Sunday, June 2, 2013

Typical

I spent the weekend a couple hundred miles South of home near Monterey.  My mom bought our family a membership to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the Winter holidays, and so we returned to see the newly reopened sea otter exhibit.  Unlike the first visit, this one was a little quieter (fewer people were there), and we were able to pick and choose what we wanted to see rather than our prior visit which had nearly everything squeezed in to a day trip.  Again, I had a few thought while I was there.

Sitting in the auditorium, we saw a presentation on the deep sea exploration that the MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) was doing along the coast.  Patrick, the presenter, said something rather profound: around 90% of all life on Earth is in the oceans, and therefore, the average Earthling is a sea creature, probably something like a jelly fish.  We aren't typical Earth creatures. In fact, a vampire squid (you can see one here) is more typical than you are.

Think about that for a minute. Not one of us is a good representative of life on Earth.  We're rather the oddballs of Earth.  Not only do we not live in water, we walk bipedally, require huge amounts of maternal care from birth until late adolescence, we aren't exceptional predators, or exceptional prey.  We also tend to muddle about with the world around us and make big messes everywhere we go. We don't adapt well, and we're kind of fragile.

We're kind of special, but we aren't typical.  That's both something to be proud of and something to be wary of.  We make all kinds of decisions that affect the entire planet, and we aren't typical of life on it.  In fact, we know so little about most of the life on the planet, new species are discovered everyday.  Scary, right?

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