Saturday, February 04, 2006

Elephant vector

This news item about ageing and dead cells in the skin caught my attention the other day not least because it made me realise an obvious point that I had not hitherto considered: Namely that, survival of the fittest in the wild only really matters while you are still able to reproduce reliably (otherwise you are in an edge class - edge classes' effects on their species at large is probably the same or less than the effect due to random mutation).

I seem to remember reading somewhere (though I think that might be an illusion) something that I'll paraphrase as "at the end of the day, an elephant is simply a vector to propagate elephant genes." This of course should be rephrased as to only apply to those elephants still able to reproduce thus relegating elephants no longer able to reproduce to being merely empty vectors.

[A couple of beers later....]

If the reason for reproductive shutdown is caused by some different biological timer than the standard ageing process (does ageing have a single biological timer, or is it simply the cummulative result of multiple timer expirations ?) then perhaps one approach to attacking the ageing issue is to adjust the selective pressures on a sufficiently short-lived organism (i.e. extend the reproductivity of the creature and ensure that age has no negative influence on mate selection) and let evolution solve the issue (this assumes of course that the reproductive shutdown in organisms (NB I don't know for sure that this is generally true) itself wasn't the result of nature having already tried this and found it to do more harm than good)....

With the freezing of gametes for later use, the imminent advent of human cloning, and the richest people getting the best medical care I wonder how long our distant successors will live for naturally ? Of course, all successful approaches are valid, as this is what evolution itself enforces.

By the way, on a completely different note, anyone wondering how much Google's search results differ between the .com and .cn domains should try this (the default query is "tiananmen"; but you can compare anything you wish).

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