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Prehistory Summarized: Evolution

Alright everybody, we’re in the homestretch now. We’ve covered the expansion of the universe, the beginning of life, and now we’re going to go over the last billion years of evolution leading up to the modern day. Damn, that’s one long homestretch. I though baseball games were slow already. Yikes. Before we jump back into the wonderful world of evolution, we need to define exactly what evolution is. Now, once upon a time, a very smart man named Darwin came up with the idea that species changed over time through a mechanism called natural selection. While the idea of evolution was pretty well established in the scientific community around Darwins time, no one really knew exactly how evolution worked. So Darwin came up with an example that, since fruit-bearing trees are tall, only the tallest giraffes will be able to eat and then only they will survive. So, all of the poor short ones will die out and the tall ones will then pass on their genes and make more tall giraffes. All the species that can persist and survive for a long time are the ones that have evolved to fit their surroundings, because if they hadn’t, they’d be very, very dead. So, keeping all of that in mind, let us now return to our favourite ambiguously sized circular object Bruce and see what he has been up to. Since multi-cellularity became the hot new fashion statement, Bruce has been hanging out with the ediacaran fauna, which were the earliest forms of complex multi-cellular llife. The most well-known example of ediacaran life is the Dickinsonia costata, natures roomba. These guys and their palls are content and enjoying simple, painfully symetrical life on the seafloor from roughly 630 to 540 million years ago. But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. In this metaphor, the part of the Fire Nation is played by the Cambrian explosion, which happened 542 million years ago, kicked off the Paleozoic era, and changed all sorts of stuff. The name Cambrian explosion has three ideas behind it. First, sounds cool. Second, it happened insanely quickly as far as evolutionary time goes. Third, biological diversity went through the roof, and flora and fauna became very complex and unique in a sort of “explosion” – big air quotes – of rapid speciation and differentiation. The first Cambrian fauna Bruce comes across are trilobites, which sort of look likes those roombas from earlier, except that they have a hard shell to keep them away from the second Cambrian fauna Bruce runs into, this monstrosity. The anomalocaris is A) a Cambrian predator, B) the reason trilobites do well to have those hard shells, and C) totally awesome. So, while Bruce and his trilobite friend are swimming for their lives, away from anomalocaris, Bruce is taking notes on the trilobite’s armourshell, as well as this whole predator-thing. The next 300 million years involved lots of swimming, and included the Ordovician era, in which we got early fish, snails, shellfish, very early land animals, and the mass extinction of marine invertebrates, the Silurian era, in which jawed fish evolved, and arachnides and centipedes were among the predominant land animals – no thanks – the Devonian era, in which fish and landbased plantlife evolved, despite there being a second mass extinction, the Carboniferous era, in which amphibians moved inland and started eating those god awful insects, and the Permain era, in which cone producing plants spread out and there was a third mass extinction of 85% of life on Earth. Damn. Around the 240 million year mark, the Paleozoic era closed up shop due to prohibitively high rent and the whole being 85% extinct thing, and a new tenant stepped in, known as the Mesozoic era. The Mesozoic era had a slow start for fairly obvious reasons. Foremorst among them being that, again, 85% of life was dead. Jesus. But it’s a pretty era because it has goddamn dinosaurs yo! Excuse me, what I meant to say was OH MY GOOOOOOOD It has goddamn dinosaurs yo! Alright, let’s do this. The era kicked off with the Triassic period, in which reptiles slowly but surely diversified and took over land and sea, although they were still rather small compared to their later dinosaur relatives. The Triassic saw a huge boom of aquatic apex predators, the most famous among them is the Plesiosaurus, which, fun fact, made me terrified of swimming pools for years. Hopefully I’ll grow out of it soon. The Triassic period ended with a fourth mass extinction event, which wiped out half of the known species lived during the Triasssic. Wow. The good news for dinosaurs is that it opened up many previously occupied niches to dinosaurs because, as we know, adding more dinosaurs to anything has never gone wrong. Ever. Never ever ever. The second period in the Mesozoic era was the Jurassic period, which, oddly enough, doesn’t actually include most of the dinosaurs you’re used to seeing in Jurassic Park. What it does include however, is another dinosaur that haunts my swimming pool-based nightmares: Pliosaurus, which is like an alligator crossed with a shark crossed with a deep breath of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. In addition to my nightmares, this period brought the Allosaurus, which was one of the largest and most common Jurassic landpredators. And also the Stegosaurus, which, true fact, is an ancestor of Godzilla. 100% verified. You can tell by the spiky spine-thingies. It’s science. Shut up. Speaking of science: the Cretaceous period. This is the good stuff. Tyrannosaurus Rex. Which, unlike Oedipus Rex, does not murder its dad and marry its mom. Or, at the very least, we have no fossil evidence that suggests this. What it does do, conveniently, is raise hell in all the Jurassic Park movies and look badass doing it. Thankfully nature nerfed the otherwise stupid OP T-Rex by giving it tiny little stub arms. It’s hilarious. Just look at it! Look at its stupid little arms! Excuse me. The Indominus Rex however, is more jacked than The Rock, and will destroy you and everything you love. Thankfully it’s not real. Yet. Next up are Raptors, who spend the first five years of their lives training to open freezer doors and then murder idiot younger brothers, and spend the rest of their lives after that hanging out with Chris Pratt, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me. We also have Triceratops, the over-achieving and more successful cousin to the rhinos, and if you look up you’ll see Pterosaurus, commonly known as Pterodactyls, doing flying things like flapping wings and judging the terrestial peasants beneath it. Then there’s the Kronosaurus, which, I’ll be entirely honest, I didn’t even know existed until I was researching this video and now I’m kind of regretting this entire endavour. Of course it’s somehow bigger than the Pliosaurus and even more terrifying. You guys have no idea how difficult getting these pictures of these demons is/was/will be for me. No respect. While all this was going on, insects were diversifying, tiny mammals were springing up, and marsupials started being absolutely adorable. I should also mention that Bruce has been hiding upside-down in a cave for the past 200 million years continuously wetting himself because, lest we forget, DINOSAURS. Thankfully, Bruce’s enlongated nightmare ended when God dropped the bass and a giant meteor crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico around 66 million years ago. This wiped out all terrestial dinosaurs and pretty much left the tiny stuff that was hinding underground and in caves, like Bruce! After this mishap, we enter the Tertiary period, during which mammals grow, evolve and become dominant, and most other animals evolve to their current forms. Glossing over all of that, we’re approaching the 2.5 million year mark, which is where we enter the Quaternary period. Which is fancy speak for “stuff is more or less modern”. Let’s divert to hominins and talk about the evolution that led to humans, because nothing says antropocentrism like skipping 63 million years just to focus on us. The earliest human ancestors that branched off from the great apes were the Sahelanthropus, Orrorin and Ardipithecus, which were dated anywhere from 7 to 4.4 million years ago, depending on which species you’re looking at. Ardi, as sensitive scientists like to call him, is followed by Australopithecus, which lived between 4 and 2 million years ago. The most famous Australopithecus is Lucy, who Bruce dated on and off for a couple years. Australopithecus is also essentially bipedal, which was really useful when it came to carrying around your briefcase full of Australopithecus-stuff. After Lucy came the genus Homo, most notably Homo Erectus, which lived between 2 million and 700.000 years ago. Homo Erectus A) Stood upright, and B) left its hominin ancestors home of Africa and migrated northeast into Europe and Asia, because Africa is hot ass balls, yo. Bruce took this opportunity to study abroad in Paris for a semester. Homo Erectus also played with fire. Which is neat. Now that all that tedious backstory is out of the way, we can finally talk about the real star of the show: Homo Sapiens. Humans. Us. The ones who seem to have an infinite talent for ruining just about everything nature has to ruin. If you want to know about the silly antics Homo Sapiens have gotten up to in their day, oh boy, do I have stories for you. Alright, so we have 200.000 years of human existence leading up to the present day. And our subatomic particle turned biological organism Bruce is enjoying the modern marvel of music. And let me tell you, listening to a T-Rex’s 70s hard rock playlist gets really boring after the 10 millionth year. So, Bruce, the culmination of billions of years of molecular development, cellular evolution and dinosaurs, finally gets to enjoy all of the wonders of modern society. Until his parents were tragically struck down by a heartless murderer on their way home from the opera, and Bruce, heartbroken and bent on justice, forces himself into the ultimate weapon to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, claiming the night as his, and his alone. Thus, in Bruce Wayne, we see the pinnacle of human evolution and achievement, as the universe’s ultimate purpose is fulfilled. So, in conclusion, space, dinosaurs, Batman. Thank you for your time.
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXhdNd9a494

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