/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: Unintelligent Designer News - Two Different Solutions to the Same Problem!

Friday, 10 September 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - Two Different Solutions to the Same Problem!

Blue-tongued skinks, Tiliqua sp.
Blue-tongue vs red-bellied black: An Australian evolutionary arms race - UQ News - The University of Queensland, Australia

From Queensland University we have findings which should embarrass any advocate of the childish intelligent [sic] design notion. It's yet another example of the utter stupidity of any putative designer behind living organisms. In this case, an example of 'designing' two entirely different solutions to the same problem, as though it had forgotten a design it did earlier and started again, like a motor car manufacturer designing an entirely new engine from the bottom up, for every new model of car, or an aircraft manufacturer inventing an entirely new method of flight.

It was a shock discovering that the eastern blue-tongue, along with the shingleback, showed resistance specifically to red black snake venom. Since their resistance was so specific to only this snake species, it seems these lizards have evolved a special plasma component – known as a serum factor – in their blood. This prevents specific toxins in red-bellied black snake venom from clotting the lizards’ plasma, which would lead to a rapid death in most other animals.

This resistance doesn’t mean they’re completely immune, but it would give them a greater chance of survival, allowing them to escape or fight back. Much like how a COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t mean you don’t get sick at all, it just means you are less likely to die.

Nicholas Youngman, Lead author
Venom Evolution Lab
School of Biological Sciences
University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.
Of course, we are used to this in nature, with multiple different designs of eyes, at least three different designs of wings and methods of flight, etc, etc.

Now here we have two entirely different methods for dealing with a venomous Australian snake, the deadly red-bellied black snake. The first method is immunity, which is the method used by two Australian lizards - the eastern blue-tongue and the shingleback. This was discovered when the scientists compared the effect of the snake venom on the blood plasma of various reptiles. The team tested the effect of seven different Australian snake venoms on the blood plasma of two species of blue-tongued skink and three species of monitor lizard (or goanna) all of which would interact with these snakes in the wild. The skinks are a prey species for the red-bellied black snake, while the snake is eaten by goannas.
You’d think that a goanna would be significantly resistant to the venom of any snake it was hunting and eating, but that isn’t the case. Snake venom can only cause harm to goannas if it’s injected into its body by the snake’s fangs, it can’t be absorbed directly through the skin.

Goannas are heavily armoured and their scales act like medieval chain mail, with each containing a piece of bone, meaning venomous snakes’ fangs struggle to pierce this armour. So – unlike the slow, vulnerable blue-tongue lizard – there’s no pressure for goannas to evolve resistance; natural selection has invested in their armour and it’s clearly working for them.

These two divergent forms of resistance are fascinating examples of evolutionary novelty.

Associate Professor Bryan Fry, co-author
Venom Evolution Lab
School of Biological Sciences
University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.
The same piece of research also revealed the second strategy for dealing with snake venom; the goannas, which have no immunity, use armour-plating. The 'designed' solution to the danger of red-bellied black snakes is to have scales too tough and thick for the snake's fangs to penetrate.

The sciencists, led by PhD student, Nicholas Youngman, published their results open access in the journal Toxins:

Some Australian elapids possess potently procoagulant coagulotoxic venoms which activate the zymogen prothrombin into the functional enzyme thrombin. Although the activity of Australian elapid prothrombin-activators has been heavily investigated with respect to the mammalian, and in particular, human clotting cascades, very few studies have investigated the activity of their venom upon reptile plasmas. This is despite lizards representing both the primary diet of most Australian elapids and also representing natural predators. This study investigated the procoagulant actions of a diverse range of Australian elapid species upon plasma from known prey species within the genera Tiliqua (blue tongue skinks) as well as known predator species within the genera Varanus (monitor lizards). In addition to identifying significant variation in the natural responses of the coagulation cascade between species from the genera Tiliqua and Varanus relative to each other, as well as other vertebrate lineages, notable differences in venom activity were also observed. Within the genus Tiliqua, both T. rugosa and T. scincoides plasma displayed significant resistance to the procoagulant activity of Pseudechis porphyriacus venom, despite being susceptible to all other procoagulant elapid venoms. These results indicate that T. rugosa and T. scincoides have evolved resistance within their plasma to the coagulotoxic venom activity of the sympatric species P. porphyriacus. Other venoms were able to activate Tiliqua prothrombin, which suggests that the lessened activity of P. porphyriacus venom is not due to modifications of the prothrombin and may instead be due to a serum factor that specifically binds to P. porphyriacus toxins, as has been previously seen for squirrels resistant to rattlesnake venom. In contrast, none of the predatory lizards studied (Varanus giganteus, V. mertensi and V. varius) demonstrated resistance to the venom. This suggests that the mechanical protection afforded by thick osteodermic scales, and prey handling behaviour, removes a selection pressure for the evolution of resistance in these large predatory lizards. These results therefore reveal differential interactions between venoms of snakes with sympatric lizards that are on opposite sides of the predator–prey arms race.

Youngman, N.J.; Llinas, J.; Fry, B.G.
Evidence for Resistance to Coagulotoxic Effects of Australian Elapid Snake Venoms by Sympatric Prey (Blue Tongue Skinks) but Not by Predators (Monitor Lizards).
Toxins 2021
, 13, 590. DOI: 10.3390/toxins13090590

Copyright: © 2021 The authors. Published by MDPI (Basel, Switzerland)
Open access.
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0).
Heath goanna, Varanus rosenbergii
So, to a Creationist, it must look like their one and only intelligent [sic] designer has come up with two entirely different solutions to the same problem! To use their favourite Paley's Watch fallacy, it's as though a watchmaker had designed two entirely different mechanisms for turning the stored energy in a spring into an accurate movement for keeping the time. So, to extend Paley's false equivalence, it's as though you were walking along a heathland path and found two watches, each with a different mechanism. You would, of course, have to conclude that they were made by different watchmakers who had never shared their ideas. And yet creationists are obliged by their religious dogma to insist that there is only one designer at work, who, being supremely intelligent, should be aware of its own designs!

This is not a problem for science to explain. The TOE predicts exactly this situation because there is no plan, no design and no mechanism for transferring a solution to a problem in one evolving branch of the tree across to a different blanch. Natural selection can only work on what is there already and is blind to what's happening in another branch. Goannas, with thick scales, have no environmental drivers to evolve immunity because the snake venom never gets into their bodies so poses no threat. On the other hand, blue-tongued skinks are vulnerable to attack, so the survivors are the ones best able to resist it. Evolving a gradually-improving immunity arrived at the current situation; not perfect but enough to allow some survivors to live to reproduce - the predictable result of a predictable arms race, and something impossible to explain as the product of design, intelligent or stupid.

And Creationists are left to worship a magic fool of their own creation, who can't remember today what it did yesterday so continually reinvents new solutions to problems it solved earlier and then treats those solutions as new problems to be solved while having a pointless and wasteful arms race with itself. Creationists believe this explanation is far superior to that provided by the testable and observable science of biological evolution.

Thank you for sharing!

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