Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Mind Boggling Overall Bigness of the Rapids of the Lower Congo River

This video by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) shows fascinating footage of ongoing speciation by fish in the extraordinary rapids of the Lower Congo River. The AMNH's study has found that some of the "deep holes" in the rapids are more than 600 feet deep and that flow restrictions and ledge barriers in the channel are sufficient to cause various native fish to become so reproductively isolated from one another that new species are being created. AMNH says:

At last count, 320 species—some with bizarre features like long snouts, tiny eyes, and colorless skin—swim in the river’s 350 kilometers of roiling brown water. “I call it evolution on steroids,” says Melanie Stiassny, curator of ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History.

In the U.S. we have river resources just as unique and incredible as the Congo and many of them are in terrible condition (or flat out going extinct), which makes it impossible for a video like this to even be filmed here. This video could have been made at Celillo Falls on the Columbia in the 1920s. But in the 1930s the Bonneville Dam was built without any environmental review and destroyed all of Celillo Falls and a huge Native American sustenance salmon fishery there. The same goes for the Tennessee River system.

The lower Congo has long been eyed for damming and still is -- precisely because of its steep gradient and rapids. If that were to happen, all of these unique fish species that are just now being discovered and described will go extinct.

The AMNH's documentation and research illustrates how the Congo's hydrology and ledge geography creates special, isolated niches for cichlids, and these niches are creating speciation even as we speak. Their research is important as a scientific hedge against some lame brain at the World Bank thinking that putting a dam here and wrecking the place would be a good idea. Weirdly, the AMNH website does not even mention any proposals to dam this part of the Lower Congo.

Oh look ! The European Union and World Bank have already slated the Lower Congo River for destruction:

Banks meet over £40bn plan to harness power of Congo river and double Africa's electricity

Fury at plan to power EU homes from Congo dam: World Bank supports controversial $80bn project.

Not surprisingly, the dam is touted as being good for poor black people, as being "green power," as helping the "development of Africa," and ... to ice the cake ... is being proposed as mitigation credits for Europe burning fossil fuels and causing global warming. Unfortunately, all of the claims are not just false, but are fairly deliberate lies. Never saw that coming.

Who said Euro-Colonialism was dead?


pwax said...

It is a reasonable question whether this constitutes evolution or just gene expression.

Douglas Watts said...

We'll never know once they are extinct.

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