Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Unintelligent Designer News - Another Arms Race between Bats and Owls is Another Problem for Batty Creationists

Greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis
Bats mimic the sound of bees and hornets to scare away predators | New Scientist

Italian scientists have recently discovered a fascinating example of Batesian mimicry, using sound rather than colour and shape, to deter predators.

Batesian mimicry is where a species comes to resemble a harmful or distasteful species although being harmless and edible itself. Examples are the beetles and butterflies that resemble wasps, or the eyes on a butterfly's wings that resemble the eyes of a predatory animal. These often result in arms races where the predator evolves to be able to tell the difference, but the prey then evolves to improve the mimicry.

The phenomenon of arms races is a subject most intelligent [sic] design creationists understandably steer well clear of. They are almost invariably features of host-parasite and prey-predator relationships. A prey species will benefit from any changes that improve its ability to avoid being prey and a predator will benefit from any changes that improve its ability to catch its prey, so arms races are major drivers in evolution.

It's difficult to see how a single designer switching back and forth between two species, seeing every solution it has just designed for one species as a problem to be overcome for the other species, can possibly be regarded as the behaviour of an intelligent designer. Creationists, by the dogma of the religion they invariably subscribe to, are forbidden from explaining this as the acts of two or more competing creators, of course, so are obliged to continue to present their favourite god as, frankly, a rather stupid amnesiac, not knowing from one day to the next what it is supposed to be achieving and forgetting what the solution it designed yesterday was all for.

I cover these evolutionary arms races and the problem they present for intelligent [sic] design advocates in my popular book, The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax.

But enough of the problems creationists have in sustaining their childish superstition and the absurd mental gymnastics they need to perform.

What the scientists have discovered is that bats, which are predated on by tawny owls (Strix aluco), can deter an attack by mimicking the buzz of harmful hymenopteran insects such as bees and hornets. The team, led by Danilo Russo of the Wildlife Research Unit, Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Portici, Italy, realised that the bats they caught in mist nets would buzz like bees or hornets when they handled them. To study the phenomenon, they recorded the sounds made by the greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis.

Towny owl, Strix aluco
Fooled by buzzing bats
When they modified the frequencies of the recorded sounds to resemble how an owl would hear them, they sounded even more like bees and hornets. When they played these recordings to tawny owls, along with the recorded buzzing of a western honeybee, a European hornet and a non-buzzing vocalisation of the bat, the owls moved away from all the buzzing sounds, but toward the non-buzzing bat vocalisations.

The team's findings are published in Current Biology, sadly behind an expensive paywall, however the abstract can be read here. In it the authors explain the phenomenon of mimicry, with:

Mimicry traits often reflect complex, finely tuned, and sometimes extravagant relationships among species and have evolved to deceive predators or prey. Indeed, mimicry has most often evolved to discourage predation: the ‘mimic’ exhibits phenotypic convergence towards a non-related ‘model’ organism which is inedible or harmful, so that a given predator, or ‘receiver’, will refrain from attacking or ingesting the mimic.



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