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Thread: Evolving the wheel.

  1. #1 Evolving the wheel. 
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    In this video, Michael David Stevens explained why animals don't have wheels.


    But... what if someone wanted to create an animal that moves around using wheels?

    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation without having a severely reduced evolutionary fitness under lenient living conditions and without any unnecessary suffering.

    What creature would you select as a starting point?
    How do you determine "more wheel-like" or "less wheel-like"?
    Approximately how many generations do you need?



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    If thy right nipple offend thee, pluck it off! Goes for the other, too!
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  3. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation.
    That's about as likely as a bird with a jet engine.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    But... what if someone wanted to create an animal that moves around using wheels?

    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation without having a severely reduced evolutionary fitness under lenient living conditions and without any unnecessary suffering.

    What creature would you select as a starting point?
    How do you determine "more wheel-like" or "less wheel-like"?
    Approximately how many generations do you need?

    The ciliated bacterium. It already has a flagellar motor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellum#Motor
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    The ciliated bacterium. It already has a flagellar motor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellum#Motor
    A ciliated bacterium doesn't meet this criteria because a bacterium is smaller than a tiny mouse.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse
    So the creature that you choose to start with must have a size equal to or larger than a tiny mouse.
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation
    Why do you think such an idiotic idea is possible?

    Especially after watching a video that explains why it isn't.

    Sheesh.
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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  7. #6  
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    Starting with an existing animal and not a whole different evolution does put serious impediments in the way. Although Escher's "Curl Up" offers a possible option.



    At the molecular level we do see examples of rotating structures, notably, ATP Synthase -

    https://youtu.be/kXpzp4RDGJI
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation
    Why do you think such an idiotic idea is possible?

    Especially after watching a video that explains why it isn't.

    Sheesh.
    I think it's is possible because evolution had created so many complex organs and complex systems in animals.
    A wheel-and-axle does seem to be simpler than many of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by the video
    Look at a giraffe. Having a neck that's just a little bit longer still means that you'll be able to reach food that's a bit higher, you'll have more food, will live longer, and will have more babies, making longer necks more common. But if your mutation is a wheel that's only a little bit round, it doesn't provide the same benefit.
    ... ...
    In order for a wheel to be useful for movement, it sort of requires a prior invention— roads. Without a smooth surface to roll on, like a road or rails, the wheel falls short, and wings and fins and limbs do a better job for the terrain found on Earth.
    Based on these explanations, I think that the video was answering the question "Why don't any natural animals have wheels?", with "natural animals" meaning animals that had evolved through natural selection. However, I was asking the question in the context of artificial selection, and these explanations doesn't tackle it.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse, perform artificial selection on it until its descendant moves around using biological wheel-and-axle as its main mode of transportation
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    If thy right nipple offend thee, pluck it off! Goes for the other, too!
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    The ciliated bacterium. It already has a flagellar motor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellum#Motor
    A ciliated bacterium doesn't meet this criteria because a bacterium is smaller than a tiny mouse.

    Quote Originally Posted by RamenNoodles View Post
    Starting with a creature that's no smaller than a tiny mouse
    So the creature that you choose to start with must have a size equal to or larger than a tiny mouse.
    Oh sorry, then I would start with a wumpettydump: a fictional furry animal without legs that moved by rolling, in a children's allegory of the story of Noah's Ark, the name and author of which both escape me at the moment. Maybe another reader can help me - I can't trace it on the internet.
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  10. #9  
    Time Lord Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    Simpler then natural locomotion option?

    How exactly do you propose a turning wheel system could happen in an animal? Given that EVERYTHING connects to the bones?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    How exactly do you propose a turning wheel system could happen in an animal? Given that EVERYTHING connects to the bones?
    Plenty of examples of rotary joints in mechanics.

    However, the problem is that there has to be an intermediate step that is still useful to the animal - and too many things have to happen at the same time to go from a leg to a wheel.
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    Philip Pullmans “Dark Materials” series featured some wheeled creatures, though the wheels themselves didn’t grow from the animal. While existing animal joints effectively have internal friction bearing surfaces that might be adequate to handle a rotating axle there is the requisite seals for preventing infection to be considered.
    Try having a Google at “animals that roll”. There are some caterpillars and salamanders that do that.
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    Another issue is how many animals live in environments that would be useful. After all, many animals use "tools" for various purposes (often gathering food, but also locomotion). But I am not aware of any that have found things that they can use for wheeled movement.

    Even humans have not bothered to use wheeled transport in many places because there is no advantage.
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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    It seems like an unlikely kind of trait but I hesitate to say it is impossible; the world is full of strange and unlikely lifeforms, most of them variants of a relatively few successful types. If wheeled animals were to evolve I suspect the precursors needed to appear way back - and more likely begin as marine creatures than terrestrial. Propulsion in water - flagellum becoming screws/propellers - seems like a possible pathway and precursor for wheeled terrestrial animals to develop. Even so I can see ways for "wheels" to develop that don't rely on axles - flagellum and tentacles used lasso style as loops perhaps.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    It seems like an unlikely kind of trait but I hesitate to say it is impossible; the world is full of strange and unlikely lifeforms, most of them variants of a relatively few successful types. If wheeled animals were to evolve I suspect the precursors needed to appear way back - and more likely begin as marine creatures than terrestrial. Propulsion in water - flagellum becoming screws/propellers - seems like a possible pathway and precursor for wheeled terrestrial animals to develop. Even so I can see ways for "wheels" to develop that don't rely on axles - flagellum and tentacles used lasso style as loops perhaps.
    That got me thinking about caterpillar tracks, and whether some animal could mimic that form of locomotion with a strip of leaf or bark.

    And that reminded me that some caterpillars will curl up and roll away as an escape mechanism. And some larger animals (eg. pangolins) can do the same thing.

    But, sadly, the hoop snake that is supposed to grasp its own tail and move around like a wheel is purely mythical.

    Good article here on the evolutionary barriers (and practical disadvantages of wheeled locomotion - remember, the original Daleks were defeated by stairs): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotati...living_systems
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post

    Even humans have not bothered to use wheeled transport in many places because there is no advantage.
    i think this nails why we dont see wheeled animals. a wheel is only good if there is a 'road'. nature doesnt have roads. when humans invented the wheel, we also had to invent a surface where we could use the wheel, because those surfaces rarely exist in nature
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    Who needs wheels when you can have wings?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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