[permaculture] Lions and elephants on the Great Plains?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Aug 19 11:07:40 EDT 2005


On 8/18/05 3:48 PM, "Ben Martin Horst" <benjamin_horst at myrealbox.com> wrote:

> I wouldn't go so far as to call it TOTAL idiocy. The well-respected
> Australian biologist Tim Flannery, for example, makes a pretty good case
> in his book "Eternal Frontier" that the extinction of most North
> American megafauna about 10,000 years ago left major holes in many
> ecosystems that still haven't been filled.


Another interesting piece is pointed out by Connie Barlow in "The Ghosts of
Evolution." She talked to researchers who were asking why there are all
these enormous fruits, from black locust pods to mangos and soursop, and
maybe even apples and pears, yet the only animals who eat them are birds,
rodents, and other small critters who more often than not destroy the seeds,
which makes investing all that energy in building a big sweet fruit rather
pointless as a means of seed dispersal. Why would nature do that?

Researchers fed locust pods to horses (which, if you remember, were extinct
in the New World where black locust is found), and saw that germination
rates of the undigested seeds goes up 10-fold. Long story short, the
hypothesis is that large mammals were the principle evolutionary partners of
all the big fruits, but most large mammals are now extinct. So large-fruited
plants no longer have the partners they evolved with, and thus do not
disperse well in the wild. Nor is large-fruitedness a useful trait any more,
so we can expect it to disappear. But I like big fruits!

I'm not really into the idea of bringing large carnivores back, but maybe
big herbivores? How about back-cloning some mastodons or other biggies from
the pliocene/pleistocene and giving these lonely fruits some company?

Toby
www.patternliteracy.com





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