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Evolution and Extinction of the F-150 Community

July 29, 2011

Wherein we examine the brief flowering of a wonderfully diverse marine ecosystem, the incursion of nefarious invasive species, and an eventual collapse and extirpation.

Once upon a time, there was a Ford F-150 truck. This well-aged vehicle was the trusted field conveyance of a group of paleontologists enjoying the dusty Churchill summer. When first seen, the truck’s surface was smooth and unmarked. It was a blank canvas, a fresh environment ripe for colonization.

(photo © Dave Rudkin, Royal Ontario Museum)

The potential of this substrate was recognized by opportunistic species (chiefly Matt and Debbie). These moved in to colonize it.

This colonization was followed by an interval of diversification in the marine realm. Life on land did not yet exist.

Some elements of the community, such as the jellyfish, were relatively simple.

Others, such as horseshoe crabs, were complex and showed considerable innovation.

The community evolved and diversified, until one evening there was a sudden incursion of invasive species in the form of some ornithologists who parked their truck near ours. They modified the community with the statement that “Fossils rock almost as much as godwits,” an assault blunted by the indigenous biota with the addition of a defensive “don’t.” Note that, by this time, every bit of available hard substrate (such as the Ford insignia) had been colonized by benthic epifauna.

Although the initial incursion was successfully countered, there were further invasions in the following days, resulting in community instability and chaos. In the final days, land life appeared, typified by a godwit that underwent modification into a scruffy-looking pterosaur.

The entire ecosystem, in this unstable form, was clearly ready for collapse. Nevertheless, science could not predict how this would occur. As it turned out, the mass extinction was sudden, shocking, and catastrophic. In a few seconds on our last morning, a dramatic event spelled the doom for all of this wonderful and diverse life.

(photo © Dave Rudkin, Royal Ontario Museum)

Will the fauna ever recover? Will we see its like again?

© Graham Young, 2011 (with thanks to Matt Demski, Debbie Thompson, Dave Rudkin, and a flock of guerrilla ornithologists)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Lee permalink
    July 29, 2011 2:17 pm

    Graham: You certainly have a way with words….
    I had a good laugh! Great way to end the day! Graffiti rules!

  2. July 30, 2011 10:59 am

    I agree with Peter … thanks for the laugh and letting me start my day with a smile!


  3. July 30, 2011 9:04 pm

    It was a pleasure to colonize your ecosystem!

  4. Dave Rudkin permalink
    July 31, 2011 10:51 am

    Following a modest post-extinction hiatus, it is vital to go back and monitor for the re-establishment of dynamic vehicle-based graphecosystems around the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. I volunteer!

    • Graham permalink*
      July 31, 2011 10:57 am

      Thank you Dave (and also thanks to David and Peter for your earlier comments). Yes, I think that grant funding should be sought for this important endeavour.

  5. August 2, 2011 1:27 pm

    Awesome post, as always! Very funny. 🙂

  6. August 17, 2011 8:52 am

    What a great post! Your van is brilliant 🙂

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