ones to reveal effects by such a process.

The problem may be much more complicated than I have suggested.  Anyone familiar with tides along our coasts knows the delay in tide arrival is not very closely correlated with the time of maximum lunar and solar gravity attraction maximums.  Tidal and moon effects are not true causes of earthquakes, they only affect the timing of quakes due to gradual accumulation of stresses from crustal movements.  But the possible result is to make a quake occur sooner than the gradual accumulation would otherwise cause it.  Thus the quakes along a fault may release the energy in smaller quakes than the ones only triggered by the gradual buildup of stress.

Joseph G. Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan   July 2, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Laudato Si'

Laudato Si' is the title of a letter to the faithful that Pope Francis had been preparing for the past year and finally released in the past week or so.  Popular press accounts indicate he comes out firmly on the side of those indicating human activities are major contributors to global warming, a view shared by most informed scientists.

Human activity is more than just "the straw that broke the camel's back", even though non-human factors are the major determinants of climate.  We are currently contributing to a rise in temperatures above the temperatures variations produced by natural cycling due largely to solar output and lesser factors such as volcanic activity.  Does it make a difference whether we are adding one or more shovels full of straw to break the camels back?  While we argue about it the damage is being done.

Our plundering of resources is somewhat difficult to see as degrading the environment until the damage is severe.  Pollute the air or rivers and others downwind or downstream will pay the cost in lung disease or polluted water.  Wealth often comes to the ones polluting; meanwhile the poor lack the resources to purify their water and/or their air.  Pope Francis is apparently adding his voice to those recognizing the problem.


Near the middle of the past century Garret Hardin wrote an essay entitled The Tragedy of the Commons.  He used the example of earlier times in England when townspeople could pasture their cows on a central green area free to all.  As some found they could sell more milk by having more than one cow they added to their herd.  As others did the same the greens became overcrowded and cows gave less milk so one cow was no longer enough to feed your family.

Common resources include natural areas, our waters and our air, our view of the sun and the stars, and perhaps also our mineral resources.  It is difficult to manage many natural resources that are international in nature.

We still have a lot to learn.  I thought I had considered the important facts when I proposed the sperm whales had a significant role recycling nitrogen in the ocean food chain as illustrated many years ago by the following figure.

Then, after reading a 2010 book by Claire Parkinson discussed in the post, , I realized I had not considered its role in the oceanic carbon dioxide sink and climate change as noted in the post.  The post of May 17, this year  [ ] has some concept of how global warming may have a role in hurricane intensity patterns.


The phrase in Latin was the motto of my undergraduate college.  I have found that, especially in biology, the sciences benefit from realizing things are seldom only black or white, but most often some intermediate shade of gray.  We are seldom extreme introverts or extreme extroverts, most are somewhere else along the spectrum between.  When studying the environment there are multiple causes functioning in most things under observation; so simple answers are not easily given.  Such a fact should not be an excuse for doing nothing to improve our environment.

Joseph G. Engemann     June 25, 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015

CREATIVITY posts list

The 17 blog posts [ on  ] listed below have something to do with creativity.  The ones with creativity in the title are somewhat more likely to have something of benefit in helping develop and/or understand creativity.  The number is from the sequential list of over 100 posts; the date can be used to help you access the blog from the blog archive on the right.

1          5/9/2013          My Evolution Blog
3          5/18/2013        Creativity
4          5/19/2013        Creativity and Cognitive Dissonance
31        11/11/2013      Creativity: honesty helps
34        2/2/2014          Science: Quiet and Creativity
35        2/8/2014          Creativity: Art
36        2/18/2014        Creativity: Brainstorming
37        2/28/2014        Science Thinking Errors
40        3/12/2014        Evolution Insights: Preface
47        5/4/2014          Psychoanalysis of a blogger
52        5/31/2014        Evolution Insights author
61        7/25/2014        Evolution: Intelligence and Creativity
65        8/18/2014        Creativity: Last First
70        10/5/2014        Creativity: Reverse Viewing
71        10/11/2014      Habit, Creativity, Evolution, and God
77        11/19/2014      Creativity: Frame of Mind
92        2/8/2015          Creativity, bee language, and dyslexia

Joseph G. Engemann     May 24, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

GOD Posts List

God related posts

The following list of 23 posts has the post number, date, and approximate title of posts with something pertinent to the GOD page of   Other posts on creativity or science may also be of interest.  If you accept my view that God is the Creator of the world and its principles, such as evolution, then all 104 prior posts should be of interest.

1          5/9/2013          My Evolution Blog
5          5/21/2013        GOD
10        6/8/2013          God and His People
12        6/12/2013        Darwin and God
28        10/22/2013      Evolution and Morality
29        10/27/2013      Evolution and Stem Cell Morality
32        12/18/2013      God and MLK
40        3/12/2014        Evolution Insights: Preface
41        4/3/2014          Evolution and Marriage
42        4/12/2014        God, Science, and the Media
47        5/4/2014          Psychoanalysis of a blogger
49        5/13/2014        Hello World
50        5/17/2014        Finding God
60        6/30/2014        God: Lectio Divina
61        7/25/2014        Evolution: Intelligence and Creativity
66        9/15/2014        Evolution and the error of irreducible complexity
69        10/4/2014        Evolution, Science, and Extraterrestrial Life
71        10/11/2014      Habit, Creativity, Evolution, and God
74        10/31/2014      God, Evolution, and the Pope
76        11/17/2014      God: Women Priests?
81        12/27/2014      Konnersreuth and Teresa Neumann
83        1/19/2015        God and Religious Traditions
84        1/21/2015        Our Relationship with God

Sunday, May 17, 2015



In my post of June 13, 2014 I noted some evidence that pogonophorans can easily live to be over 10,000 years old.  A brief discussion of factors leading to extreme longevity in the deep sea was presented earlier in a post on June 22, 2013.  The importance of the pogonophorans as an over-looked link connecting chordates to annelid ancestors makes it important to understand deep-sea conditions better in order to understand the reality of that relationship.


My first clue to understanding the problem preceded my understanding of the pogonophorans.  When teaching a marine biology class in my early years at Western Michigan University I was examining one of the fifty volumes of Challenger Reports of deep-sea research done in the 1870's.  A map or graphs included distribution of oxygen, salinity and temperature by depth and latitude.

An oxygen minimum zone, with little or no oxygen, was centered at about 500 meters depth in temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical latitudes.  In contrast to eutrophic fresh-water lakes where the oxygen rich zone is seldom more than ten meters thick, the oceanic counterpart may be over 100 meters thick.  Oxygen was most abundant at the surface, but, after a brief, rapid increase below the oxygen minimum zone, gradually increased with depth below 1000 meters until, at the bottom a few miles lower, oxygen concentration was almost comparable to surface concentrations.

Temperature decreases with depth, salinity increases with depth.  The change is most rapid near the surface and very gradual with increasing depth.


Density of ocean water increases with depth until about 2000 meters depth due to greater salinity and lower temperature.  So away from the polar regions bottom water is slowly rising with replacement from cold, salty, oxygen-rich water sinking along the bottom from polar regions at a relatively slow rate because of entrapment in the Arctic Ocean by shallower sea bottoms near most of its fringe.

The replacement of the sea-water beneath the oxygen-minimum zone takes over 10,000 years.  The rate can vary according to overall ocean levels and depth of sills where Arctic Ocean water spills over to sink and eventually reach topical latitudes.


Oxygen would be depleted and the deep ocean would be an anoxic wasteland if animals lived at the same rate they do in shallower waters.  Photosynthetic production of oxygen is limited to the first 100 meters or so of the ocean.  Enrichment from the atmosphere is the only other significant source of oxygen in the ocean and is limited to the surface and circulation by mostly wave induced surface currents.  The warmer surface and rain combine to lower density of water and make wave induced circulation ineffective below the thermocline (the zone of rapid drop in temperature).


The thickness and depth of the thermocline can vary within the 50 to 300 meter depths of ocean water.  Presumably a very intense hurricane induced wave episode could mix the ocean to a greater depth and compress the thermocline.  That could perhaps store excess heat for a few years and reduce surface water temperatures so they have less heat energy to produce another mammoth hurricane for a few years.  So the complications of predicting global warming rates is increased.


The ocean is generally more productive, with nutrients and organisms abundant, in shallow regions fringing continents, and in areas of up-welling currents which bring colder nutrient rich water to the surface.  Sedimentation rates are generally very slow beyond the continental shelves.  Most of the open ocean can be thought of as biological desert, but some very small organisms may be more abundant than others that are better known.  More recent research indicates the small organisms may be more important than generally is known.


As long as its descendants stay in abyssal waters they will remain to help remind us of the stage that survived extinction episodes and enabled those moving to shallow water to adapt again to shorter lives and greater variety that includes the chordates.  The previous post has a figure that shows one of the annelid-like features of the pogonophora and their similarity to near chordate relatives, the hemichordates.

Molecular clocks fail to place pogonophorans in the correct position in the "tree of life".  The problem is addressed in the February 2, 2015 post; a better guess at the correct position is in the post
and why the molecular clock estimates of phylogeny of phyla is wrong in the post

Inspiration for understanding evolutionary aspect of the embryological differences between protostomes and deuterostomes was presented in six posts from June 22, 2013 to June 30, 2013.


The long residence time of bottom water of the ocean would make it anoxic if animals lived at the same rate we see occurring in shallow water.  The alternative explanation would be extremely low populations and/or biomass in the abyss.  Life is less abundant, but not nearly enough to account for the difference.  The stability of conditions made it an ideal refugium to allow survival of forms that could later repopulate surface waters after an extinction event bad enough to cause the demise of over 90 percent of living species.

Joseph G. Engemann   Emeritus Professor of Biology, Western Michigan University     May 17, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015



The pogonophora to hemichordate transition is the most difficult step to see because pogonophorans are most easily seen as specialized polychaete annelids; and hemichordates are generally accepted as being in the chordate line.  So the big step from the first (the protostome part of the lineage) to the last (the deuterostome part of the lineage) faces the greatest difficulty in seeing for those not familiar with what I have tried to show in earlier posts about this topic.

An obstacle is the residue left from past objections when the annelid theory was thought to be discredited by embryological and molecular evidence.  Why those objections are irrelevant has been treated in earlier posts.


A, B, and C illustrate the progression of stages from early larva to adult anterior of the hemichordate, Saccoglossus.
D, E, and G illustrate the progression of comparable stages of the pogonophoran, Siboglinum.
F illustrates the segmented posterior portion of an adult Siboglinum, and G- its anterior.
H illustrates the anterior of a giant pogonophoran from a thermal vent community.  (A, B, and C, after Hyman and others; D, E, F, and G, adapted fromEngemann and Hegner after Webb; H, from a specimen in the U. S. National Museum.)  [Fig. 12-5 in my unpublished 2010 manuscript, Evolution Insights.]

F, above, illustrates the posterior segmentation not reported until done so by Webb [Webb, M.  1964.  The posterior extremity of Siboglinum fiordicum (Pogonophora).  Sarsia, 15:33-36].  Possibly the segmented end of some species lost this region, or an intermediate species did before becoming hemichordates.
 G and H show some of the variability of the anteriors of pogonophorans that resemble the anterior of C, a hemichordate.

A and D are not as precisely alike as one might like.  But this was near the evolutionary step where the early embryology was changing drastically from protostome to deuterostome embryology.

REFERENCES to many of the research articles influential in helping me see the protostome-deuterostome connection, especially the molecular evidence showing the error of current studies were posted in

which you can get to by using the Blog Archive at the right and clicking on the 2014 November arrows.  Or send the address above to a friend you think might find it interesting.  Most of the references are annotated with my comments to myself or quotations from the article.

Joseph G. Engemann    Emeritus Professor of Biology, Western Michigan University  May 4, 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015



Yesterday's earthquake will not receive recognition in comparison to great earthquakes of the past, or even the present severe one in Nepal this past week.  One five years ago in Haiti resulted in the death of over 316,000 people; the second largest (in fatalities), recorded after 800,000+ in 1556 in China, was followed by 300,000 in 1737 in Calcutta, India.

The geologically stable (relatively) state of Michigan had its worst earthquake in 1947, not far away, near Coldwater at 4.6 on the Richter scale, whereas the 4.2 or 4.4 of yesterday ranked second and was centered about five miles south of Galesburg, in Kalamazoo County near Scotts and Climax.  For comparison the Haiti quake was 7.0 but the even larger quake of 2011 rated at 9.0 caused the death of over 20,000 due the large tsunami generated as a result of its offshore location in close proximity to Fukushimi, Japan.


Because it was centered over three miles deep, those quoted on TV and/or in the paper thought it was not related to the much shallower depth of wells involved in possible fracking activities there.  It is along a fault line running from NW to SE through the area and many miles in each of those directions.

So it was thought to be due to two of the earth's crustal plates shifting or sliding over one another.  It started me thinking about continental drift, plate tectonics, and their causes and effects.  I mentioned glacial rebound (I should have said crustal rebound from the demise of the continental glaciers).  Such rebound it evident from the high past shorelines of Lakes Michigan-Huron noted on Mackinac Island compared to other locations.


The movements of continents and the formation of the Atlantic Ocean are well accepted now.  When I arrived in Tasmania in 1956, a international conference on Continental Drift had just been completed.  They were telling me it was well accepted as a concept by all but the American geologists who thought there was no cause known to be strong enough to cause the movement.  I had already thought the biogeographic evidence was so strong it had to be true.  So I mused about how the earth was a little bit similar to a simmering pot of soup.  The upwelling generated by the heat below produced a column that rose and spread carrying surface material aside.

Once the earth's surface cooled sufficiently and the crust was thick and lighter the accumulation may have caused a reversal of the circulation due its insulating effect and an new column arose under it to disperse the present continents and widen the Atlantic.  The collisions following such movements and continued pressure produced by oceanic plates caused some of the subsequent mountain building and other events.  The reduction of deep sources of heat due to decay of radioactive elements may have caused some decline in rates of crustal movement.


When I looked at the paper and saw we will have a full moon tonight, I thought about the role of tides in the above movements.  Could it have been the straw that broke the camel's back; were tides of sea and earth reaching a peak that triggered quakes.  Probably not, but perhaps tides could be a factor in minor crustal movements that accumulate to cause quakes etc.

The tides move a tremendous amount of water and its attendant weight about with approximately a twice daily cycle that is of greater magnitude during a twice monthly cycle when sun, moon, and earth or sun, earth and moon are aligned.  When the stresses produced by tides are aligned with crustal movement forces, the movements could show a twice daily cycle of speed or movement if measurements were able to record them.  Then again, it may just be my imagination.


I thought about Michigan geology.  The Lower Peninsula of Michigan has subsurface geology resembling a stack of saucers.  Devonian deposits outcrop around the rim and progressively younger deposits are at the surface as you go to the central part.  Above the Devonian are layers that include salt, gypsum, coal, limestone, and sandstone of varying thickness.  Bedrock is topped by glacial till containing predominately sand, gravel, and clay in an unconsolidated layer as much as 1,000 feet deep in some places.  In many places the water of the melting glaciers left nearly horizontal layers varying according to the materials the melting glacier carried and the flow of the departing water.

Since the coral deposits and other marine material indicated it formed in a shallow sea, it occurred to me that perhaps the saucer like shape of the layers was due to glacial weight after the shallow sea sediments had been deposited.  A likely candidate was late Permian glaciation near the end of the Paleozoic Era that was associated with the extinction of about 95% of marine and terrestrial species.  It was long before the Atlantic Ocean became a significant body of water.  Once the continental glacier, centered on or north of Michigan, got high enough, the altitude effect would prevent melting and perhaps produce a massive ice mountain deforming the flat sediments to its cup shape configuration.

When continental glaciation more recently happened (during Pleistocene glaciation), it is thought to have been centered farther north in Canada so the scouring effect increased the depth of the Great Lakes and caused the formation of the Finger Lakes in New York State.

Joseph G. Engemann    May 3, 2015