Biological Evolutionary Puzzles


Evolutionary biology tells us that mutations can be beneficial as a mechanism for evolution but does the evidence support this claim? Not exactly.

“The Ivory Tusk loss Mutation in elephants”

AMELX or MEP1a Mutation.

Hereditary, Anecdotal

The Good: It is estimated that 35,000 elephants are killed yearly for their ivory, so a reduction helps protect these threatened populations.-1 The female elephant, as measured since the 1940s, has a higher likelihood of being born “tusk-less” from about 18.5% to about 33% today. Tusks are associated with the teeth genes and are essentially overgrown molars used for various tasks. Since poaching has increased, it is believed that this mutation has caused this result to benefit the elephant population at large as a form of natural selection.’

Like eye color in humans, genes are responsible for whether elephants inherit tusks from their parents (heredity). Although tusklessness was once rare in African savannah elephants, it’s become more common — like a rare eye color becoming widespread.”-3

“Elephants have evolved to be tuskless because of ivory poaching, a study finds.”
October 22, 20218:50 AM ET Paranthesis are mine.

The reality is tusks are genetically passed by heredity. Any male born without tusks clearly has a degradative disability that leads to death. Due to changing environments, tusks are not needed by females. Also, poaching impacts the genetic pool of reproduction. Those carriers of the tusk gene are more likely to be killed than the tuskless. “They have this very compelling genomic data…(but) Scientists are still not sure which changes are causing a loss of tusks in either of the genes… “It appears that natural selection (as driven by gametes at reproduction) is the best and only answer as to why there has been a measurable reduction in the number of female elephants born tusk-less. The mutation has been isolated as a degradative disability in male elephants. There leaves little reason to believe that it is also a handicap for females—just not (usually) deadly. The findings here are largely anecdotal, as the prevalence of tuskless females has always been measurable. The rapid reduction of elephant populations combined with an ever-changing environment has led to a “bottleneck that strongly favors (the) tusk-less phenotype.”-1. Think about it this way: the elephants (primarily male but also females) with tusks are poached and killed. Those females that carry the tusk-less phenotype live and reproduce. Thus expanding this recessive trait with each passing year by genetic bottlenecking. This is natural selection (by environmental pressure) as a direct result caused by reckless human beings. The results are not due to mutations but are heredity favoring the recessive trait of tusk-less females. Finally, while there are anecdotal reports of tusk-less males in the populations of elephants worldwide, these are plausibly explained by either rare exceptions such as injuries or observer error–not beneficial mutations.

Researchers at Gorongosa National Park “noticed that the elephants with no incisors were usually female. The park has never seen a tuskless male, suggesting the trait related to tusklessness is sex-linked.-2

If a female elephant had one copy of the tuskless mutation, they would have no tusks. So, when the elephant reproduces, half of their daughters will have tusks, and the others will not have tusks at all. Half of the males will have tusks if their offspring is male, and the other half will die, possibly even before birth…”-2

Effects derived by normal heredity

Summary: Tusks are detrimental to male elephants used for various purposes but certainly as the primary form self-defense that includes the ability to gain a mate and reproduce. Tuskless male elephants face certain death. This supposed beneficial mutation has helped female elephants escape ivory hunters, and natural selection, not conversions, has likely played a role in this reality. Elephant parents carry hereditary traits (alleles) to pass tusks and tusklessness to offspring. Over recent decades, studies have found that due to various factors, including changing environments and ivory hunting, allele frequencies of female tusklessness have increased from 18.5% to 30%. This is evidence reflects natural selection pressures that are likely impacted by ivory hunting. Therefore, the benefit claims seem validated, but it is not. Why? Because identifying the genetic sequence of the gene responsible for female trustlessness is not due to any copy error mutation but are gene variants provided by the parents that are passed at reproduction. Because many tusked females have been hunted and removed from the gene pool, tusklessness has increased. It is that simple. Like brown or blue eyes in human beings, these are gene variants–presuming them to be due to an ancient mutation is not verifiable and is ultimately speculation. Any assumption of this occurring by a supposed beneficial mutation is based on ancient premise because we have always observed both tusk and tuskless female evidence.

Mutations, such as “The Tuskless Elephant,” trait are known to be derived today by normal reproduction or heredity. These traits have nothing to do with any mutation– except one presumed to have happened in the ancient past. The presupposition is that these effects manifested long ago by beneficial mutations. This conclusion simply cannot be substantiated based on fossil evidence lacking fully mappable DNA sequences but rarely has random fragments. In other words, there are no “pre-mutational” sequences to verify the claim; they do not exist besides as assumptions.

“Low quantity, degraded and fragmented DNA, and contamination are the four issues we have with ancient DNA,” says Bastien Llamas, an ancient DNA expert at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.

“Can we really extract ancient DNA from dinosaurs?” Deborah Devis, Oct 2021 Bold is mine.-4

Therefore, such conclusions are not empirically established but are merely assumptions made upon the existing genetic material today. Presuming that modern sequences “must” have evolved is a logical fallacy of question-begging. The conclusion and the effect are the same– the effect is proven by the cause and the cause by the effect (circular logic). These observable “good