Horseshoe Crabs on Florida’s beaches

How is it that so many millions, hundreds of millions of people have somehow been kept from knowing our biological origins?

That so many from our President on down are completely unaware of our evolutionary history? There’s a lesson here, and the lesson has to be that people, and especially our president, are never comfortable with knowing the truth about themselves, especially when it takes away their special status among all of life on earth. In this instance people seem to prefer to go on believing, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that we were made in the image of God, and have therefore special status. Whereas in fact we were not special at all, not at all the first life even to appear. Rather we were among the last life forms in a species line-up of billions over a span of several billion years. Unbelievable what the ignorant do believe! What they don’t know about themselves!


The graph of course doesn’t tell the real story, however, that life on earth, in particular, large, complex multicellular organisms, of which we are one, only appeared fairly recently, some 4 billion years after the formation of the earth itself. Most modern phyla of animals with which many of us are familiar from our childhood visits to museums of natural history began to appear in the fossil record only during the Cambrian explosion and afterwards  some 500 million years ago.

The real story of life on earth is not that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is rather the fossil record of the millions, billions of creatures who have lived and died before us. The story is one of Eras, the PreCambrian, the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and Cenozoic, and within the Eras, the Periods (for example the Halocene, the past 10,000 years,  our years, the times of our greatest civilizations up until now), and the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic Periods together making up the Mesozoic Era, the time of the child’s most loved animal, the dinosaur.

The history of Homo Sapiens may have begun with the wandering tribes, the hunters and gatherers of some 50000 years or more ago, but our evolutionary history goes back much further than that, pieces of our own  coded strings of desoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) being no less present in the much earlier life forms of the mesozoic and paleozoic eras.  In the picture that’s us up there on the very top sliver of the Cenozoic Era, along with our pick-up for collecting fossils of earlier life forms.

Wouldn’t all this mean that we are closely tied to all forms of multi-cellular life by possessing as all other living creatures the very same genetic life code? For we are truly one, not only with all members of our own species, but with all of life, plants as well as animals. We ought to be first and most of all trying to get along for our mutual benefit with the other life forms with whom (with what) we share the earth. Instead, we mostly live for our own separate and lonely selves, sharing very little, even with other members of our own species of Homo. Unbelievable!

And instead we seem to be running after disaster. Pakistan (I hesitate to even call it a country, I’ve just been reading M. J. Akbar’s Tinderbox, The Past and Future of Pakistan) being perhaps the very best example at the present time of impending disaster.

But the whole world seems more, —especially chez nous in the lack of leadership in Donald Trump’s America First, (a bit less in the strong leadership of Emmanuel Macron in France), and more in the countries of the Middle East, —to be following in Pakistan’s path.

But what about the Horseshoe Crabs on Florida’s beaches? They got me thinking about all this.

I guess I can understand the continual presence of religion. Even man’s being made in God’s image. For it’s comforting and we need comforting, especially having to listen to our president talking, when today he said, once again exhibiting his abysmal ignorance of both things and people, while speaking to the country Puerto Rico (if you can talk to a country): “You’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”

But all the evidence points to our not being God’s special creation but just one creation among the billions, making up a single point on a seemingly beginningless and so far endless line of life forms. Our being no more, no less in the line than the Horse shoe Crab, as well as the Chambered Nautilus that I have always admired, both, however, much further back in the line.

The Crabs and Nautiluses have preserved the very same shape for all those hundreds of millions of years (and us? we’re at about 50,000 years as of now and our prospects for going on a million more let alone hundreds of millions, are not great), right up until today where I can observe, the Horseshoe crabs anyway, much as they have always been, right here before me in the shallows of Tampa Bay.

The Internet is my teacher and university. It shows me almost every thing I want to l know about just how strong is the tie between homo and the other forms of life on earth. It shows me this by any number of articles, graphs, drawings, pictures, like the one above and the one below, the one below being of homo, of man, right there right along with his first and closest cousins.

But these two and other similar pictures of which there are thousands at least, don’t seem to have made it to the wall of the Oval Office, where the president might see them and begin to realize that America, and white people in particular, are not first, but last, very late arrivals among the billions of creatures that have lived on the earth. America last? Didn’t someone say something about the last of us being first?
primate evol.tree

But back to my Horseshoe crabs. I don’t want to get too far away from them, for they are real and 450 million years old! Think about that!

Horseshoe crabs nesting on Florida BeachA typical view of horseshoe crabs nesting on a Florida Beach

Often called “living fossils,” horseshoe crab ancestors can traced back through the geologic record to around 445 million years ago, 200 million years before dinosaurs existed.  Despite inhabiting the planet for so long, horseshoe crab anatomy has changed very little over time because it has proven successful for the animal’s survival. The American horseshoe crab is a common sight on Florida’s beaches.  Many people have seen horseshoe crabs but do not realize they are looking at one of the oldest animals on the planet.

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