God loves Australia, He gave us Mutant Sheep

| 26 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Well, it’s better than boiling mud (1). One of the iconic images of Australia is the Merino sheep, an extremely woolly, arid-land adapted animal that is the backbone of our wool industry. One draw back of their wooliness is that urine and feces accumulate on the sheep’s wool between the hind legs. This attracts flies that lay eggs there, and when the maggots hatch they start eating the sheep alive.

To combat this “fly strike”, Australian farmers have surigally removed the wool-bearing skin between the sheep’s hind legs, a process called Mulesing. This is done without anaesthesia on farms, so the Animal rights group PETA has kicked up a fuss and there is a looming trade boycott on Australian wool.

However, just recently a group of mutant sheep were found on a remote property here in South Australia (listen to the audio presentation for full details). The sheep lack the wool and the folds of skin between the legs found on normal Merinos, and so are relatively immune to fly strike. It remains to be seen if this beneficial mutation can be bred into Australia’s herd successfully, but it would be amusing if the wrath of PETA was averted by mutant sheep.

(1) The title is taken from comedian John Clarke’s alternative national anthem “God Loves New Zealand, He gave us Boiling Mud”

1 TrackBack

Y'know... from The Holowach Blog on March 11, 2005 5:24 PM

...anything involving mutant sheep is blogging gold. Read More

26 Comments

But can the mutant sheep produce Stroon?

Holy sheep dip, guano, err …

Mutants are only deadly, so the sheep will all die! and besides this is a loss of information ‘cuz they lost hairs. Besides that ahh … ahh … they are STILL SHEEP!

Something, errr …

U will all burn and I will laugh but I will pray for your pathetic souls. HaHaHa.

Sorry Ian, I just thought that I would get most of the creationist objections out of the way early.

There was a particularly clue-deprived antievolutionist who hung out in the Fidonet Evolution Echo years ago. He used to respond to any comment about observed evolution with, “Still X!” for whatever organism was being discussed. Then one day we had this exchange:

TE>> Fortunately, geneticist R.H. Byles has made the job easy for us by discussing nine important conditions in an article on the subject.

WRE> Byles missed out on polyploidy.

TE> Nah, still polyploidy..

:-)

TE> Nah, still polyploidy..

:-)

HehhehHheh. That almost makes me think that we need to implement “smilies.” Hehehhe, “WE” Hehheeh “We” includes “ME” by definition. That is absurd. Forget I ever mentioned such absurdity. I can’t do it, I am certainly not about to try. We have Reed- he works hard for free- far smarter than I- don’t tell him that of course… Still???

PETA’s full report on the practice of mulesing is here:

http://www.savethesheep.com/report.asp

Personally, I find it a happy accident that mutation has apparently proffered a natural alternative to this:

http://www.unitedcrueltyofbenetton.[…]/photos.aspx

Here’s hoping that this trait can be bred into Aussie-NZ sheep, and that someone has the vision to try.

That is very cool.

We all know the comments that are coming.. something along the lines of, “it is still just MICROevolution.” Oh well.

BTW, I pointed out to a creationist the other day, “Hey you have an extra flap on the bottom of your ear which I lack. How did you acquire this novel body part?” His response: “You are the mutant, not me.”

PETA wrath is rarely averted by such alternatives. Their agenda has always been to shut down any industry that uses animals, regardless of how humane the animals are treated. For PETA, any use of animals by human beings is by definition inhumane. It’s interesting though, their tactics are surprisingly similar to the Creationists. Most social movements operate in this fashion. For an example see my post on the career day thread.

Ok, brace yourself now, the PETA wrath is about to begin…

Some people may be puzzled by the apparent tendency of others to regard this kind of thing as an unqualified victory for unguided evolution. (I know I am.)

Obviously, the timely occurrence of improbable fitness-enhancing mutations in animals which need them tends to disconfirm any hypothesis asserting that mutation and fitness (or need) are independent. In fact, such correlations suggest the possible existence of a hidden causal relationship between fitness and mutation. Establishing such a relationship would require little more than (1) the observation or inference of any number of sufficiently improbable fitness-enhancing mutations, (2) a characterization of the appropriate causal mechanism(s), and (3) a contextual model supporting those mechanisms.

On the other hand, to argue empirically against such a relationship, the first step would be to examine the target population for occurrences of effectively or genetically similar non-adaptive mutations. As a simple example, do merino sheep, which have been bred for extremely high wool density, regularly mutate in such a way that wool is missing from other areas of the body less critical to adaptation? If so, then a reasonable probabilistic analysis of the data might reduce the apparent improbability of the occurrence of this particularly happy mutation at this particular time of need, and it becomes less ridiculous to dismiss it as a chance occurrence.

I realize that “ID creationists”, as some people like to call them, are occasionally said to lack any model supporting a causal relationship between mutation and fitness which involves intelligence and design. But the problem here is more general than that, and in the absence of a careful probabilistic analysis of the relevant mutational spectrum in the appropriate population, the wisecracks seem a little off-color.

Neurode: Can we name your ingeneous new model of ID after you, the Neurode Model?

Like All good science, its been peer reviewed, and here is the general concensus of the model: 1. Insert any “random mutation here” 2. If it “sticks” in the genetic makeup, then: 3. Triumphantly proclaim, “Godidit!”

However, the head cheerleaders of ID, Meyers and Dembski, strongly disagree with you; so if I were you, I would take it up with them.

“they are still sheep”

It’s difficult to avoid mentioning obvious things that stand out like a sore thumb. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one day someone will actually observe mutation/selection creating a:

1) novel body type 2) novel tissue type 3) novel organ

I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Like the designer of the creationists, these are things that theory says will never be directly observed. We can only infer them. But hey, even if a designer is observed, I’m sure someone will come up with a punctuated-blind-watchmaker theory to work around it so the atheists still have a security blanky to hug at night.

Neurode wrote: “In fact, such correlations suggest the possible existence of a hidden causal relationship between fitness and mutation.”

I sometimes entertain that notion that Darwin and Larmarck were right about heritability of acquired characters with the mechanism perhaps being epigenetic. This would go a long way towards vindicating the materialist-only version of evolution.

Wilder hypotheses are that transposons and other mobile elements in the genome actually function as a biologic computing device which can programatically respond to environmental stresses. This would go a long way towards explaining the overwhelming appearance of intelligent adaptation to the environment in the eyeblinks of geologic time that mutation/selection fails to explain.

The Bard Wrote:

There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy

Neurode

The likely explanation for the sheep flap is that the absence of the flap was a recessive trait all along. I’m sure both sheep and flies have been around longer than mulesing and the fly strike problem is not new. Perhaps something has changed recently that gave fly populations a boost and an old solution which had become recessive has reappeared.

DaveScot Wrote:

The likely explanation for the sheep flap is that the absence of the flap was a recessive trait all along. I’m sure both sheep and flies have been around longer than mulesing and the fly strike problem is not new. Perhaps something has changed recently that gave fly populations a boost and an old solution which had become recessive has reappeared.

It would be helpful to learn something about genetics. Even if the woolessness was a rare recessive trait, we would have seen it long before now, especially as the study of sheep genetics is particularly intense in Australia.

Sheep, in general, have been around for a long time. But Merinos are a relatively recent breed, and Merinos have only been in Australia, with its particular horrible breeds of flys since 1797. In addition, a particular nasty South African blow fly turned up in Australia in around 1900, further exacerbating the problem. So selection pressure would not have occurred before 1797. Our particularly wooly merinos are locally developed breeds, so this is an overestimate. So Australian Merinos have been under sever selection pressure for between 200-100 years, any pre-existing, mutation (even if rare an recessive) that conferred resistance to fly strike would have shown up long ago.

Also, the number of flies in Australia has fallen in recent years due to the introduction of dung beetles. So although selection pressure is still high, it is lower than in previous years.

To summarize, every point of your argument is incorrect. 1) Merinos are a relatively recent breed, unlikely to have pre-existing genes of this pattern of woollessness. 2) Even if they did, they have been under intense selection pressure for 200-100 years, so any pre-existing mutation, even very rare recessive ones, would have been seen well before now. 3) Fly populations have fallen in recent years.

DaveScot Wrote:

Maybe you’ll get lucky and one day someone will actually observe mutation/selection creating a:

1) novel body type 2) novel tissue type 3) novel organ

Well, for 1) we have our Mutant Sheep, there is also Spartina, a new species of grass with a new body form, the reconstruction of wheat and corn form their primitive ancestors, a crustacean with a new, experimentally induced body form, etc. etc.

2) What is a novel tissue type? If you look at the tissues of mammals, they are very minor modifications of tissues in reptiles, which are in turn minor modifications of tissues in amphibians, which in turn are minor modifications of tissues in lungfish, which in turn are minor modifications of tissues in chondricthyes, which are in turn minor modifications of tissues in agnathans, which in turn are minor modification of tissues in amphioxis, which in turn are modifications of tissues in invertebrates on so on until we get to unicellular eukaryotes. Mutation and natural selection have been shown to produce the degrees of minor variation that produce the transitions between these tissue types.

3) What is a novel organ? The mammalian 4 chamber heart is a minor modification of the reptilian 3 ½ chamber heart, which is a modification of the amphibian 3chamber heat, which is a modification of the lungfish heart, which is a modification of the agnathan two chamber heart, which is a modification of the paired contractile aorta of amphioxis, which is a modification of the single contractile aorta of the hemichordates an so on. Mutation and natural selection have been shown to produce the degrees of minor variation that produce the transitions between these organ types.

Perhaps learning something about biology might be helpful?

Dave Scott writes “But hey, even if a designer is observed.…”. Have you seen the designer? If you have talk about the response of the scientific community. All comment otherwise serves no purpose.

PETA isn’t being ‘Creationist’ or post-mod or IDist. They are for the most part a practical lot. A leading light of the PETA in India - Maneka Gandhi (no relation of the Mahatma but once married to a grandson of Nehru) is against the more populist “natural” and “environmentally friendly” solutions and is very critical of indiscriminate recycling.

Those who would criticise PETA would be interested in reading up about them from the writings of Wesley Smith - Discovery’s resident ‘biological ethicist’.

Shiva,

Don’t forget - The folks at PETA were demanding a few years ago that the residents of Fishkill, NY rename their town “Fishsave.” :^)

Dave Scot writes:

The Bard wrote:

There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy

hmm…where did I see that recently…oh yeah!

http://www.geocentricity.com/

Maybe that’s where Dave got it.

Ian

Hair is a minor modification of the reptilian scale? Feathers are a minor modification of the reptilian scale? Whom do you think you are kidding? Not me.

The next time you get a good look at a live chicken examine the area where feathers give way to scales on the chicken leg. Look for intermediate stages there. Good luck. Incidentally, the proof that scale and feather are indeed homologous is given by those mutant chickens with feathered legs.

The ontogeny of the mammalian heart goes through the sequence of a simple tube to two, then three and then four chambers all without losing a drop of blood. It involves as much cellular death as it does cellular synthesis. It is unthinkable that sequence could have been realized during the evolution from lamprey to mammal evolution. Evolution has always involved the expression in toto of exactly what was necessary for that particular life form to survive. The patterns had to be predetermined or they would have all been stillborn. Where are the gradual intermediates between the naked egg of an amphibian and the cleidoic egg of the reptile or bird? Every evolutionary step from species to species right on up to genus, family, order, class and phylum had to be the result of instantaneous and very dramatic transformations, transformations that are no longer occurring. There is not a human being alive who ever saw the formation of a new living form yet everybody knows all about how it happened. Not only that, they are convinced it is still happening. That kind of reasoning boggles my ancient mind.

“In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that he did not also limit his stupidty.” Konrad Adenauer

Amen

John A. Davison

JAD Wrote:

Hair is a minor modification of the reptilian scale? Feathers are a minor modification of the reptilian scale?

Yes, they are minor modifcations. Indeed, many early reptiles (eg the Petrosaurs), had hair. A single mutation changes avian scutes into downy feathers. The new fossil finds show dinosaurs with everything form “Dino Fuzz” mildly modified scales, to protofeathers to plumaceous feathers.

JAD Wrote:

The ontogeny of the mammalian heart goes through the sequence of a simple tube to two, then three and then four chambers all without losing a drop of blood.

Which mirrors the structure of the fish, amphibian and reptile hearts (and the otnogeny of THEIR hearts). Simple developmental mutations which would cause fusion of the paired aorta will also result in a two chambered hear without the loss of a drop of blood. Similarly duplication of the protoatria. Again, all these levels of organisational mutation and variation are seen in modern organisms.

JAD Wrote:

It is unthinkable that sequence could have been realized during the evolution from lamprey to mammal evolution.

You might be unable to think this, but science doesn’t work of the basis of what you can’t think. It works on evidence, and the evidence we have points to these modifications.

JAD Wrote:

There is not a human being alive who ever saw the formation of a new living form

Perhaps some of the describers of Spartina are still around, but they would be in their 80’s or 90’s by now.

why do you folks even bother responding to idiotic, god-bothering tub-thumpers like JD?

they clearly aren’t interested in evolution. why even let them argue their ignorant nonsense?

I’m here to flame these morons. period. if they ever raised intelligent points, there would be something to talk about. they don’t, so the proper response is a nice, toasty BBQ.

Trolls go home!!! you don’t belong here! GTF out! these forums are obviously a place to discuss real issues, not imagined ones.

They’re joking, aren’t they ?

Quote mining is one of well known creationist practices, but who would think, they do it deliberately, fully aware of that, that what they are doing is quote mining ? Well, then let’s have look at mined quote collection, form this fundamentalist apologetic site. I wouldn’t believe it, but it is true. They really do mine quotes in a organized, deliberate fashion.

Sir Toejam Wrote:

why do you folks even bother responding to idiotic, god-bothering tub-thumpers like JD?

Because they often raise issues that the general public is unaware of the answers to, and it is helpful to point these out for the general readers of this blog, not just the biologists.

Sir Toejam Wrote:

I’m here to flame these morons. period.

Please, don’t do that. It just feeds the trolls egos, reduces the signal to noise ratio and makes the blog less pleasant for all. Ignore trolls, unless there is a point the general public will not be aware of, then politely correct them.

The problem is that the good practice of “don’t feed the trolls” doesn’t seem to work here at The Panda’s Thumb. They’ve effectively taken over this website by flooding virtually every thread with their theological pap - is there a thread that has stayed on topic? It’s become such a troll haven they don’t need us for sustenance anymore. They’re simply feeding on themselves now.

As far as I can tell, this place has become theology central. As much as I hate to admit it, they’ve been successful in dominating this website and have changed its tenor quite a bit. It’s a shame.

I’ve already stated in another thread how the managers of this forum could keep the creationism discussion more focused. It just requires a small restructuring of how the forums here are organized.

If you do nothing to stop the trolls, they will smash everything down.

they deserve nothing less than fire. if you think you are somehow providing a public service by responding to their never ending always monotonous drivel, you are seriously deluding yourself.

see some of the arguments put forward about why scientists are boycotting the kansas board of eductation meetings, in the most recent thread.

If you allow these morons to keep posting drivel without containment, you only encourage them. have you ever though maybe the point of their incessant ramblings is to be “successful in dominating this website” and driving off those who actually want to discuss serious issues pertaining to advances in theory?

Ask yourself what your own motivation would be in going to a pure creationism board and arguing the case for evolution. You think folks looking to learn about evolution go to those boards?

enough. even arguing this point is a waste of time, imo.

cheers

I thought I would just note that John Clarke - a New Zealander - is a national treasure in Australia, as the man who gave us Fred Dagg (“I understand existentialism. I’ve been to funerals”) and The Games, the only true account of how Australia put up the Olympics in Sydney (“Don’t you think the 400m running track should actually be, say, 400 meters long?”).

LOL!! I remember that “400 meters” line! Loved it!

RBH

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on March 11, 2005 4:50 PM.

The importance of education was the previous entry in this blog.

Good ol’ Career Day is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter