The short-sighted rhinoceros
Is known to try and charge a bus.
If you were driving, would you dare
To ask a rhino for his fare?
A short nonsense rhyme again this week about a rhinoceros because, well… you see I was watching a television programme about fish. The fish were blind cave tetra, and they were being introduced into a zoo’s aquarium. These little chaps wile their lives away in pitch-black caves where eyesight is of no value to them at all, so evolution has equipped them instead, with what is more or less, a highly tuned sonar system and a sense of smell that could detect a Stilton cheese in the Sahara. In return, it has taken their eyes. Now, the tank which was to become their new home was nicely dressed, very cave-like, except for one distinctly incongruous feature: in order that the fish were visible to the glass-tapping multitudes, it was very brightly lit (not, of course, that the fish would have known it). Well, it just occurred to me, if they were kept in such conditions for long enough – year after year, generation after generation, eon after eon – would evolution give them their eyes back? Is evolution reversible? Moreover I wondered, if this poor benighted planet of ours should survive long enough with us on it, would evolution start mitigating our effects on other species? Would it, perhaps, rob the elephant of its tusks given that tuskless elephants were much more likely to survive to old age without becoming part of a piano? Would it rob the sharks of their fins, because on balance, what was lost in agility might be gained in stealth (eg not being spotted off the beach by troubled town sheriffs) and the liability not to wind up in noodle soup? Would whales cease to be slaughtered by the Japanese if they could monitor their own stocks? Could the leopard change its spots? Would rhinos evolve without horns; shorn of the fearsome ability to charge, but far less likely to be consumed by some ancient idiot with erectile dysfunction? Could the human race begin to realise that it is merely part of a whole, and not the entire reason for its being? I’m not sure, but I shall keep a very close eye on the tetra…