The Strom Flapper
The storm flapper, Papilio procella, is at first glance a rather unremarkable butterfly. Compared to other species that are commonly found in the tropics, he looks rather tern, with wings of dirty grey and a modest size. But recent scientific studies have shown that the storm flapper is one of the most exciting species of our millenia.
The storm flapper got its name because it would always flap its wings frantically before big storms. Indigenous people throughout the tropics have considered the species to be messengers of a benevolent god, who gave them warnings so they could take shelter before the storm came. Later on, western scientists concluded that the butterfly was reacting to the change in air pressure and humidity preceeding a great storm, although they could not determine the evolutionary benefits of such a behavior. As it turns out, they are both wrong. The storm flapper does not, as was thought, react to the coming of the storm. He is the cause of the storm.
The storm flapper has one of the most complex nervous systems ever seen in any living being, having more neuronal connections than even the human brain in its small body. However, unlike our, and other, brains, the complex part of its nervous system is not able to learn. It is “hard-coded”, so to speak, to allow it to read air currents in an extremely precise manner, and, through a mere flapping of its wings in the right places, at the right time, create the conditions necessary for a tropical storm.
Whenever environments get unfavorable for the survival of the storm flapper, the animals automatically start trying to create a storm. When enough of them join in, they succeed, and, shortly before the weather becomes too harsh, they lay there eggs. The heavy rainfall and partial destruction of the existing biosphere creates and extremely productive environment, in which the larvae of the flapper can thrive. When they grow into adults, they start producing eggs, and store them in their abdomen until the conditions to create another storm are met.
Ecologists today believe that the storm flapper was one of the key components of the biodiversity seen in tropical regions. The frequent storms “level the playing-field” in terms of evolutionary competition, and have allowed species that would otherwise have gone extinct to thrive and diversify. However, as climate change, as well as direct destruction of their habitat, is endangering the storm flappers more and more, they resort to storm creation more often, causing huge damage not only to humans and their infrastructure, but also to their habitat, as well as themselves. Which, in turn, makes them cause more storms.
There seems to be no easy solutions to end this vicious cycle, and scientists have urged conservation efforts to be stepped up in tropical regions, for the benefit of both human and animal populations.
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