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Series G, Episode 2: Ganimals

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643113.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:51 am Reply with quote

Sorry to hear that you folks didn't enjoy the show. Here's the script note on marine insects:
About five-sixths of known animal life is made up of insects. They flourish almost everywhere, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, in caves, lakes, deserts, and rain forests, in hot springs, and even in pools of petroleum. But oddly enough, not in the ocean, even though insect species live happily in lakes and rivers, and even salt marshes. (There are rare exceptions such as the Pontomyia, a midge that lives as a larva submerged in Pacific tide pools).

Why not? It’s not the salt and it’s not the predators – there are 400 different species of sea spider, for example. The answer appears to be that there are almost no flowering plants in the sea - the vast majority of plant life in the ocean consists of simple plants like single-celled green plankton and seaweed without true leaves, stems, or roots. And because the two have evolved together, the absence of flowers made life in the sea impossible for insects.

The reason flowering plants have been unable to colonize the sea has to do with the movement of particles in a fluid. Even if by some chance an animal carried a few underwater pollen grains to a flower’s stigma, flowing water would immediately wash them off – so, very few underwater flowers.

There’s an alternative view: it’s not the lack of flowers so much as the lack of trees. A tree contains a multitude of habitats for insects: roots, bark, strengthening tissues, seeds, leaves. By comparison, seaweed often consists of just a few spongy leaflike tissues. Terrestrial ecosystems constitute a suitable habitat for insects because of the architectural diversity of plants, which is absent in the sea.

643122.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:15 am Reply with quote

I didn't say I didn't enjoy ity - merely that it was an "average" show when I was expecting an "above average" one given the panel members. But I did think the lavatorial bit was overdone.


Ian Dunn
643126.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:22 am Reply with quote

I just felt that John Hodgman should have been given a bit more airtime. After all he came all the way from the USA and he is not that well known - it might have been good to give him a bit more exposure.

643135.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:47 am Reply with quote

I would agree that anyone attempting to give an explanation as to why there are no insects in the sea is on a hiding to nothing. Have people never heard of evolution? It would be like an early reptile saying "how come there are no flying reptiles?". Given enough time, evolution made flying dinosaurs. Mammals have managed to take up a completely aquatic existence.

643154.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:32 am Reply with quote

There are predatory insects and scavengers but if there are no examples of salt water equivalents (and I assume there aren't) it seems likely to me the reason is that the niches are already filled by more specialised creatures already accustomed to the marine environment. The wholly fresh-water dwelling insects are mainly larvae aren't they? That is to say that the larval stage is water-dwelling but the reproductive stage isn't (although this stage sometimes doesn't even have mouthparts as it doesn't feed in its brief existence). So the larval stage's oxygen is not a problem as gills have already evolved in some predatory species. I'm leaning heavily towards the thought that an insect 'predator' becomes a handy snack for the already established fish and/or other carnivores in the sea. Think of how poisonous/venomous marine creatures are compared to their terrestrial counterparts - 'it's a jungle out there' hardly seems to apply! The often lethal 'sea wasps' incidentally are actually box jellyfish.

The marine mammals are all relatively big, fast and/or agile and have the mammalian brain to help them. I can only think of sea otters (by far the cutest marine mammal) that isn't a hugely powerful creature and sea otters clearly are not fully evolved to the aquatic environment yet since they retain legs and are capable of land travel though they rarely leave the water. When you think about it the other marine mammals are massive and formidably weaponed creatures - even the krill feeding whales are unassailably powerful to anything but the absolute pinacle of marine predators - and they too are whales (except perhaps for the legendary sperm whale vs giant squid stories and if those battles take place they do so unobserved by man at great depths).

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Last edited by Celebaelin on Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:21 pm; edited 1 time in total

643180.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:09 am Reply with quote

Was there any dinosaurs that could fly? The internet is so slow I can't look it up right now.

Rudolph Hucker
643183.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:24 am Reply with quote


643186.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:28 am Reply with quote

The term "dinosaur" is properly restricted to a certain group of terrestrial reptiles with a unique upright stance (superorder Dinosauria), and therefore excludes the pterosaurs, as well as the various groups of extinct aquatic reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs.


643187.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:30 am Reply with quote

Rudolph Hucker wrote:

wasn't a dinosaur...



643188.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:43 am Reply with quote

Gluben wrote:
AnneB wrote:
Sigh. Waiting, once again, for YouTube.

**twiddles thumbs, stares off into space***

You're the reason I had only 3 hours sleep. Uploading is hard work!

You are my new best friend.

643189.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:55 am Reply with quote

I was greatly looking forward to this episode because of the adorable and humorous Mr. Hodgman. All the build up if him being a special guest on the show had me imagining him as having an auxiliary role to Stephen’s. I thought maybe he’d help out with the facts and toss in some outrageous made-up trivia which is his mostly known for. A bit like his Resident Expert on “The Daily Show”. So I was a bit surprised to see him as an actual panelist playing along with the rest of the gang. He was amusing, but seemed to suffer from having a soft voice. Every time he started to speak, he was drowned out by the more robust Bill and Alan. Which is fine. They were funny, too. I’m just a bit partial to what Mr. Hodgman has to say.

I’m sure the whole thing was daunting for him. I was at a book signing of his and I asked about his appearance on QI. He said he loves the show, loves Stephen and all that. Then he said that before he came out for the first time, Stephen gave him a generous introduction as being the PC in the Apple adverts. Which is true, except that David Mitchell is the PC in the UK. So when John came out, he had an uneasy feeling that the audience was perplexed at who he was. But he looked like he had a blast, and I'm happy for him.

As has been mentioned, I’m really curious to known John’s score. Maybe his points were never tallied since he was a special guest?

643190.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:04 am Reply with quote

So far we we know, birds evolved from dinosaurs so at some point dinosaurs did become able to fly. The question of whether a particular animal was a dinosaur or a bird is a matter of classification rather than one of fact.

There was a question on the general knowledge round of "Mastermind" a few weeks ago along the lines of "what name was given to the group flying dinosaurs". The answer given was "pterodactyl" which was accepted but was wrong on two counts. Pterodactyl was a species. The group was actually called "pterosaurs" and, as noted already, pterosaurs aren't classed as dinosaurs.

Going back to the lack of insects in the sea for a moment, (possible just to reiterate what I have already written) the answer given wasn't really an answer. The answer essentially says "insects don't live in the sea because in order to do so they would have to have different lives to the insects already living on the land". A blue whale, however, has a very different life to, say, a three toes sloth. If evolution can make a three toed sloth and a blue whale, why can't it make a butterfly and a sea dwelling insect? Simply to say, as QI seemed to do, that it can't because insects are restricted to certain niches is a statement of fact, it isn't an explanation.

Evolution is just random variation selected through environmental pressure. There may not be one single reason why animals evolve in certain ways and not others; there may be whole number of different reasons each of which interplay with each other.

Take giraffes' necks. It was said that giraffes have long necks in order to fight with. However, just because giraffes currently fight with their long necks, that doesn't mean to say that is why they have long necks. It may be that the initial impetus to evolve long necks was to take advantage to the higher reach or better ability to see long distances and the fighting thing came about later. We can see the fossils of extinct giraffe ancestors but we can't see their behaviour.

643197.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:54 am Reply with quote

It's so they can reach the ground to drink isn't it?

Can I have a point for casting doubt on the idea that there are flying dinosaurs Flash?

643206.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:27 am Reply with quote

I think that the show suffered from too many guests. Everybody was funny, the facts was interesting, but it felt crowded. I do hope that Hodgeman returns, someday, on a regular episode.

643214.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:05 pm Reply with quote

Davini994 wrote:
It's so they can reach the ground to drink isn't it?

That's the funny thing, though - they can't, really, because their necks are too short.

Davini994 wrote:
Can I have a point for casting doubt on the idea that there are flying dinosaurs Flash?

Go on, then.


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