"GHOSTS OF EVOLUTION" SONG

by Connie Barlow

www.thegreatstory.org/songs/ghosts.html

  • This music video was created by Connie Barlow in February 2010, the day after a song popped up in her mind one morning. It draws on the themes, the science, and many of the photographs used in her book, The Ghosts of Evolution, subtitle: "Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms." (The book was published by Basic Books in 2001.)

    The science draws on a classic 1982 paper by Dan Janzen and Paul Martin, published in Science, which brings a deep-time perspective to the study of how animals disperse plants. That is, this paper was the first to call attention to the fact that some plants bear fleshy fruit or big pods that co-evolved to attract animals to disperse the seeds — by way of swallowing the seeds intact (along with the attractive pulp) and then defecating the seeds — but that some of these animals are now extinct. Thus, the fruits are "anachronistic" — out of place in time. The book title comes from the sense that, with "deep-time eyes" one can conjure up the presence of the extinct partner in dispersal when in the presence of this fruit. For example, Avocado is native to the hills of Peru, yet no living animal in that landscape will now swallow and defecate the large seed in that fruit. (Creatures who eat the flesh around the pit, but who do not carry the pit far from the parent tree, are called "pulp thieves": they do not help the plant disperse.) Hence, the ghosts of South American ground sloths and toxodons (creatures that went extinct 13,000 years ago) haunt these anachronistic fruit.

  • This playful video is a great way to attract rambunctious kids to learn some awesome science. It does so by tapping their natural interest in dinosaurs, mastodons, and other extinct beasts. It also celebrates the important role played by poop in the ecology of the planet!

  • DOWNLOAD the VIDEO or AUDIO

  • VIEW/DOWNLOAD the LYRICS in PDF.
  • Note: An easy way to acquaint yourself with the science underlying the video is by way of two articles published by Connie on this topic, and which are now available for reading online:

    "Ghost Stories From the Ice Age" Natural History, 2001.
    Full text in PDF

    "Haunting the Wild Avocado" Wild Earth, 2000. Full text in PDF



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