I have been thinking about evolution lately and I am wondering if perhaps the finest mammalian product of evolution is the cat.
Let's get one thing out of the way first. I don't think humans are the ultimate product of evolution. And as proof, I offer Agent Smith's monologue in The Matrix:
I nominate the cat because, with the sole (and minor) exception of the cheetah, the basic design is the same whether the cat weighs six pounds or 600 pounds. My little 10 pound tuxedo cat is basically a scaled down black panther in both physique and behavior.
Wild dogs also have a basic design similarity across the different species, but in the wild there isn't anything like a 600 pound dog. Large wolves might be somewhere over 100 and there are no six pound wild dog species, although some foxes can be that small. But, technically, foxes are foxes and dogs are dogs. Foxes are on the vulpine branch and the dogs are on the parallel lupine branch, though both are in the family canidae.
Domestic cats are genetically just a variant of the North African Wild Cat, and it is said that if you disregard size, they might be the top predator on the planet. They can be lazy and sleep 16 hours a day because they are such efficient hunters, catching their prey 50% of the time on average compared with the 20% of their lion, tiger, jaguar, cougar, and cheetah brothers. If a dog is abandoned, it might starve. An abandoned cat has all the tools and instincts it needs to set up shop and survive just about anywhere be it in the city or out in the woods.
Domestic cats can thrive in almost any environment. Despite originating in a hot desert environment, they have established themselves in harsh, cold environments like Patagonia.
The American cougar once had the widest range of any animal on the planet, from Alaska and Northern Canada all the way down to the southern tip of Patagonia and just about everywhere in between. Today, it's the domestic cat that can make that claim, PLUS it's well-established in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
There are complaints about house cat predation, because they ARE such efficient hunters, but their efficiency makes them the ultimate evolutionary success story, doesn't it? Even better, they've made us the unwitting vector by which they've taken over the planet.
We are watching evolution in action whether we like it or not.
The ultimate product of evolution is the bacteria. There are more of them in our bodies than there are humans in the universe. They were here long before us, and they are so perfectly evolved that they have hardly changed in 3 1/2 billion years. Complex organisms, like humans, cats, and TV evangelists are temporary cul-de-sacs of evolution and always become extinct relatively quickly. But bacteria will be around until the Sun incinerates the Earth.
You're right except you're beside the point. I was discussing the pinnacle of, as I clearly stated, "mammalian evolution."
Humans can't be the pinnacle of evolution because the point of evolution is to produce survivability, not intelligence, and viewed that way humanity seems to be a dead end.
You've wandered off topic. My post makes clear I was talking about mammalian evolution.
Still you are right.
People forget that the role of evolution is not to produce the most intelligent critter but the most successful one in terms of survivability. Looked that way, when it comes to mammals, I think it's the house cat.
Cats do have nine lives. Case in point: Two days ago my wife drove into town in her pickup truck. It was about a thirty mile round trip with several stops in town. Getting home she exited out of the truck and immediately heard the faint calls of a cat in distress. Underneath the truck she found our 10 year old cat, Sambo, covered in dirt/mud (the backroads are a mess with all the rain right now). He stayed with the truck and didn't jump out when she got to town, which was probably a good move on his part. I figure he is down to about three or four lives as he just got bit on the head by a copperhead snake about a week and a half ago. He's a tough old kitty.
"Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the world. Geneticist Stephen James O'Brien, of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, remarked on how successful cats have been in evolutionary terms: 'Cats are one of evolution's most charismatic creatures. They can live on the highest mountains and in the hottest deserts.' They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands—even on sub-Antarctic islands such as the Kerguelen Islands.
"Feral cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas, and wetlands. Their habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human inhabitants. Further, the close relatives of domestic cats, the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) and the Arabian sand cat (Felis margarita) both inhabit desert environments, and domestic cats still show similar adaptations and behaviors. The cat's ability to thrive in almost any terrestrial habitat has led to its designation as one of the world's worst invasive species.
"As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily interbreed. This hybridization poses a danger to the genetic distinctiveness of some wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland and Hungary and possibly also the Iberian Peninsula." (Wikipedia)
But rats have a head start. The cat revolution isn't over yet. Plus, rats aren't as adaptable, rats go where man goes, and in many ways depend upon man. They are a sort of parasite. But cats are quite able to survive outdoors on their own even in arctic environs. They aren't on Antactica, yet, but they will be, eating penguin eggs and chicks.
So, of course, you are WRONG!!! ;)
Cats kill rats for fun. They don't always even chew on them. They'll kill one and move on to the next one.
The world simply needs more cats! It needs more cats and fewer people. If there were fewer people, there'd be fewer rats since they depend on people, but cats don't depend upon anyone. If all the people in the world disappeared overnight, the rat problem would be over in a few months.
My campaign slogan:
"A chicken in every pot and a rat in every cat!"
A whole lot of evolution must have happened so that the platypus ended up as an egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal that is also venomous. May not be an example of a "pinnacle", but it does show how powerful the process can be.