Aye-ayes Have Many Unusual Characteristics

Aye-ayes Have Many Unusual Characteristics

Scientists use animal classification systems based on old evolutionary assumptions. The result is that many times an animal turns up that doesn’t fit any evolutionary model. An excellent example of this is a species of long-fingered lemurs called aye-ayes. They are nocturnal animals found only in Madagascar. Aye-ayes have many unusual characteristics giving a name that comes from a local phrase meaning something like “I don’t know.” Here are a few of the aye-aye’s traits:

1) They have large round eyes, which aid in night vision.
2) They use their continually growing incisor teeth to tear a hole in trees to reach grubs. Their teeth are so strong they can chew through cement blocks.
3) Their long middle finger is skeletal and has a ball-and-socket joint used to hook onto wood-boring grubs.
4) Their big toe is opposable to enable them to hang from tree branches.
5) They have fur with guard hairs they can raise to appear to double their size.
6) They use a unique system of foraging by percussive tapping on wood. They sense the echo with their bat-like ears to detect hollow areas where grubs are.
7) They build elaborate spherical nests made of leaves and branches.

Because of their teeth, nesting behavior, and long tail, your first guess might be that they are rodents. Despite the face of a possum, the teeth of a mouse, and the ear of a bat, they are classified as primates. This lemur is so unusual it has its own taxonomic family.

Aye-ayes have many unusual characteristics that point out weaknesses in the evolutionary taxonomic system. Systems such as cladistic taxonomy have gained weight as science discovers more animals like this in fossils and places like Madagascar. From an apologetics standpoint, it seems clear that God has created a variety of animals and given them characteristics to fill various ecological niches. Aye-ayes seem to be a special creation for a unique environment.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: World Wildlife Federation magazine for Spring 2021, Britannica and National Geographic websites for 3/10/21.

Madagascar Huntsman Spiders and Leaf Traps

Madagascar Huntsman Spiders
A Huntsman Spider in Madagascar

Spiders are incredible creatures. There are more than 45,000 known species of spiders, and each of them has unique features that allow them to prosper in a wide variety of environments. We usually think of spiders making webs to catch insects, but spider silk has other uses. Researchers have seen Madagascar huntsman spiders using silk to make leaf traps.

These huntsman spiders (Damastes sp.) take two leaves about the same size and fasten them together with silk to make a pocket. The pocket creates a cool and dark environment that is attractive to small frogs escaping the Sun’s heat and seeking refuge from predatory birds. What the spider has done is design a trap to catch frogs as a source of food. The spider hides in the back of the pocket and ambushes any frog that ventures in.

Biologists are still researching this case where Madagascar huntsman spiders appear to be intentionally capturing and eating vertebrates. In the natural world, there are many instances where life-forms survive even though their survival seems unlikely.

A spider eating frogs certainly doesn’t fit the evolutionary theory of progression, but it does speak eloquently of a unique design built into a particular ecosystem. It is just one more case where the more we know of the creation, the closer we get to understanding the Creator’s wisdom.

For more information about interesting spider species, click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, January 30, 2021, page 10.

Vanilla Mystery Solved by a Bee

Vanilla Mystery Solved by a Bee

The vanilla flavor used in many foods comes from an orchid (Vanilla planifolia) that originally grew in Mexico. Herman Cortes, a Spanish conquistador, discovered the pleasant-tasting substance used by the Aztecs, and he introduced it to Europe in the 1520s. But it took 300 years to solve the vanilla mystery.

When the Europeans tried to produce vanilla in their own countries, they could grow the vines, which produced flowers that bloomed one morning each year. However, within 12 hours, the flowers withered and produced no fruit. For three centuries, the vanilla mystery remained unsolved, and the Europeans depended on Mexico for vanilla flavor.

Then in 1836, a French botanist named Charles Francois Morren traveled to Mexico to study vanilla production. He noticed bees landing on the vanilla flower, working their way under a flap in the flower, and becoming dusted with pollen. Then they transferred the pollen to other flowers. Within hours of pollination, the flowers closed, and soon seed pods began to form.

The vanilla mystery solution was known only to those stingless bees of the genus Melipona which lived only in Mexico. They knew how to pollinate the flowers so that they could produce seed pods. The people who attempted to grow vanilla elsewhere tried without success to bring the bees into their areas. Then in 1841, a twelve-year-old slave boy discovered a way to hand pollinate the flowers using a sliver of bamboo. The vanilla mystery was solved!

Because of hand pollination, Indonesia and Madagascar now exceed Mexico in vanilla production. However, hand pollination is labor-intensive and requires constant monitoring of the plants since the flowers stay open for only a few hours. It took humans 300 years to discover how to pollinate the vanilla flower. Before that, only the Melipona bees knew the secret. No other insects knew how to enter those flowers and pollinate them.

Without the bees, there would have been no vanilla plant for humans to discover and use. More important, without the bees, the vanilla vines could not reproduce. Since the orchid could not survive without the bee, the question is, “Who put that bee there and told it how to pollinate that flower?” The vine and the bee could not have evolved separately. That leaves us with another vanilla mystery. Perhaps the bee and the vanilla vine were created to work together. We see this as another evidence of God’s creative work. Think about that the next time you enjoy some vanilla ice cream.

— Roland Earnst and Dave Hart © 2021