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Four Little Biology Fibs You Might Want to Purge From Your High School Memory

September 1, 2018

Remember your science classes. way back when? Well, for millions of us they were liberally sprinkled with some pretty convincing fibs, dispensed over and again by teachers often too lazy - or maybe just too tired - to look up the facts. Although these and others have been properly debunked for years, they continue to persist. Here are 4 commonly held beliefs from days of yore that are simply not true. Enjoy.

 

1, Humans rule the top of the "Food Chain"

 

 

This silly legend is just plain wrong. The food chain idea itself is far too simplistic. What really exists is more properly a "food web," among organisms in any given ecosystem.

 

Food WEBS consist of shorter food chains - where nutritional diet spreads forward in a linear fashion. The flaw with the food chain concept is, there are normally numerous organisms both predator and prey.

 

We all know that many creatures - including ourselves - can eat multiple organisms and also be consumed by multiple predators. Think swimmer AND the shark.

 

 

2.  Girls inherit traits from their Moms, and boys from their Dads

 

Now, genetics is both fun and a bit confusing. Many of us carry around misconceptions about how we inherit our nifty traits. Think of it this way: each child inherits an allele from each parent. But the dominant allele prevails, regardless of whether it comes from Mom or Dad. Another common misconception is that we get half of our characteristics from each parent. In truth, all that matters is which alleles are dominant.

 

 

3.  Sharks can smell a single drop of blood in the water from a mile away

 

 

 

It’s a spooky thought, but does this fear hold any water? Sharks do indeed have highly developed brain zones for their sense of smell. They can pick up a single part of blood per a billion parts of water. Now, while this reality might conjure up the image of Jaws honing in on you from Hawaii, it's useful to know what 1:10,000,000,000 parts of water actually looks like. One way to visualize the math is to imagine the tip of your pencil dropped into the town swimming pool. (still impressive). And even then, the waters current needs to scatter blood droplets far and wide.

 

So go have fun this Labor Day weekend. Jump into your local beach-wave and swim way, way out.  On a good day the Great Whites won't even know you're around, unless they happen to be, oh say, within a football field in distance away. But while you're out there enjoying your swim, try not to . . . you know . . . bleed. 

 

 

4.  We Humans evolved from chimpanzees

 

The curious truth is that those lovable chimps are indeed our closest primate cousins (along with bonobos).

 

But humans have not evolved from chimps in any semblance of a direct line. Rather, humans, bonobos, chimps and gorillas all share a common ancestor who likely roamed central Africa about 8,000,000 years ago. Recently, an unearthed fossil in the Kenya Rift Valley may be the common thread. The fossil has been identified as Nakalipithecus nakayamai - the "Nakali Ape." 

 

Care to know the truly, most interesting, factoid of all? Chimps, bonobos and you and I? Well, we all have 98% of the identical genes.

 

Which just might explain why the human condition looks so much like a soap opera on steroids.

 

Have a terrific and safe Holiday, Readers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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