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I'm fascinated by evolutionary theory and the predictive aspect of it-the notion of an animal entering a strongly divergent state of evolution whereby it is evolving into a new form yet remains suboptimal, and is therefore undergoing rapid morphological change, and the idea that this allows us to project onto possible new variants of life.

To give a past example, the praying mantis is believed to have split from the cockroach around 250M years ago. During this period the mantis developed its upright stance, large range of vision and pronounced raptorial claws, and has seemingly stabilised into this optimal new form over the past 50M+ years.

The interesting thing is that this change could actually have been predicted by analysis of the animals evolutionary history, niche and further available advantageous adaptive forms.

Can someone give a good example of a current animal in this volatile state that we could make accurate projections for?

And please, no trivial answers like "everything is constantly in a state of evolution", I already know that and thats not I'm referring to.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you document the praying mantis example? $\endgroup$ – Corvus Mar 5 '15 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ Theories based on a the discovery of a cockroach with nascent mantid features-Raphidiomimula burmitica. Though its really just an example... $\endgroup$ – Luken Mar 5 '15 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ Though I know a fair bit about evolutionary biology, I have no idea what you are talking about in the title when you write "submature morphologically unstable evolutionary state". Where does this language come from? It doesn't sound like anything I've ever read in the literature. Nor do I find it plausible that "The interesting thing is that this change could actually have been predicted by analysis of the animals evolutionary history, niche and further available advantageous adaptive forms." Which scientists argue this, in what papers? $\endgroup$ – Corvus Mar 5 '15 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ I mean essentially an organism in a volatile state of evolution. The opposite of say, a shark or crocodile that has remained morphologically and behaviourally similar for millions of years. $\endgroup$ – Luken Mar 5 '15 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ Another example I can give you is that of early cetaceans as they colonised water. When assuming a fully aquatic future existence it would be easy to imagine hairless creatures with narrow streamlined jaws, and flippers, though these optimal forms would not be realised for many millions of years. That is a an example of a "submature" morphology. I'm interested in contemporary animals that we could make similar predictors for to some degree of probability. $\endgroup$ – Luken Mar 5 '15 at 4:53
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Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but maybe the Giant Panda is of interest to you. The Giant Panda is an herbivore, but it has evolved from a meat-eating animal (the most recent common ancestor of Pandas and the other bears). It made the switch from omnivore to herbivore just ~2 MYA. According to wikipedia, pandas still have the digestive system of a carnivore. They can still eat meat and do not actually get much protein/energy from bamboo. Thus, you could consider them to be in a state of evolving from an omnivore into a more efficient herbivore

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