Monday, 17 December 2018

What to do with Autumn leaves

Freshly fallen leaves can look rather nice
My own instincts are to keep nature’s gift of organic matter wherever it comes from. I am silly this way and cannot really justify walking the length of the garden to deposit some meagre organic waste from the kitchen as I regularly do.
I am not so dedicated as to bag up autumn leaves to wither away to next to nothing over several years but I do like to think I do keep most natural leafy provision. 

No need to worry about these hosta and pulmanaria
That is not to say Autumn leaves are not a considerable nuisance  and in certain cases their cover might damage our plants - this is much overrated.  Today I try to consider the problem of disposal and to evaluate the benefits of recycling. Not for me the municipal organic green bin method (arguably for many the obvious solution). I have written about this before how I am too much a Scrooge to give my manna away.

My garden receives an abundance of leaves. Not only does it contain a wealth of shrubs and small trees but it is on the windward side of a small wood. No point in too much of an early sweep up, as soon as the wind blows there will be more. On the other hand I have ample large borders where the leaves can permanently lie. They help hide the weeds!

A temporary sweep into the edge but there will be more. In due course pull them more to the middle 
It is probably best to completely remove leaves from a narrow border like this - and move them elsewhere
However laid back untidy a person you are you will probably need to do some sweeping, raking or blowing. It’s all very well and hugely beneficial to let leaves permanently lie but some will collect on the lawn or hard surfaces, lie in depressions and edges or in the case of large leaves smother your plants.

My best investment ever
I used to think my wonderful cheap plastic scarifier was my personal secret. Now I discover all the world has one. Even  the wit who recently demonstrated how to rake up Finland’s dense forest had one.
It’s a wonderful tool to sweep up the leaves. It flicks over borders, clears out lawn edges and cleans up the lawn.

Leaves on lawns can merely be mown with a rotary mower. You will need several passes to shred the weeds or you can mow on a few separate occasions. Come to think of it you can box them away.

I admit to be lucky and in my case most leaves can be left or raked onto borders and permanently parked as a mulch.

Leaves as a mulch

It is worthwhile to leave leaves on the surface and as they decay improve soil structure. In ecological terms it would sometimes be better if the organic debris would accumulate on the soil surface but this is usually thwarted by the worms. Usually a good thing as untidy leaves will be gone well before next Summer and a greater depth of soil will benefit. If you want an organic layer it might be better to gather up piles of leaves in compost bins and leave them two or three years to decay before topping up your soil.

Even over gravel I find this light covering of small leaves is gone by late Spring

Every Winter I need to use a strong metal lawn scarifier to drag out copious pond weed and Autumn leaves

Leaves as a nutrient source

In practical terms I would say forget it. Most leaves are carbon rich and low in nitrogen. Indeed as a consequence fresh leaves can deplete the soil of nitrogen as they decay. Such loss is only temporary and all nutrients eventually become available. I suggest leaves are in practice irrelevant as to whether you do or do not need to apply fertiliser to your soil.
Autumn leaves actually do vary hugely in how much nutrient they contain. Some woody plants have evolved to extract leaf nutrients before leaf fall and stash them away. Others merely reflect how much nutrient the plant extracted from the soil.
Some leaves are reputed to be acid. This might be so but any (good or bad) acid layer is shallow and has a very low overall acidifying capacity.

Composting leaves
No need for permanent compost heaps in my cemetery gardens - nor in my own
Because of their high carbon nitrogen ratio and their tough lignin and cellulose rich content leaves are very slow to decay. Not a bad thing in the ground but a long wait in a bin.
One solution is to mix it with a substantial and greater proportion of the softer more nitrogen rich debris you normally use in making compost. 
It might seem obvious to accelerate composting with nitrogen fertiliser. I might have done so myself before I wrote my little read post which reported overlooked research saying this does not work.

My friend Peter Williams creates the bulky matter for his homemade seed and potting composts by composting leaves 50/50 with lawn mowings. When later making his potting compost he adds slow release fertiliser and lime as described in the link below.

Are there any other uses for fallen leaves?
I await your suggestions!

Clumps of bulbs were already sprouting in their pots when I planted them in soil filled to the top
Brenda has been complaining that Peter’s display of containerised  Spring bulbs puts mine in the shade. I have in consequence splashed out on daffodils, tulips and lilies from Parker’s Wholesale. I have planted up some very large plastic containers and a few unfortunately very heavy old ceramic pots.
These are potentially too heavy for an old man like me to shift around.
I note many gardeners perhaps foolishly economise on compost by using light inert filler at the base of their large pots. This year I am using leaves to lighten my load. Of course they will sink somewhat and I am preparing a post to show how it works out.

Clearly leaves bring benefits of mulching. For a few years my dahlias that overwinter in the ground have benefited from mulch's insulation. I partially cut the dahlias back after first heavy frosting and heavily sweep leaves over and amongst the debris. As a warm overcoat I like to think that it helps.

It is perhaps with reluctance that I might mention that for those of you who still Autumn dig your vegetable garden you can dig your leaves in

If anyone is intrigued with my comment about nitrogen fertiliser and compost read my post here

Saturday, 8 December 2018

We are gardeners - not commercial growers

A bird on his head and a bee in his bonnet

The emphasis is the word ‘commercial’; some of the best growers I know are actually amateur gardeners.
My theme today is that we are gardeners in one of its myriad of forms. Don’t let us pretend that we are anything else.
Yet we all garden in individual ways.

A rum bunch
There are many sectors of horticulture and it has long been my belief that we can all learn from each other. Knowledge of plants and how they grow is transferable. The groundsman can learn from the vegetable grower and vice versa. 
Horticulture is huge and varied. It includes such as growing under glass and plastic in many different guises with diversity magnified by the variation between individual ‘specialist’ crops - carnations to tomatoes, or perhaps orchids to lettuce or herbs? 

Still high standards at Harrogate Parks Dept
At the other extreme we might have landscape construction and landscape design, or management of parks and botanic gardens.

Raised and bred to look good on a Dutch tray
And that’s not to mention garden centres - I need to talk about them!

Let me go further. We can learn much from agriculture and as in all the above cases scientific research done in all sectors. Modern farmers can learn from ecologists and soil scientists and dare I say gardeners?
(I once knew a farmer who used modern efficient and effective fertilisers in his fields but used rubbish bonemeal in his garden. How’s that for being blind to transferable facts?)

Very dodgy character
Today I put these things to one side and to tell you that in your garden you should do your own thing (and alongside this to ignore most gardening gurus including myself) I write today of several areas where we need to be different

Growers' composts grow great plants - but...
Growers have a huge number of specialist composts honed to the precise requirement of their specialist crops and system of growing. Frequently their plants are grown ‘soft’ under very wet regimes with constant liquid feeding. Garden centre composts are things very different to actual soil, Sadly there are very few good composts for gardeners, most is really quite rubbish. In the past we connected with growers because we both used genuine John Innes composts. Not any more.

I have been playing with my soil/char compost again
My personal feeling is that gardeners should consider a move back to soil based composts where possible using their best garden soil. Readers will know I make up my own compost using my silty sand soil and these days almost always include up to half homemade charcoal. (You can find numerous articles about my methods by searching this blog)

Growers strive for uniformity. They wish to automate and want to treat huge batches of plants in precisely the same way. They often want to harvest these batches all at the same time. So very different to what we gardeners need at home.

Gardeners can enjoy grower quality and prices at Mole seeds
Take seed. F1 hybrids with their extreme uniformity enables growers to sell the produce from a field or a greenhouse all on the same day. With our own produce we want to stagger production. 
Don’t get me wrong, it is sometimes appropriate for amateurs to enjoy the disease resistance and vigour bred into F1 hybrids. I would not dream of sowing old open pollinated tomatoes!

F1 Shirley is an old growers' variety excellent for the amateur

This machine can pot more than a thousand identical pots in an hour
It follows from uniformity that professionals can automate their systems. Such as water, ventilate, plant, feed and heat - each at the same time.
My plants in my own greenhouse are extremely variable. Over the year hundreds of plants all different in variety and size. It would be culturally decadent to water them all at the same time. Maybe in really hot weather they all need watering on single occasion and I get out my hosepipe. In other conditions I squirt differentially and in Winter rely on my can. If I had the wealth of Croesus it would just be the same. For some gardeners fancy systems might have a place.

We used to teach our students extreme horticultural hygiene and the amateur gardening press says the same thing. If you are tidy minded or obsessively always cleaning and squirting all manner of concoctions at home you will be horrified at my own lack of gardening ‘cleanliness’. 
I will leave on one side my previous offerings of the merit of leaving decaying organic matter lying around in the garden!

It is necessary for commercial growers to sustain extreme control of pest and diseases. In large monocultures if pest and disease get out of hand it is fatal. Growers use all manner of chemicals to prevent it. Sometimes fungal disease might be latent and are suppressed by regular fungicide application - woe betide the gardener who innocently buys such plants and they later go under.

Hygiene is all very well as long as you maintain it and we preach for example all that rigmarole of cleanly precautions against damping off on our seedlings. Unfortunately what happens is that if one element of your control inevitably breaks down such diseases thrive where there is no natural fungal or bacterial competition. Grow your seed in good light, desist from excessive Winter artificial heating, ventilate freely, water correctly and avoid excessive humidity with glass and plastic and you will almost never encounter this scourge. I have not suffered damping off for many years now (or perhaps I have just not noticed)

I do practice one kind of hygiene. That is refusing to introduce into my garden new plants with brown scale, mealy bug, vine weevil, red spider mite and whitefly. If I fail I ruthlessly dump them. We do have a minor problem of scale insect on the orchids but otherwise none of these pests. (I was caught out with some primulas a friend gave me in a peat compost but eventually spotted the vine weevil larvae and crushed them. Fortunately vine weevils do not like my soil based compost)
To be fair to garden centres although I am often critical of soft plants' survival, when it comes to absence of pests they have a good record.

I do not necessarily recommend it but I routinely do all these dreadful things
1. Fail to clean used pots and containers
2. Recycle almost all my old soil/char compost where  necessary freshening it up with more fertiliser and for certain plants dolomitic lime dust (dolodust).
3.When repotting scrape any pearlwort, liverwort or algae  into the bottom of any new pot.  NOT the oxalis!


You will have to wait to find out what I am up to here
Economies of scale allow growers to buy large bags of fertiliser to the exact type and analysis they need.
Influenced by snake oilers amateurs tend to do the same buying a huge range of small bags. ‘Special’ amateur fertilisers rarely do what they claim on the packet, many are rubbish and in small bags are hugely expensive. I perhaps go to the extreme of using just ONE fertiliser for all my gardening needs (save iron sulphate for my lawn but can claim that as a moss killer). Conditions apply.

You might sensibly prefer to liquid feed rather than top dress
A 25kg bag of Yaramila compound fertiliser lasts me a long time

Out of season production
Ever admired the beautiful winter turf at Arsenal or the winter greens on the golf course?  Should our lawns be treated the same?

Commercial growers strive to fill any market for such things as plants, flowers and (inevitably) tasteless tomatoes. They have automated greenhouses with much better and precise heating, superior light transmission and ventilation.
I cringe when amateurs start up their plants far too early. No wonder they succumb to all that pest and disease.

I do draw out my tomato season but for commercial sale by December my scruffy (and still delicious) tomatoes would  not pass muster. This is another difference to growers. Much of our produce would never sell but it is nutritious and tasty. 

You will never find delicious sprout sprouts in the shop
and if you propagate your plants for yourself or to give to friends they do actually grow….


More details on my suggestion that a single compound fertiliser will satisfy most of your requirements

More about dirty pots and damping off

I wonder how long you need to keep a purchased plant before you feel you have grown it?

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Magnificent michaelmas daisies

Aster novae angliae
In my youth I got a bad impression of michaelmas daisies. My parents were not gardeners. They avidly listened to Gardener’s Question Time after Sunday dinner but remembered nothing. Perhaps just as well but a chord was struck in my innocent young mind.
The michaelmas asters in their garden must have been planted by a former owner. They were the kind that you give to friends to get rid of them (the friends as well as the daisies).
They were tall and straggly and grew with some vigour swamping their neighbours. They dripped with powdery mildew and by flowering time the insipid lavender flowers were surrounded by brown or yellow dead and dying leaves. Time to cut back - the flowers were not worth keeping!
It took along time to learn to love what is now one of my favourite plants.

Symphyotrichum novi belgii  The New York Aster

Symphyotrichum novae angliae The New England Aster
As is my want I scanned a few references before writing this post. To my horror I found the botanists had been at them and changed most of their names. No longer are they asters. A website gardener gallantly declared they were rather nice names. Symphyotrichum and Eurybia. I don’t really think so. They will always be Michaelmas asters to me

Eurybia - lovely plant, ugly name

The problem of powdery mildew

A month after purchase from garden centre
This air born fungus disease has long been the scourge of Michaelmas  daisies. Less so now with resistant new varieties and recognition that certain species such as Aster novae angliae and Aster amellus are completely resistant.

Many novi belgii varieties are still very susceptible and in principle might have done very badly in this severe drought year. Fortunately this has not my been my own personal experience. I wonder how readers faired? Heavy Autumn rains in some areas might have come to the rescue.

Circumstances  predisposing to powdery mildew

My purple novae belgii is completely resistant
It's in dry conditions when plants suffer moisture stress. It seems to me to be almost invariably where aggressive water seeking roots of trees and hedges dehydrate the soil
Trees and shrubs are also offenders in that shaded leaves of the daisies stay wet with dew or light rain much longer than plants in open positions. In these conditions fungus spores germinate and thrive.
As a triple whammy trees and shrubs create shade. Most Michaelmas daisies need full light - such plants have more resource to fight mildew

Yuk, a misshapen mildew prone garden centre plant I had overlooked throwing away
You might correctly conclude that your daisies need an open position in moist (but well drained) soil rather like the water meadows where many of their ancestors come from.

So why have my Michaelmas daisies thrived in this very dry Summer

On this variety even the seed heads are lovely
All are mildew resistant varieties, are in full light and grow in my sandy/silt soil and of course are never sprayed. In Spring after excessive rain the soil was at maximum water holding capacity. I constantly despaired when in the following five months we only received a miserly six inch of rain. Fortunately most of this came on just three separate spaced out occasions and penetrated more deeply than repeated light showers - the latter so conducive to fungal spores. 
My topsoil gives way to a two metre layer of pure coarse silt/fine sand. I think my daisy roots just kept going down and finding water.
Most of my daises are the  novae angliae kinds and  other than Aster amellus none have been watered. They have just loved the sunshine and thrived. To my surprise my two novi belgiis have done equally well.

Cultural notes

As you might guess my daisies are not staked even though some of the novae angliae kinds are six foot high. Some are a little uneven but that is my way. 

Even the most ardent staker would not put sticks in Purple Dome
I am also unorthodox in that when I plant herbaceous perennials they stay in forever. No labour intensive quadrennial transplanting for me. Some of my daisies have been in place fourteen years now.

For propagation most michaelmas daisies can be divided and transplanted at any time - even in Summer if you cut back the tops. 

Aster amellus is one exception and really is quite fussy - best early May or very early Autumn (still in flower) and never in Winter.

I divided these Aster amellus this September

Readers will know mine is a glyphosate garden and most of my weed control is done by this wonderful herbicide. Exceptionally Michaelmas daisies (as do phlox) seem sensitive in Spring before and as they emerge. I have learnt to be really careful. Later in the season large plants are much more resistant to a poorly directed spray.

Michaelmas daisies grow well on most soils and are fairly tolerant to poor drainage. Last Winter was exceptional and parts of my garden had standing water for a long time. I lost one plant and another sick novae angliae convalesced to only half the height of its identical neighbour.
The village plot has been flooded for several months in two Winters now. No daisies survive bar one. (Fortunately a village wide drainage project will make it worthwhile to plant more)

The Garden Centre’s curse
Displayed in their pots at the garden centre they were very tempting
When I look at my dozen different beloved long standing varieties there are none bought at a Garden Centre. I mean those shops of the glitzy kind where you are obliged to walk through copious frippery to get to the plants.
All mine were obtained from specialist nurseries, plant fairs or mainly gardening friends. I have bought plenty at garden centres but none have survived. They have either died or I have thrown them away.
What goes on when garden centres are supplied by such very fine growers?
Trouble is such grower’s perfect product is a nice display on the sales bench. Who cares if it actually grows in a real garden.

I immediately potted them on into a soil based compost 
I have written before about soft plants forced in polythene tunnels with artificial heat, loads of nutrients and perfect propagation compost. Compost ideal for its purpose of wet speedy liquid fed production is not really suitable for the garden. Once the protective systemic fungi wears off such plants succumb to all manner of diseases - that is if the wind or cold has not shredded them first. In the case of many modern Michaelmas daisies the dwarfed flowering display never looks so good ever again - when the dwarfing agent wears off and the mildew takes over.
You will see from the pictures that I have been tempted yet again.

Four weeks later. There is little hope that they will grow out of the powdery mildew but I will give them a chance next year...
A real Michaelmas daisy
In one of my earliest posts I declared my undying love for Aster amellus 'Violet Queen'
I wrote a long rambling article about hard and soft growth

Read about my labour saving herbaceous border

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Our overlooked ancestor

Going the whole hog
Perhaps we are related
Hybridisation is now recognised as a significant factor in recent human ancestry when genetically close hominids mated together. Why do we fail to recognise hybridisation has always been an agent in evolution including our own?

Most of us were comfortable with the idea that we shared an ancestor with a monkey. More recent research suggests we are actually descended from a monkey such as an early chimpanzee or a bonobo. Why does the suggestion that the pig might also be a close relation be treated with scorn and derision?

As regular readers know I have no special expertise in genetics. I have always been fascinated by evolution but write merely as an observer of the insights of others. 
I acknowledge how my articles on hybridisation are strongly influenced by the writing of Georgia University geneticist Gene McCarthy. Today my entire article is based on his thinking.
For decades McCarthy has promoted hybridity as a force in evolution. More and more modern geneticists agree and record hybridisation’s contribution to evolution but even now in some quarters it is not fashionable to say so.

It is tragic that a free thinker such as McCarthy ploughs his own furrow without support and little formal recognition. I cannot find any plausible explanation of why his overall hypothesis of the way of evolution is wrong.
You will have to turn to Gene’s blog to check out the details of most of the things I have to say today.You will be impressed with the fine detail and meticulous research he has applied.
As a good scientist McCarthy agrees that the idea that a pig has enriched our genetic inheritance by hybridisation is not proven. I suspect privately he is pretty certain he is right and I think so too.

Superficial evidence of our porcine ancestry

When you look into a pig’s eyes you might be gazing at a beautiful woman. The only primate which shares this feature of narrow eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes is us. Our skin’s share so many similar features and in our skin’s smoothness and lack of hair we are almost unique.

Although genetic theory states that we and the pig are evolutionarily distant, recent research shows we are very much closer than previously thought and the medical establishment is starting to find all kinds of ways of exploiting a general lack of our cells and tissues rejecting each other. Simple features such as heart valves and lenses can already be grafted between us. No genetic distance at all.

We are the only primate with many of pig’s cartilaginous features such as characteristics of our noses and ears. No monkey has anything like our protruding noses which resemble so much more a pig’s rootling snout

At a less pleasant level I might mention some of our odours are very similar and where we permit it a pig’s level of hygiene is high. Historic records of cannibals say that our flesh tastes and smells just the same. Such cannibals called man ‘long pig’. 
One wonders whether ancient man, so much closer to nature, developed still surviving cultural taboos as a result of our similarities.

The BBC recently waxed lyrical about how human eye contact supplemented our language.They explained our expressive white sclera (the whites of our eyes) are unique to humanity.

It is generally regarded that pigs are the most intelligent animal in the farmyard - except perhaps for the farmer.

A more serious comparison

When a scientist suspects a plant or an animal is a hybrid he makes a long list of common features between the purported parents. McCarthy has done this between pigs and humans; all the features included are NOT shared with any other primate (other than the gorilla that might have a similar hybrid origin to humans).

McCarthy’s list has more than a hundred items, some are one liners, others detailed expositions of such as musculature, skeleton, organs and skin. NONE of these similarities are seriously disputed. Some scientists ponder why we share so much with a pig. They ignore the obvious explanation.

Most of these anatomical and external factors are too technical for my own understanding. For the sake of my argument I attempt to focus on just three

Skin. Including our mutual absence of hair our highly vascularised fatty skin is almost identical in structure and unlike that of any monkey. Our skin’s cooling capacity is outstanding. This is essential for cooling our very large brain. As an animal’s volume increases the problem of heat dispersal magnifies.
The intelligent small monkeys have a relatively small brain/body ratio. Not so the larger monkeys. There seems to be a barrier to large brains because the cooling requirement for a large brain is never achieved. If all our intelligence is to be housed in our small head we need a pig’s skin.

Bipedality. Although at first sight there seems to be no valid comparison there are in fact several pointers to a connection. A pig’s hind legs are longer than it’s forelegs. The pig’s and our own legs and hind skeleton and musculature is structured in such a way that bears little resemblance to that of a monkey. A monkey’s gait, even in those more highly developed with the capacity to walk on two legs show no sign of evolution to the way of our own.
It is conjecture whether the first pig/human hybrid came out two leg walking or developed it later!

Organs. I have no idea of the relative efficiencies of our organs to that of a monkey. Only that some of our organs are more like those of a pig than any monkey. Our kidney's intimate structure and action is the spitting image of that of a pig (perhaps relevant to our mutually omnivorous diet).
It does not follow that all structures in a new hybrid are at first or even ever especially beneficial. When huge numbers of genes recombine in a first hybrid it lives or dies with what it is endowed.
This does not imply that the offspring of new hybrids are not subject to later natural selection of new genes wherever they come from.

Envisaging the first pig/monkey hybrid

Even the most powerful new genetic techniques cannot inform us of what happened perhaps six million years ago at a time before than the appearance of the primate species that text books record as our likely ancestors. 
One can only surmise on our early hybrid origin based on our detailed knowledge of hybridisation and the introgression of genes in well researched modern examples.
Most people have an image of a modern farmyard pig mating with some humanoid creature. They immediately incredulously reject such a notion.

Wild pigs
Think more of two similar furry animals mating in the jungle or prairie (except that the swine might not have been hairy).
In their original habitats such liaisons might have been relatively common just as today mating is not infrequent between geographically overlapping genetically close  genera and species. (Most different species of monkeys can mate with each other if man brings them together)

What would be immensely rare would be such copulation giving rise to viable offspring. Recall however that if something is not impossible on an evolutionary timescale it is likely to happen. There are many parallels of genetically distinct animals that have given rise to viable and fertile hybrids.
Suppose a female monkey gives birth to a female hybrid. The hybrid’s likely fate is that it does not have the constitution to survive. There are however plenty of examples of distant hybrids that do reach maturity and behave as strange but functioning entities. Imprinted mother-love is fiercely powerful in ensuring such offspring’s survival.
If such an organism survived and in this case the monkeys were anything like modern promiscuous bonobos it would certainly mate!

Most hybrids are infertile but no means all. There are myriads of examples of plants and animals with different chromosome numbers crossing to produce fertile offspring.

Where a hybrid mates with one of the parent species it is called a backcross. Perhaps there were two backcross generations before the new form became physically or in some other way isolated to form a breeding community.
(I personally think there is too much pig in us for there to be many more backcrosses)

This kind of supposition does not preclude further liaisons between monkeys and the new species perhaps many generations later. Nor does it preclude introgression of some of the original sow’s genes into the offspring of the monkeys - but of course hugely diluted with thousands of generations of backcrossing and such genes only surviving if they gave strong selective advantage.

All this of course is speculation to how it might have happened. The actual pathway might have been completely different and most of the world denies it happened at all.

Final thoughts
I do not know how this theory will ever be proved. Perhaps more intensive genetic analysis of the similarities between humans and pigs might shed more light on the process. After all many of our shared features demand thousands of genes working in unison. Only if our skins for example achieved their similarities by entirely different gene pathways could the hybrid explanation be rejected.
No-one appears to be looking and you can easily understand why.
Readers might have previously noticed I am sceptical of the cavalier way that geneticists call upon parallel and diverging evolution to explain ‘difficult’ findings. Only yesterday researching this post I read that nature has reinvented the appendix in mammals 32 times! My own feeling is that the introgression of genes shared by hybridisation through chains of similar closely related species is a much more likely explanation of many such findings.

Mr McCarthy’s list of common features shared by pigs and humans and no other primates is extremely impressive and I discern that there is a vague recognition out there that this is an anomaly that seeks an explanation.
I really don’t know if the complex similarities between pigs and ourselves is controlled by arrays of very similar or identical genes. If it were to be so I cannot see any viable explanation exists for our common features other than a long past hybridisation. Classical methods of horizontal gene transfer in my view just don’t hold water as explanations of genetically distant animals (or plants) sharing complex features that are controlled by the same  genetic pathways.

The idea that there was a coastal phase in our early evolution perhaps 5 million years ago is no longer treated with derision. The theory is not entirely incompatible with the pig/monkey theory
A very recent article in the New Scientist positively gurgles over the importance of hybridity in human ancestry over the last 100,000 years. A professorial interviewee states that if you scratched wriggly overlapping lines on a piece of paper that would be our evolutionary pathway! How the story has changed in just a couple of years.
In contrast my article today speculates about a time a multiple of perhaps sixty times longer ago. It is quite ridiculous that with more recent acceptance that hybridisation is part of evolution (and not just an unfortunate artefact that arises from the dabbling of humans) that few seem to consider what hybridisation also occurred much-much longer ago.

Some readers might be interested in an article by Bryan Nelson on the MNN website about the recently discovered close genetic relationship between humans and pigs. He quotes the writer of the paper “ … swine could be placed in a family inhabited principally by primates….”

Reasons why the theory falls on stoney ground

1. Research in this area inspires ridicule and lacks funding. Just read this scurrilous and vindictive article in the Guardian - of all places
2. Successful experiments might in itself inspire ridicule, controversy and rejection
3. Failure to make research progress would destroy a career and label any researcher an idiot
4. Conventional opinion is only moving slowly to taking hybridisation seriously and many scientists’ life work is wedded to the belief that evolution only takes place in straight lines
5. Evolution is already rejected in the world’s hinterland. Don’t rock the boat by apparently changing your mind. Don’t give ammunition to ignorance
6. Should the theory ever be proven it would be a political hot potato

Further pigmentation

Nothing in evolution would surprise me”  - Peter Williams

“They are our closest relatives”  - Michael Wood who has spent a lifetime working with pigs and temporarily overlooked monkeys

“This would be an unlikely coincidence”  -  Scientist commenting on the discovery that the Alu transposable RNA elements in pig and human are the same

“What we saw when living in the African jungle is not recorded in the text books”  - Cathi and Harry Poole

“Despite the great diversity of life, there is a string connecting us all together”  - Bryan Nelson

“My hatched duckling thought he was a hen and bonded with them - even ushered them into their pen at night”  - Cathi

Bryan Nelson's perceptive MNN article

Scroll down on this page of Gene McCarthy's blog to find his list

My own most relevant hybridisation posts
1. About human evolution
2. Resistance to  hybridisation as an agent of evolution

What do you think?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...