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RE: Willie Wonka and the New Papers

John Scanlon wrote:

> Then saw Eike's footnote about diet-switching, which reminds me of an idea
> that: it may be easier than you'd expect, because animals pick up bacteria
> (etc.) capable of predigesting food items from the food itself. I don't know
> if this has been published or discussed anywhere, but I've thought about it
> before, and it appeals as (potentially) one of those 'behaviour-first'
> evolutionary mechanisms that Lamarck would have approved (I had a zoology
> lecturer once, Don Anderson at Sydney Uni, who liked that sort of thing and
> thought Lamarck was misunderstood).

Ha!  I remember Don Anderson.  He was a wonderful lecturer, of the old 
chalk-and-blackboard variety.  

> Favourite prey-switching example: Piranhas _Serrasalmus_, from floating
> fruit (bobbing for 'apples' from underneath) to swimming vertebrates. There
> are old anecdotes of pythons eating mangoes, but this is either not
> confirmed or not studied AFAIK.

I've heard this proposed as a mechanism to explain the transition from 
carnivore to herbivore.  The predator accidentally ingests plant matter while 
gobbling up a carcass, and picks up plant-digesting microbes  from the 
carcass's viscera (also by accident).  The morphological changes (dentition, 
viscera, etc) would have to be genetic, but the hard work of breaking down 
plant matter (especially cellulose) is mostly done by symbiotic microbes.


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