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This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

X-rated orchid

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Photo is courtesy of
National Geographic News

An article in National Geographic News says of the above photo,

July 17, 2007 — It may look enticing, but this "female wasp" (left) is all stalk.

That's because this temptress is actually a recently discovered hammer orchid, a flower that has evolved to resemble the body of a female wasp. Hapless male wasps are lured to land on — and thus pollinate — the flower.

The orchid is one of six new species found in the biologically rich region of southwestern Australia.

Other orchid species have evolved to use similar cunning to attract male wasps, such as emitting an airborne chemical that mimics a female's pheromone.

One thing that is especially interesting about at least one of these wasp-orchid relationships is that the female wasps emerge a week later than the male wasps so that the orchids do not have to compete with real female wasps in attracting horny male wasps. Another interesting thing is that these relationships confer no benefit on the wasps except free porn. One reference says,
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The reward offered is not always food. There is a tropical orchid with flowers that look and smell like females of a certain species of wasp. Males of this species emerge a week before the females. A male who smells a flower of this orchid, think it’s a female wasp, gets closer and the flower looks like a female, lands on it and it feels like a female, tries to copulate, gives up in frustration, and goes on to the next thing that smells like a female, and ends up transferring pollen.

I wonder how the Darwinists can explain that one. The above wasp-orchid relationship is supposedly an example of co-evolution, where two different kinds of organisms exert “mutual evolutionary pressure” on each other. My blog discusses co-evolution here and here.

My thanks to Denyse O'Leary on Uncommon Descent for bringing the National Geographic article to my attention.
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Labels:

28 Comments:

Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> I wonder how the Darwinists can explain that one. <

Since it is a perfect example of natural selection, it seems that the Darwinists don't have to explain it.

> The above wasp-orchid relationship is supposedly an example of co-evolution, where two different kinds of organisms exert “mutual evolutionary pressure” on each other. <

It is not an example of co-evolution. The wasps did not have to evolve in any way. It was an adaptation by the orchid alone.

Thank you for this great example of evolution, but the Fairness Doctrine doesn't really require for you to prove the other guy's point for him. In this case you have certainly bent over backwards to do so.

Friday, July 27, 2007 3:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

Given that you lack any explanation of your own, why do you refer to these observations as "criticisms" rather than "sources of wonder"?

Not only does that not compute, it is a lost opportunity to appreciate nature.

Friday, July 27, 2007 3:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

ViW said:
<< It is not an example of co-evolution. The wasps did not have to evolve in any way. It was an adaptation by the orchid alone. >>

It may have started that way and still be like that for many species, but Larry asserted that there has been adaptation on some wasps' part and is likely right about that:

>> One thing that is especially interesting about at least one of these wasp-orchid relationships is that the female wasps emerge a week later than the male wasps so that the orchids do not have to compete with real female wasps in attracting horny male wasps. <<

Friday, July 27, 2007 3:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

Of course Larry does have the causation kind of backwards. It's more like the male wasps looking at Playboy to get in the mood. A surprising new twist on feminine wiles. ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2007 3:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> but Larry asserted that there has been adaptation on some wasps' part and is likely right about that: <

It is absurd to suggest that the later emergence of the female wasps is an adaptation to the orchids. Rather the orchids are taking advantage of a situation that probably wasn't an adaptation on either side.

You are, as usual, bending over too far to find something on which to defend your brother, Dave. It is a characteristic that reveals your posts as readily as the ever present mindless ranting reveals those of your brother.

You can see the obvious reasons that I don't use my real name to avoid the ranting harassment that would be expected from the troll. In your case, you are subject to it anyway and your name is being tarred with the same brush that has prepared Larry for a coat of feathers. Dave, why not use your own name in an effort to separate yourself from association with his rantings?

Friday, July 27, 2007 4:32:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

ViW said (July 27, 2007 3:13:00 PM) --

>>>>>> I wonder how the Darwinists can explain that one. <

Since it is a perfect example of natural selection, it seems that the Darwinists don't have to explain it. <<<<<<

And ID is called a "science-stopper"? Darwinism is the real science-stopper -- Darwinists think that they do not have to explain anything.

>>>>>> The above wasp-orchid relationship is supposedly an example of co-evolution, where two different kinds of organisms exert “mutual evolutionary pressure” on each other. <

It is not an example of co-evolution. The wasps did not have to evolve in any way. It was an adaptation by the orchid alone. <<<<<<<<

I didn't say it is an example of co-evolution -- I said that it is "supposedly" an example of co-evolution. It appeared in an article about co-evolution and the article did not note that it is really not an example of co-evolution, except that it may have the appearance of co-evolution because of the unexplained emergence of the male wasps one week before the female wasps. And as nom-de-plume pointed out, this earlier emergence of the male wasp is part of the relationship (at least between some species) and so the relationship was not necessarily just an adaptation of the orchid alone.

That article narrowly defined co-evolution as occurring only in cases of mutualism:

Coevolution is the the mutual evolutionary influence between two species (the evolution of two species totally dependent on each other). Each of the species involved exerts selective pressure on the other, so they evolve together. Coevolution is an extreme example of mutualism. Some examples of coevolution include: (and the orchid-wasp relationship was one of the examples).

Wikipedia defines co-evolution more broadly as including parasitic relationships. So Wikipedia defines co-evolution as involving any kind of "mutual evolutionary pressure" between two different kinds of organisms, including predator-prey "arms races." A big difference between mutualism and parasitism is that potentially beneficial mutations in mutualism are of no benefit when the corresponding co-dependent mutations are absent in the other species, whereas mutations in parasitism are of greater benefit when the corresponding defensive mutations are absent in the other species.

There are other interspecies relationships, e.g., commensalism, where one species benefits and the other species is neither harmed nor benefited, and amensalism, where one species is harmed and the other is neither harmed nor benefited.

Friday, July 27, 2007 6:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Darwinists think that they do not have to explain anything. <

Your example is self-explanitory. It shows a great example of natural selection. I'm sorry you don't understand it. Then again, you rarely understand anything.

> I didn't say it is an example of co-evolution -- I said that it is "supposedly" an example of co-evolution. <

But we all know better.

> it may have the appearance of co-evolution because of the unexplained emergence of the male wasps one week before the female wasps. <

So they don't understand co-evolution either.

> and so the relationship was not necessarily just an adaptation of the orchid alone. <

But it was. The wasps did not adapt to accomodate the orchid. This was not necessary.

> That article narrowly defined co-evolution as occurring only in cases of mutualism: <

So?

> Coevolution is the the mutual evolutionary influence between two species (the evolution of two species totally dependent on each other). <

In other words species different than these two.

> Some examples of coevolution include: (and the orchid-wasp relationship was one of the examples). <

It is a poor example since coevolution is not a part of this relationship. From this point on you bray demonstrating that you have no more a concept of coevolution than a pig does about Sunday.

Friday, July 27, 2007 9:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

<< It is absurd to suggest that the later emergence of the female wasps is an adaptation to the orchids. >>

And why is it absurd? Do you think it's better for the female wasps to compete head-on with the impostor orchids (all the while, exposed to predators etc.)?

ViW, I am not persuaded by your theory that only Dave ever defends Larry in any manner. And even the "stopped-clock theory" (right twice a day) might apply.

Also, isn't it rather gauche to try to "out" me, and urge Dave to, quote "use your own name", while excusing yourself in that regard?

Saturday, July 28, 2007 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

BTW (wet blanket advisory!), it's also possible that the week's delay in the females' emergence is due to nothing more than genetic drift, via which changes can occur as long as they are not too deleterious.

Saturday, July 28, 2007 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Do you think it's better for the female wasps to compete head-on with the impostor orchids (all the while, exposed to predators etc.)? <

Do you really believe that it was an adaptation on the part of the female wasps, or an adaptation in orchids to an already existing adaptation.

> ViW, I am not persuaded by your theory that only Dave ever defends Larry in any manner. <

Possibly not, Dave, but the way you lean over backwards is quite obvious.

> And even the "stopped-clock theory" (right twice a day) might apply. <

Larry hasn't been able to match a stopped clock yet.

> Also, isn't it rather gauche to try to "out" me, and urge Dave to, quote "use your own name", while excusing yourself in that regard? <

Not really, Dave. Larry is not dragging my name through the dirt while he is dragging yours.

Saturday, July 28, 2007 5:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Hector said...

> Also, isn't it rather gauche to try to "out" me, and urge Dave to, quote "use your own name", while excusing yourself in that regard? <

He seems to have given his reasons. I am unfamiliar with Dave and his history but the solution is simple. If you are not Dave, say so. If you are, the family resemblance starts to become visible.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 6:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

> And why is it absurd? Do you think it's better for the female wasps to compete head-on with the impostor orchids (all the while, exposed to predators etc.)? <

I think that I can clarify nom de plume's position on this co-evolutionary concept. It is much like the adaptation that sheep have made to wolves by evolving into something edible.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 9:04:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

nom de plume said ( July 28, 2007 11:24:00 AM) --
>>>>> Do you think it's better for the female wasps to compete head-on with the impostor orchids (all the while, exposed to predators etc.)? <<<<<<

The female wasps would have to compete with the orchids anyway, whether the female wasps emerge before, after, or at the same time as the male wasps.

It is not clear whether the wasps are hurt or unaffected by their relationship with the orchid. However, only the orchid benefits from the delayed emergence of the female wasps.

ViW said (July 28, 2007 5:01:00 PM) --
>>>>>> Do you really believe that it was an adaptation on the part of the female wasps, or an adaptation in orchids to an already existing adaptation. <<<<<<

An "already existing adaptation" to what? The wasps do not benefit from the delayed emergence of the females, so how can this delayed emergence be an adaptation of the wasps?

Sunday, July 29, 2007 1:30:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

Larry brayed thusly:

>>>That article narrowly defined co-evolution as occurring only in cases of mutualism:

Coevolution is the the mutual evolutionary influence between two species (the evolution of two species totally dependent on each other). Each of the species involved exerts selective pressure on the other, so they evolve together. Coevolution is an extreme example of mutualism. Some examples of coevolution include: (and the orchid-wasp relationship was one of the examples).<<<

As usual, Larry is wrong. The second article does list several examples of co-evolution, but the orchid-wasp relationship is not one of the listed examples. Rather, after listing several examples of co-evolution (half of which do not involve pollination), the article starts a new section titled "Pollination" After describing the evolution of pollination, the article then discusses the requirements for effective pollination. Only then does the article offer up the orchid-wasp relationship - as an example of the type of awards effective pollinators can offer.

And if you doubt the offer of free porn to young males can be considered an adequate reward, I suggest you talk to Hugh Hefner.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

> An "already existing adaptation" to what? The wasps do not benefit from the delayed emergence of the females <

Do we know this? I don't know what purpose the delayed emergence of the females may serve and neither do you.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 4:43:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

Now onto the biology.

>>>I wonder how the Darwinists can explain that one.<<<

Not being a Darwinist myself, nor knowing any actual Darwinists, I can but speculate as to what such a creature might say - and Darwin himself appears to be mute on the subject, other than perhaps a footnote regarding the behavior of certain bees. I can, however, offer an explanation from a modern evolutionary perspective.

Before we examine the curious relationship between wasp and orchid, we need to learn some basic genetics of the wasp. Wasps, along with bees and ants, are members of Hymenopterae. We can therefore use evoutionary theory to explain certain features of our wasps by examining features of other wasps, ants, and bees.

The members of the clade have a different method of determining gender than the familiar mammalian method. Instead of using X and Y chromosomes, the member species of Hymenopterae are haplodiploidian. Males are haploid, born from unfertilized eggs, whereas females are diploid and hatch from fertilized eggs. (I should note at this point that I am speking in very general terms throughout this monograph - there will undoubtably be specific examples that are cf. to the general statements contained herein) Another feature common to Hymenopterans is the ability of females to not only store sperm for long periods of time after copulation, but to selectively fertilize her eggs from that stored sperm.

What this means is that a female wasp not only has the ability to determine what gender eggs she lays, but she can also control when she lays an egg of a specific gender. And in fact, many social wasps do just that, first laying eggs containing sterile female workers before finally laying male eggs at the end of the season (as well as fertile female eggs - the methods for determining fertility in female wasps are diverse and varied). So we already have the capability of producing gender-specific hatching times, before the orchid ever arrives on the scene, simply by laying male eggs and female eggs at separate times. No need for complex sexual-dimorphic mechanisms changing the developmental rate, although that is always a possibility.

Next, we need to examine the mating habits of the wasps in question. Thynnid wasps are interesting - the male quite literally sweeps the female off her feet. Female Thynnid wasps are flightless - when they are ready to mate, they climb onto the end of a twig and wait for Prince Charming to swoop in and carry them off for a hot date. After having sex, the male flies the female around from flower to flower so she can gorge herself on nectar in preparation for laying her eggs.

A female Thynnid wasp is looking for a few things in a guy. A big, strong, fast male wasp is going to be able to carry her to more flowers, thus giving her more food and letting her lay more eggs. And it's nice if it's not her own brother taking her to all the hot spots. In fact, it's a good thing if the guy of her dreams knows all the hot spots to begin with.

In short, a male wasp that has had time to develop, move away from home, and scout out the area is the ideal mate. Of course, you don't want to wait too long, or all the good ones will be taken. This all adds up to is an incentive to wait a few days to let the male wasps develop and spread out, but not too long. And still no need for the orchid.

Of course, now you have all these randy males flying around for a few days without any willing girls. So who can blame them for taking advantage of some blow-up dolls that someone just happened to leave lying around?

Sunday, July 29, 2007 5:38:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

>>>as an example of the type of awards effective pollinators can offer<<<

That should be read as "can be offered" Or at least it solves the grammar.

It seems I have managed to anticipate Larry's question. My previous post was written before I saw this question:

>>>An "already existing adaptation" to what? The wasps do not benefit from the delayed emergence of the females, so how can this delayed emergence be an adaptation of the wasps?<<<

As my post indicates, there is indeed a benefit (beyond that of avoiding competition with the orchid) to the female wasp in delaying her emergence. A perfect example of sexual selection.

BTW, I want to emphasize that just because some species of Hymenopterae control when gendered eggs are laid, does not mean that this is the case here - it could just be a case of sexual dimorphism in development (after all, the dimorphism in appearance is quite noticable - the females lack wings!).

Sunday, July 29, 2007 5:55:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

W. Kevin Vicklund wheezed (July 29, 2007 3:04:00 PM) --
>>>>> As usual, Larry is wrong. The second article does list several examples of co-evolution, but the orchid-wasp relationship is not one of the listed examples. Rather, after listing several examples of co-evolution (half of which do not involve pollination), the article starts a new section titled "Pollination" <<<<<

Pettifogger Kevin Vicklund strikes again. The second article is not clearly divided into two sections. The word "Pollination" is just a tiny, obscure title on the far left side of the article and is almost impossible to notice. Co-evolution continues to be discussed below this title, e.g.,

Many plants depend on animals to spread their pollen. This is a mutualistic relationship where the plant and the pollinator benefit each other. (mutualism is usually associated with co-evolution)

On the other hand, some plants have not specifically coevolved with a certain pollinator. Canada thistle flowers are visited by a wide variety of bees, beetles, and butterflies.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 6:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

Thank you, Kevin, for raising the level of the discussion. In response to your comments, I found an interesting article on polyploidy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 6:57:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

I regret to inform the readers that Larry's powers of observation, alas, do not rival those of a blind mole rat.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 7:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Thank you, Kevin, for raising the level of the discussion. <

I second that.

> I regret to inform the readers that Larry's powers of observation, alas, do not rival those of a blind mole rat. <

And that!

Monday, July 30, 2007 1:28:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Some people just can't make a point, so they resort to name-calling.

I have reached the conclusion that the discussion of the wasp-orchid relationship was greatly oversimplified in the second reference that I cited, so I decided to investigate further, and here is some of the stuff that I found. I Googled "wasps and orchids" and was surprised to find that this relationship has been extensively studied. One reference said,

Things are bleaker from the wasps' point of view. "It's clearly parasitism," says Schiestl. Female wasps are wingless, he points out. "When they hatch in the soil, they put out the sex pheromone for the males. If they do it in an orchid patch, the males would have a difficult time finding them."

At issue is the survival of the species -- and of individuals, he adds. "The females depend on the male to pick them up and carry them to a food source, or they will die of starvation." Because males waste time and energy finding females wasps in a Chilo patch, the wasps are under evolutionary pressure to find a pheromone that the plant can't duplicate, Schiestl says.

Still, Rod Peakall, a researcher at Australian National University, told us via e-mail that sexual baiting is a success story. "Despite the apparent evolutionary risks to both orchid and pollinators, this is a surprisingly common pollination strategy amongst Australian orchids. At least 100 species in nine orchid genera, and perhaps as many as 300 species, are involved." The victims, he says, include several kinds of wasps, and ants and sawflies.

And while the system exploits males, Francke says it might make their brains evolve. In an orchid patch, he says, the average male wasp is a stupid wasp, and it copulates blindly with whatever smells right. But a few brainy wasps might use visual or other cues to identify females. "They may be clever, and not rely solely on their nose," says Francke.


Another reference says,

Bob Wong and Florian Schiestl, both from the Australian National University's School of Botany and Zoology, have showed that the male wasps avoid orchids that have previously led them astray.

Unfortunately this disadvantages the flightless female wasps that inhabit areas where orchids of the genus Chiloglottis grow. Wong and Schiestl found that the male wasps don't just avoid the particular chemical signal released by the orchids they avoid the entire area.


And another reference says,

What is irreducible complexity? Have you ever had the experience of trying to build one of those pieces of furniture or other household item that come as a package of components you have to assemble (usually with very sketchy instructions) and you find one of the components missing? Quite often this means the item cannot function. If this has happened to you, you have experienced “irreducible complexity,” i.e. the fact that a complex item made of many parts will not function until all the component parts are present and working together.

Biological systems, from individual cells to whole ecosystems, abound with irreducible complexity. Below are some examples.

Plant and animal interactions. Some orchids are pollinated by male insects that try to mate with the flowers. This bizarre behaviour occurs because the flowers produce chemicals that are the same as chemicals emitted by female insects. Usually a mixture of common chemicals is involved. An Australian orchid named Chiloglottis trapeziformis is only pollinated by a wasp named Neozeleboria cryptoides. Scientist who studied the wasp and orchid were surprised to find that the chemical signal involved was “one unique compound, requiring a rigid biosynthetic process and a highly specific receptor a system with seemingly limited evolutionary flexibility.” (Science, vol. 302, p437, 17 Oct 2003.)

“Limited evolutionary flexibility” means that if either the orchid or the wasp got any of the steps wrong in making this compound, emitting it at the right time and making the receptors that detect the chemical in the air, then the orchid would die out for lack of pollinators. The highly specific relationship between some plants and their pollinators is the classic evolutionary problem – both orchid and wasp had to evolve their part of the system at the same time or it wouldn’t work at all.

Monday, July 30, 2007 8:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

< I Googled "wasps and orchids" and was surprised to find that this relationship has been extensively studied. >

You're surprised? I'm not.

< One reference said,

Things are bleaker from the wasps' point of view. "It's clearly parasitism," says Schiestl. >

I agree -- an odd form of parasitism is what it looks like to me.

Congratulations on finding a quite interesting and germane contribution to the discussion. Thanks!

(Unfortunately you then wander off into an irrelevant discussion of supposed "irreducible complexity".)

A while back I made the following comment, which you didn't answer:

> Given that you lack any explanation of your own, why do you refer to these observations as "criticisms" rather than "sources of wonder"? <

So I repeat the question:

Why don't you just sit back and admire the near-infinite inventiveness of life on Earth? You might find that much more rewarding.

Monday, July 30, 2007 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

>>>Some people just can't make a point, so they resort to name-calling.<<<

Since the only example of name-calling in this thread is a post by Larry, I am forced to conclude that he is admitting that he was unable to make a point. I agree!

Monday, July 30, 2007 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Some people just can't make a point, so they resort to name-calling. <

You rarely do anything else:

"Fatheaded Ed is talking through his hat again"

"Sleazy PZ Myers"

"Herr Fuhrer Esley Welsberry"

Monday, July 30, 2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people just can't make a point, so they resort to name-calling.

Like "pettifogger", asshole? There's a reason that you're banned all over the web -- it's because people recognize you as the sort of thing that smells bad when they scrape it off their shoes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 7:55:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>> Some people just can't make a point, so they resort to name-calling.

Like "pettifogger", asshole? <<<<<<

The difference is that all my comments also make a point -- I don't post comments that have only name-calling.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> The difference is that all my comments also make a point <

Where are these? They don't appear on this blog.

> I don't post comments that have only name-calling. <

What batshit wingnuttery! This blog is full of your comments that consist only of name-calling.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8:03:00 PM  

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