, , ,

Natural selection is claimed by some scientists to be the motivating method for creating the large number of animals with camouflage. That is true only in the broadest imaginable definition of natural selection. Darwin and Wallace, way back in the 1870’s, were aware that simple natural selection was far too slow to create some of the specialized phenomena they were observing. Their prime example for too many unusual adaptations for the historical time available for the adaptations was humans. Even sexual selection, which is quicker at adapting a species to an environment, was considered by them to be far too slow. They were keenly aware that artificial selection as practiced by English farmers at County Fair contests was producing rapid changes in their animals and plants, but they didn’t notice that human women had been practicing artificial selection of their mates for perhaps half a million years. It was women who moved beyond sexual selection to a special form of artificial selection I have been calling Eveish selection. Women’s careful selection over as many as fifty thousand generations of mates who possessed desirable qualities made humans into a species with a great many special abilities. Most noteworthy of the human special abilities are the ability to learn to speak in sentences and the ability to learn social conventions and morality with ease.

I applied this same strategy to understanding the cuttlefish’s astonishing ability to adapt its camouflage to its needs in its environment. It is generally considered that cuttlefish developed their remarkable abilities because of natural selection; that is, those individuals who didn’t have the ability to instantly match their environment would be eaten by their predators and not have the opportunity to reproduce. Thus only those who had the ability to generate the best camouflage would reproduce. That of course is generally true, but the process would be very slow to develop, and its adaptations would be in response to the vagaries of other predator species’ search strategies and their adaptations. Fortunately, DNA typing has discovered that it isn’t the biggest, strongest and healthiest male cuttlefish that are chosen for reproduction by the females, it is those who are best able to disguise themselves. The females choose those best able to camouflage themselves to be the fathers of their children. This is a much subtler and quicker form of selection by skillful vision of cuttlefish females than by natural selection and death caused by a predator species. Cuttlefish have extremely keen vision for the type of selection they are concerned with controlling. They are selecting for qualities of camouflage and ability to see camouflage using a closed positive-feedback system

Now, the next step in this process is to discover other forms of selection that cuttlefish might be using, especially those that might not have been observed by people. It has been reported cuttlefish suitors play some other games, other than just imitating females so they can get past the big, healthy, fierce males. Those other games might be hiding some other form of camouflage, or some other adaptive quality. It could be almost anything, and therefore it will take careful observation of these unusual mating behaviors to discover what they do, and then why they do what they do, and then the advantages that result from the positive-feedback. Having observed these things in cuttlefish, we must turn our heightened observation abilities toward that other animal involved in a positive-feedback system based on female selection – humans.

Every species has some form of depredation being plied upon it, perhaps only insects, or disease in modern humans, but these must be dealt with in some way, and if there is a genetic way of improving a species’ response to these depredations, it will be randomly discovered, and plied into the DNA. The quickest way to do this is by the species itself choosing to mate with those members of its species who cope best with their environment, including the predation by disease. Generally, that is being done by sexual selection, which is selecting for markers of health, which in turn means the individual’s quality of adaptation to the local environment.

The female cuttlefish somehow choose which of their eggs to fertilize with the available males’ sperm, and that requires some intelligence, and the ability to easily learn and use that ability may be bred into the cuttlefish’s DNA, just like the ability to learn a language is built into human DNA. Now the big jump — are other species using these techniques? If some others can be found, beyond our improved understanding of cuttlefish and humans, we will have new windows into seeing the unknown unknowns in all other dimensions. If we can understand the other techniques for hiding we will, almost certainly, discover ways of observing past the camouflage, and this will give us ways to see beyond designed camouflage and beyond nature’s complexes of obscured things.