Of evolution, water lilies and lotuses

Dhaka,  Thu,  17 August 2017
Published : 12 Aug 2017, 20:45:13
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OPINION

Of evolution, water lilies and lotuses

The scientists who have discovered the earliest genus of flowers would, hopefully, not find their visualisation replaced with a more plausible one. Coming to South Asians, they would love to bask in the glory of being linked to the prehistoric flowers through their Shapla and Lotus, writes Shihab Sarkar
Scientists have recently determined the shape of the world's earliest flower. They did not have any fossilised flowers around; instead they visualised the shape of the primitive genus taking cue from botanical facts. They have released a drawing of it to the international media. It shows a flower which uncannily resembles a water lily or a lotus, with curvy petals. The fact that the presumed earliest flower on earth bears the look of a Sub-continental Shapla (water lily) or a Padma (lotus) is replete with elements of awe. Those highly curious with interest in the evolution of man and plants may have started fancying the possibility of a link between the prehistoric flower and the different genera of water lilies and lotuses being grown in Bangladesh and India.

What if the wings of their imagination take them to a domain of reality, one that backs their fanciful thought? Provided that the 'Out of Africa' theory finally proves true, the prehistoric man's fanning out to South Asia and farther to the Pacific and beyond may also apply to plants. The million-year voyage of the Proto-Australoid man may one day emerge as inseparable from the plant life grown far from Africa.  One even cannot rule out the possibility of the intercontinental travel of fruit seeds through migratory birds, with a few getting stuck in the soil of the South Asia region. Like the evolution of the human species, the one of wild animals, plants and trees is no less interesting. The likelihood of flower genera's resemblance to that of the prehistoric times is quite plausible. The fact of Shaplas or Padmas being directly related to the earliest flower on earth may prevail in the long run. The shape of the imaginary flower which scientists have lately etched in their mind, and later released in the world media could be another specimen of the 'missing link', like that applied to the now-extinct Neanderthal man. If this is not the case, due to their tenacity in the fight for survival the earliest flowers remain in their original shape in many parts of the world.

Modern anthropology propounds the theory of simultaneous evolution of life forms in a lot of apparently disconnected areas of earth. Darwin's theory of evolution is based on the emergence of human species from an 'apelike' creature in Africa. It is opposed to the common belief that man is a direct descendant of 'apes'. Some offshoots of the apelike predecessor of the human species have become extinct along the course of man's evolution; the Neanderthals are notable among them. However, a school of evolutionists has lately come up with a completely different theory. According to them, humans and apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas, have evolved from a common ancestor. They parted ways later to follow distinctive courses, like man's earlier sub-species of 'homo erectus' and 'homo habilis'.

 Those who do not subscribe to the theory of 'Out of Africa', i.e. exodus from Africa, advocate a different one: apart from the continent of Africa, vast swathes of Asia like China, India, Java (Indonesia), etc., have also been the centres of early life forms including humans. In this context, flowers might be thought to have gone through spectacular evolutions worldwide in millions of years, leaving a few stuck in their old shape.

The scientists who have discovered the earliest genus of flowers would, hopefully, not find their visualisation replaced with a more plausible one. Coming to South Asians, they would love to bask in the glory of being linked to the prehistoric flowers through their Shapla and Lotus.  However, as has been predicted about humans, flowers may not remain in their present shape million years from now.

shihabskr@ymail.com   

 
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