Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nature is Going to Pick the Winner

Reply to: a horribly ambitious and terribly long project


SOS: Carlos, you assume you speak for many.

Xero: Where do I assume to speak for many? Quote me please.

SOS: I don't want some terrible intergeneric hybrid take the place of a species. Many of these have come and gone so quickly you've never seen them because they were as I said, terrible. Terrible looking flowers, lousy growers, and nowhere near an improvement on the species.

Xero: I'm trying to find aspects of this that are actually relevant. If Sobenniphylax was a terrible grower...then how could it possibly beat Dendrophylax lindenii? Perhaps Sobenniphylax is a horribly slow grower...but it's far more cold tolerant than Dendrophylax lindenii. In this case perhaps the tortoise could beat the hare.

If Sobenniphylax beat Dendrophylax lindenii...then you can say that Sobenniphylax is a terrible terrible monster...but clearly nature decided that it's more fit. So you can subjectively hate it all you'd like...but it's a "better" plant by nature's standards.

SOS: If you're really that honest about lindenii (or any other species) being just a small bit of genetic code, please tell the course that need be taken to derive that out of hybrids? Every species grower grasps that simple concept that you can remake a Cattleya Mini Purple with a walkeriana and a pumila. How do you get either species back out if one were to become non existent? Your hypothetical Sobenikoffia x Dendrophylax is much the same problem.

Xero: Seriously guy? You're not thinking things through. If walkeriana somehow becomes extinct...well at least you have 50% of its genetic material in Mini Purple.

Whose responsibility is it though to ensure that walkeriana doesn't go extinct? Yours? How many divisions of your walkeriana have you shared with your plant friends?

SOS: If I have a Cattleya briegeri and Cattleya bradei and I make 1000 plants and even 10% are survived in other's collections. Someone uses one of those breeds ((briegeri x bradei)x briegeri). I've been studying Hoffmansegella for years and I will be honest, I probably couldn't tell that hybrid apart from a briegeri. Imagine that is what is then accepted as briegeri. I don't know if you include that in the way you analogize the book of Chronicles to how you think your epiphytic world acts, but it would be a great loss to me and many other if that fictitious briegeri took the place of the real deal. I don't want to breed or make conservation efforts with a plant that is 75% the species. What you propose seems in great conflict to how I see that issue.

Xero: If the pseudo briegeri replaces the real briegeri in the wild...then clearly its fitter. If the pseudo briegeri replaces the real briegeri in cultivation...then it's not so clear that it was fitter. Perhaps it was simply prettier.

The AOS and their stupid judging encourages survival of the prettiest. So we end up with pansies...orchids that wouldn't survive a day in the wild. Do you want a proliferation of pansies? Not me. I want orchids to get tougher and tougher...not softer and weaker.

I want fitter orchids. This is the part you don't seem to have a handle on. Species are great because nature has found them to be fit...but if a hybrid can outperform its parents in nature...then it has a better combination of traits. It has a better chance of surviving. It has a better chance of making our future brighter.

SOS: Next, how can you so boldly say that your intergeneric hybrid would have no effect on standing populations of lindenii? Do you know that a back cross wouldn't happen? Do you know that it wouldn't create a greater vector for disease or insect that would threaten the plants?

Xero: I said that Sobenniphylax would have no effect on standing populations of lindenii? I don't think I said that. I have no idea if Sobenniphylax is even I couldn't possibly know whether or not a back cross would occur.

How could Sobenniphylax create a greater vector for disease or insects? Are you imagining a large population of Sobenniphylax existing in the wild? If so, how did the population get so large if it's so susceptible to disease and pests? Again, this all falls under the basic concept of "fitness".

I don't know which one is the fittest... Sobennikoffia robusta or Dendrophylax lindenii or some hybrid. But it should stand to reason that we should want to find out. Let's have nature sort them out.

Orchids throw a lot of combinations at nature. Each seed pod contains a gazillion seeds...and each seed is a unique combination of inputs. Obviously it's a pretty effective strategy. If you throw enough ideas out there then chances are that some will be winners.

The goal is to discover who the winners are. This means constantly challenging the reigning champs. We don't want to limit their exposure to competition. We don't want to give them immunity because they are incumbent. On the contrary, we should be facilitating competition. The more creative destruction...the greater the fitness of epiphytic orchids...the more secure their future. The term for this is antifragile.

SOS: I'm all for making Glicenstein hybrids and finding out novel new crosses but when you don't give a shit about the progeny of them as long as you see them hiking, eating lunch on a cafe patio, etc. it makes a very big difference. Read about Euglossine bees and their impact on creating natural hybrids in a short manner of time. The pollinator for lindenii isn't that aggressive that the bee is, but to assume that it's ok to introduce whatever the hell you like into nature because it's got a specific relationship in germinating with a specific fungus or specific pollinator, you're wrong. If you wanted to go put some cuthbertsonii hybrids next to wild populations of the species because you can, I implore you to rethink your role in anthropocentrism.

Xero: Again and again...if I put hybrid cuthbertsoniis next to a wild population...then nature is going to pick the winner. Nature is going to vote for whichever combination of inputs/traits is the fittest.

Anthropocentrism is where humans decide who the winners should be. It's AOS orchid judging. That's where orchids are judged by their looks. If you're concerned with anthropocentrism...then you're really barking up the wrong tree. I want orchids to be judged by nature.

If somebody manages to create a fitter determined by nature...then that is something that is truly worthy of award. If a hybrid cuthbertsonii beats the species by thriving in marginal habitats...then whoever created that hybrid should be recognized and praised for giving us a greater abundance of a nice and fit orchid.

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