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未來生命:地球可能會演化出哪些奇特生物

更新時間:2019/9/12 21:22:19 來源:紐約時報中文網 作者:佚名

Strange evolution: The weird future of life on earth
未來生命:地球可能會演化出哪些奇特生物

In the early 1980s, the author Dougal Dixon published a cult book called After Man: A Zoology of the Future, which imagined what life would look like millions of years from now. Dixon envisaged shrews that use their tails as parachutes, flying monkeys (or “flunkeys”), super-long coiled snakes that strike out to snatch birds mid-flight, nightgliders that impale their prey with long spikes on their chests, and flower-faced birds and bats that fool pollinating insects into landing in their hungry mouths.

上世紀80年代初,古生物學作家道格拉斯‧迪克森(Dougal Dixon)出版了一本名為《人類滅絕之后的未來動物世界》(After Man: a Zoology of the Future)的科幻著作,想象數百萬年人類絕跡后地球上的生命形態。在迪克森的未來奇幻世界中,有用尾巴當降落傘的鼩鼱(shrew),飛翔的猴子(flying monkey/flunkey),盤繞卷曲的超級長蛇空中抓捕飛鳥,夜間滑翔動物使用長刺刺殺獵物,臉如鮮花的鳥類和誘惑授粉昆蟲落入它們饑餓口中的蝙蝠。

Decades later, Dixon says his book was not an attempt to predict the future, rather it was an exploration of all the possibilities of the natural world. “Popular-level books on evolution, even though it’s not intentional, seem to suggest evolution is something that happened in the past,” he says. “That’s not the case at all. Evolution is taking place today, it will continue to take place well into the future, long after we are gone.”

時過幾十年后,迪克森稱他這本書并非是想要預測未來,而是要探索自然發展的一切可能性。他說:“有關演化論的科普書籍,即或不是出自本意,看來給人的印象都是生命演化只是過去時。事實當然并非如此。生命的演化今天仍在在進行中,即或人類在地球已經絕跡后的遙遠未來,生命的演化仍將繼續下去。”

While Dixon’s book was a work of fiction, most biologists agree that millions of years from now Earth will be a very different place. “I think it’s gonna look and feel like an alien planet,” says Athena Aktipis, an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University.

即或迪克森這本書是科幻著作,但大多數生物學家都同意幾百萬年后的地球將會是一個完全陌生的星球。亞利桑那州立大學(Arizona State University)演化生物學家阿克逖皮斯(Athena Aktipis)說:“以我之見,遙遠未來的地球我們看來和感受會像一顆外行星那般的離奇。”

Whatever evolves will feel foreign and unlikely to us today – just as our current world, dominated by mammals, would have seemed improbable from the perspective of the dinosaur era. So, what might life look like in the future? What creatures could develop in, say, 100 million years, given what we know about life on Earth and the principles of evolution?

無論未來的生命演化如何,今天的人類看到都會覺得怪異和不可思議,如同今天的世界,哺乳動物稱霸天下,但要是你自恐龍世紀穿越過來,一定會覺得難以相信。那么,地球遙遠未來的生命形態看來將會是什么樣? 比如說,基于我們對地球生命和演化原理的認識,能否推想1億年之后地球上會演化出什么樣的物種?

Let’s start by zooming back millions of years to a much earlier era of life on our planet. In the Cambrian explosion, some 540 million years ago, the Earth became populated by a whole host of “weirdo” and “cartoonish” creatures, according to Jonathan Losos, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St Louis.

讓我們首先將時光倒流數百萬上千萬年前,回到我們地球上生命初始的世紀。據圣路易斯華盛頓大學(Washington University in St Louis)的演化生物學家羅索斯(Jonathan Losos)之說,大約5億4千萬年前的寒武紀(Cambrian)大爆發時候,地球上出現一系列“怪異”和“類似今天動畫電影角色”的奇特生物。

“The Burgess Shale [in Canada] was inhabited by a veritable bestiary of the bizarre,” he writes in his book called Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution. One animal, Hallucigenia, with its thin, tube-like body covered in rows of enormous spines, and stick-like clawed appendages was “similar to something out of a Futurama episode”.

羅索斯所著《不可思議的生命:演化的命運、時機和未來》(Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution)一書寫道:“棲息在加拿大伯吉斯頁巖(Burgess Shale)的生命完全可以稱之為怪物。”有一種叫怪誕蟲(Hallucigenia)的動物,細長的管狀肢體上長滿了兩排巨大的長刺,以及類似棍子的爪子狀附肢,“像是來自動畫片《飛出個未來》(Futurama)的東西”。

So, it is not impossible for similarly weird and unusual creatures to evolve in future. “Just about anything plausible you can imagine has evolved somewhere at some point in some species,” Losos argues. “Given enough time, even the improbable will occur eventually.”

因此,生命在遙遠的未來演化出如此奇特和怪誕的物種不是不可能的事。羅索斯說:“差不多任何你能想象到的生物形態,都曾在生命演化史的某個地方某個時期在某些物種中出現過,只要演化時間足夠,就能化不可能為可能。”

According to Losos, the world of biological possibilities is vast, and we may not have seen everything yet. “I, for one, am not at all convinced that life on Earth has uncovered every conceivable way of existing on a planet like our own, or even most of the ways,” he writes.

按照羅索斯的理論,生命演化之潛在世界廣袤無垠,人類尚未能窺其全貌。因此,他在書中如此說道:“如果認為地球上的生命形態已經揭示了如同我們地球這樣的星球上生命所有可能存在的方式,或者大多數方式。這樣的觀點,就我本人而言,實難茍同。”

Still, it’s difficult to predict which of those possibilities we may end up with. Losos’ book analyses the arguments for and against the predictability of evolution: the question of whether history would repeat if we were to “replay the tape of life”. The evidence is split, and we simply don’t know to what extent evolution is predictable and repeatable over long time periods. Add to that an element of chance – a huge volcanic eruption or an asteroid hitting the Earth, and firm predictions become near impossible.

當然,要預言生物究竟如何演化是相當困難的。物種演化能否預測?羅索斯的著作分析了支持和反對的兩種觀點,提出一個關鍵問題在于,如果我們想要“再現生命的歷程”,演化的歷史是否會依舊再來一次。無堅實可靠的證據支持歷史會重演,因為物種演化要經歷極其漫長的地質年代時間,人類無法知道對未來的演化我們可預測到多少,以及生命史是否會重演。而且還會有不可預料的偶發事件,比如超級火山的爆發,或者小行星撞上地球。所以,物種將來如何演化,今天根本不可知。

Yet, we can make educated guesses.

或許,我們可以根據現有的知識做一些猜測。

First, however, we must address the impact of a major evolutionary force that is already transforming life worldwide: Homo sapiens.

不過,我們首先必須討論一支正在改變地球生態的演化大軍,即我們人類,或曰智人(Homo sapiens)的影響。

If humans thrive for millions of years, they will have a marked effect on future evolution, and natural selection will produce new varieties of life to deal with the altered, and probably polluted, environments that we create. “We may well see the evolution of a bird beak specialised for feeding out of tin cans, or rats developing oily fur to slough off toxic wastewater,” writes Peter Ward, a paleontologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, in his 2001 book Future Evolution.

人類在地球上生生不息,繁殖人口,擴張領土已數百萬年,因此可肯定對未來的生命演化的影響必定舉足輕重。為適應人類對自然環境的改變和污染,物競天擇,適者生存,就會有新的物種演化而生。西雅圖華盛頓大學(University of Washington)的古生物學家彼特·沃德(Peter Ward)2001年出版他的著作《未來的物種演化》(Future Evolution),書中這樣認為:“有一天我們很可能會看到鳥喙演化到能夠啄食罐頭里的食物,或者老鼠長出不沾水的油性皮毛以防被有毒廢水污染。”

Ward foresees opportunities for new types of species that possess “weedy” qualities – hardy, adaptable creatures that don’t mind living around humans and are able to make use of their world, such as house cats, rats, raccoons, coyotes, crows, pigeons, starlings, sparrows, flies, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites.

按照沃德的預測,地球有可能出現這樣的新物種,耐寒、適應性強,具有野火燒不盡,春風吹又生的強韌生命力,愿意附生于人類社會,甚至能夠利用人類世界的資源,比如家貓、老鼠、浣熊、郊狼、烏鴉、鴿子、椋鳥、麻雀、蒼蠅、跳蚤、蜱蟲和腸道寄生蟲之類。

On a hotter, dryer Earth warmed by humans, a lack of fresh water may also prompt novel adaptations. “I would imagine animals that would evolve weird specialisations to capture moisture from the air,” says Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. “Larger animals might evolve things like extended sails or skin flaps that they could extend out in the early morning to try to capture moisture. The frilly collars of some lizards, for example, could become very large and exaggerated to gather water in this way.”

人類的活動改變著氣候,我們生活的地球正在變暖,變干燥,缺乏淡水亦會影響物種為適應環境而改變。美國馬薩諸塞州曼荷蓮學院(Mount Holyoke College)的演化生物學家帕翠霞‧布倫南(Patricia Brennan)說:“我會想象動物演化出怪異的特性和本領來獲取空氣中的水分。塊頭較大的動物可能會演化出一些好像揚起的船帆或鼓起的皮翼之類的東西,清晨空氣潮濕時就伸展開來獲取水分。例如,有些蜥蜴的褶邊頸圈為收集水分會鼓漲很大很夸張。”

In a hotter world, Brennan also envisages the rise of naked mammals and birds: “Mammals may lose fur in some patches and collect water in skin pockets. In a warming planet, endothermic animals [those that generate their own heat] may have a hard time, so birds in warmer climates may lose contour feathers to prevent overheating, and mammals may lose most fur.”

布倫南還設想在一個變暖的地球上,會演化出無毛的哺乳動物和鳥類,“哺乳動物的某些部位可能會不再有毛,會以身體上的皮囊收集水分。在暖化的星球上,靠自身新陳代謝產生熱量的溫血動物可能會活得很艱難,因此,在暖化的氣候里,屬于溫血動物的鳥類可能會去掉體外的羽毛以散熱,哺乳動物也可能會去掉大部分毛發。”

Future humans may also decide to directly manipulate life – in fact, it’s happening already. As the researcher Lauren Holt wrote for BBC Future’s Deep Civilisation series earlier this year, one trajectory for life on Earth could be a “post-natural” one. In this scenario, genetic engineering, biotechnology and the influence of human culture could redirect evolution down radically different paths, from mosquitoes that contain gene drives to mechanical pollinator drones. The evolution of life would be entwined with humanity’s own desires and needs.

未來的人類或許也會將生命玩弄于股掌之上,事實上,這已經開始。就如研究人員勞倫‧霍爾特(Lauren Holt)今年為英國廣播公司未來頻道(BBC Future)的《深度文明》(Deep Civilisation)系列節目所寫的文章說,地球上生命發展其中的一條軌跡可能是人類干涉的“后自然”走向。在后自然主義的情景中,從基因改造的蚊子到人工授粉無人機,人類操控的基因工程、生物技術和人類文化的影響可能會把物種的演化導向迥然有別的道路。生命的演化將受制于人類的欲望和需求。

However, there are alternative paths for future evolution: for example, our more enlightened descendants may decide to rewild nature and let natural evolution pursue its course, or humans could become extinct (which was the scenario of After Man).

不過,未來生命的演化也有其他的可能選擇。例如,人類的后代會比今天的人類更有智慧,有可能會決定放棄干涉自然,讓自然重新野生化,讓自然的演化自行其自然之道,否則人類就會自取滅亡,這就是《人類滅絕之后的未來動物世界》一書為人類預言的結局。

Extinction in particular can lead to sweeping evolutionary innovation. In essence, a mass extinction resets the evolutionary clock, argues Ward. After previous mass extinctions, he says, Earth’s plants and animals changed radically.

物種滅絕尤其可能導致生命演化的全新局面。沃德指出,物種大滅絕實質上等于重設物種演化的時鐘。他說,地球上發生過的5次物種大滅絕,都使得地球上的動植物發生了天翻地覆的變化。

The Permian extinction, around 252 million years ago, eliminated over 95% of marine and 70% of land species, including fin-backed reptiles and massive mammal-like reptiles that ruled the Earth at the time. It made space for dinosaurs to evolve and take over as the dominant land animals, an outcome perhaps as unlikely and unexpected as the take-over by mammals when they replaced dinosaurs after the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction.

發生在大約2.52億年前的二疊紀(Permian)大滅絕事件,滅絕了地球上95%以上的海洋物種和70%的陸地物種,包括當時橫霸地球的背鰭爬行動物和大型哺乳類爬行動物。但這次大滅絕騰出了空間,讓恐龍得以演化,隨即取代前朝成為陸地上的新霸主。這一結局與發生在白堊紀-第三紀(Cretaceous-Tertiary)大滅絕竟然異曲同工,這次大滅絕意外地讓哺乳動物取代了恐龍,成為地球新世界的最強大物種。

“There was not only a turnover, but also what we might call a ‘changeover’,” Ward writes. “Mass extinctions did more than just change the number of species on Earth. They also changed the makeup of the Earth.”

沃德這本書指出:“大滅絕不僅出現了物種的更替,還出現了我們可以稱之為物種整體系統的變革。大規模滅絕改變的不僅是地球上物種的數量,還有地球生命的結構。”

Following an extinction, some biologists think it’s possible that whole new lifeforms with new capabilities will evolve; so different that we can’t even imagine what they might be like. For the first billion years or so of life on Earth, for example, oxygen-breathing animals would have been inconceivable, because oxygen was in short supply and cells hadn’t evolved to use it for energy. That changed forever with the Great Oxidation Event, around 2.4 billion years ago, when the arrival of photosynthesising bacteria led to the Earth’s first mass extinction.

一些生物學家認為,在一次物種大滅絕之后,會演化出具有全新能力的全新生命形式,因新舊物種之天差地別,我們根本無法想象全新的物種會是什么樣子。例如,在地球上生命的最初10億年左右,地球上出現以呼吸氧氣為生的動物是不可思議的,因為當時地球大氣層氧氣極少,而且細胞尚未演化到以氧氣為能量。到大約24億年前發生大氧化事件(Great Oxidation Event)后,形勢完全逆轉,進行光合作用為大氣層帶來氧氣的細菌導致了地球上的第一次物種大規模滅絕。

“The microbes caused the whole planet to have oxygen and that created a huge shift,” says Leonora Bittelston, an evolutionary biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “There have been a lot of innovations that could have been hard to predict before they happened – but once they start happening, they do change our planet.”

麻省理工學院的演化生物學家比特爾斯頓(Leonora Bittelston)說:“這種微生物為整個地球帶來氧氣,結果是天翻地覆的變化。很多新事物在發生之前無人可以預料,不過一旦發生,我們的地球就會改變。”

So, if humans die off, how wild and sophisticated could things get 100 million years from now? Could we see trees starting to walk, or feasting on animals after killing them with toxic fumes or poisonous darts? Could sea life change, with spiders taking to the water, using their webs to net sardines, while fish learn to fly so they can feed on insects and birds? Could deep-sea animals project bright holograms of themselves to fool predators, attract prey or impress potential mates? Perhaps killer whales and catfish will regain their ancestors’ past ability to run on land so that they can hunt more effectively onshore?

因此讓我們設想,要是人類絕跡于地球,從今天往前的1億年內,地球上的生命會變得如何的野性十足和復雜難解?我們是否能看到樹木開始行走,或發射毒氣或毒飛鏢來獵殺動物而食之?海洋生物會改變形態嗎?會有蜘蛛游到水里,用蛛網捕捉沙丁魚?而水中之魚是否會飛,好在空中捕食昆蟲和鳥類?深海動物能否投射出自己明亮的全息影像來欺騙捕食者、吸引獵物或引誘性伴侶?虎鯨和鯰魚能否返祖,回到陸地捕食獵物?

Could we also see organisms take up residence in previously underexplored habitats: for example, giant, lightweight poisonous fungi floating in mid-air like an aerial jellyfish, entangling and consuming anything they bump into? Or could insects and spiders build silk nests in the clouds and feed on photosynthesising organisms in the sky? And if plants or microbes evolved something like solar panels to track and concentrate sunlight, could green oases of life thrive on frigid glaciers?

我們是否也能看到生物遷居陌生的棲息地?譬如,是否會有巨大而輕盈的有毒真菌飄浮在空中,狀如空中之水母,任何動物一旦撞上就會被纏繞而吞噬?是否有在云中筑巢,捕捉在空中進行光合作用之生物的昆蟲和蜘蛛?要是植物或微生物演化出類似太陽能光伏板的東西來追蹤并聚集陽光,寒冷的冰川能否出現生機盎然的綠洲?

None of these fantastical creatures sound impossible, says Aktipis. A lot of them are based on what already exists in nature: there are seafaring and gliding spiders, there is microbial life in the clouds, and deep sea anglerfish dangle bioluminescent balls in front of them to attract prey. Some populations of killer whales and catfish can beach to hunt for animals on the shoreline, and small independent oases of life thrive on ice where there are residues of cryoconite, a black dust made up of soot, rock and microbes.

阿克蒂皮斯說,這些生物聽起來是匪夷所思,但并非不可能。許多想像在自然界本有依據,比如有滑水和空中滑翔的蜘蛛,有棲息在云層中的微生物,有深海琵琶魚搖擺其生物性發光球來吸引獵物。還有一些虎鯨和鯰魚種群會有意擱淺海灘獵食岸邊的動物。冰上也會出現一些微小的獨立綠洲,由煙塵、巖石和微生物組成的冰上微細生態群。

Jo Wolfe, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, notes that some trees are able to “walk” very slowly as they move towards sources of water, and thinks it’s possible that trees could evolve to hunt using poisonous gases or even spiked branches. After all, we already have carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap. She also points to the existence of spiders that eat fish, and says that cloud-dwelling microbes could possibly evolve from the multitude of tiny organisms known as Prochlorococcus that live in the uppermost layers of the ocean.

哈佛大學演化生物學家喬·沃爾夫(Jo Wolfe)發現,真的會有樹木能夠行走,即是說,這些樹木會非常緩慢地向水源方向移動。她認為,樹木可能會進化到利用毒氣甚至帶刺的枝捕獵食物。因為自然界早有了捕蠅草(Venus flytrap)這樣的食肉植物。她還指出有食魚的蜘蛛,并說生活在云層中的微生物可能是從生活在海洋最上層的大量稱之為原綠球藻(Prochlorococcus)的微生物演化而來。

In nature, often all it takes for unusual adaptations to develop are extreme environments. Earth already has plenty of those, and that is not going to change. For example, consider how the male anglerfish has responded to the dire shortage of potential mates in the deep ocean. When he meets a female, he actually fuses into her body. “It is so unlikely he'll ever meet another female again that he just gives up and becomes a sperm accessory for her,” says Kristin Hook, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Maryland, College Park. “So, we might see animals doing more things like this, and over time I'd imagine selection favouring animals that can self-fertilise when finding mates is nearly impossible.”

在自然界,一般是極端環境中才能產生反常的演化。地球上此類現象多不勝數,而且會一直如此。我們以深海中的雄性琵琶魚為例。因為能與其交配的雌性琵琶魚極少,當雄性有幸邂逅一只雌性時,即干脆融入雌性,與其合體。馬里蘭大學帕克分校(University of Maryland, College Park)的行為生態學家克里斯婷‧胡克(Kristin Hook)說:“雄性琵琶魚此生可能再也見不到其他雌性,所以干脆放棄自我,成為雌性的精子附屬器官。所以,我們可能會看到動物做更多類似行為事情,隨著時間的流逝,我能想象,如果不可能找到交配對象,自然選擇會讓能自我繁殖的物種獲得演化的優勢而生存下去。”

Based on what we know of nature, we also shouldn’t assume that future creatures will stay confined to their current habitats. Lynn Caporale, a biochemist and author, points out that some “flying” fish can already catch insects (and even birds), and some fish are able to walk on land, even climb trees. Even squid occasionally fly above the ocean surface, using squirts of water as propulsion and fins that double as wings.

基于我們對自然的認識,我們切勿假設未來世界的生物仍會固守其目前的棲息地而不另尋空間發展。生物化學家兼作家琳‧卡波拉爾(Lynn Caporale)指出,一些“飛魚”已經能夠在空中捕捉昆蟲,甚至獵殺鳥類,還有某類魚竟能上岸在陸地上行走,甚而爬樹。甚至烏賊偶爾也會噴水推進,用鰭作翅膀飛出海面。

This potential for habitat-switching leads to some pretty fantastical possibilities. Consider a toad whose gullet swells outward as a large gasbag used to make mating calls. In his book, Ward playfully envisages it evolving into a “zeppelinoid”, a new type of floating animal that will conquer the lower atmosphere. The toad could evolve to make hydrogen out of water and store it in its throat, helping it to hop and eventually float in the air. Its legs – no longer needed for walking – could become dangling tentacles used for feeding and it would evolve to be large to avoid being eaten – maybe even larger than a blue whale. Giant zeppelinoids would float in the air like jellyfish, dragging their tentacles to catch prey such as deer, and grazing on treetops. They would fill the skies and their shifting shadows would dominate the landscape – the age of the flying toad.

陸棲或海棲動物如果能切換棲息地,這是否會產生一些奇幻怪異的生物。不妨以一只蟾蜍為例。蟾蜍求偶時,食道向外鼓脹,壯大如氣囊,然后發出求偶的呱呱蛙鳴聲。在《未來的物種演化》這本書中,沃德戲虐般假設蟾蜍會演化成"齊柏林飛船(zeppelinoid)",一種棲息在低層大氣中的新型浮游動物。這種離奇的蟾蜍可能從水中提取氫氣并儲存于咽喉中,將身體變為氣球,因此可以騰空而起,最后飄浮在于空氣中。因為不再需要陸上蹦跳而行,蟾蜍的腿會變成懸垂的觸須以覓食,體型會進化得很大,以避免成為他人的獵物,其大甚至可能超過藍鯨。這艘巨大的“齊柏林飛船”如同水母漂浮水中一樣飄浮在空中,拖著觸手捕捉比如鹿這類的獵物,還可以從空中吃樹梢上的葉子。在這個想象的飛行蟾蜍主宰時代,飄浮的蟾蜍會滿布空中,其漂浮的龐大身軀為大地投下壯觀的奇妙幻影。

Zeppelinoids, says Ward, are “a fairy tale – but there is a glimmer of reality in this fable”. There was once the first flying organism and the first swimming organism, and we know that more species quickly evolved from them, as the innovation allowed them to take over a habitat they never had access to before.

沃德說:“齊柏林飛船是一個童話,但這個幻想的角色也有些微現實。”自然演化史曾誕生第一個會飛的生物和第一個會游水的生物,這一突變為這兩個物種開辟了新的疆域,隨后很快地更多的物種也就演化而生。

Given that our understanding of evolution and genetics is incomplete, and that much will likely depend on chance events, no one can know for sure what future life will look like. Picking the evolutionary winners of the future is like trying to pick winners on the stock market, or forecasting the weather, writes Ward. We have some data for making educated guesses, but also a large degree of uncertainty. “The colours, habits, and shapes of the newly evolved fauna can only be guessed at.”

既然人類還未對演化論和遺傳學有充分的認識,而且演化的進程常常受到偶發事件的影響而突變,因而人類是無法準確預測未來地球的生命將會是什么樣。沃德認為,要找出在未來演化中的獲勝者,就像要事先指出誰是股市贏家,或誰做了正確天氣預報一樣。我們有一些資料可以做有根據的猜測,但不確定性也非常之高。“未來將演化出來的新生動物,我們只能猜猜顏色、習性和形狀而已。”

Losos agrees. “At the end of the day,” he says, “the possibilities are so wide and uncertain that it’s really pointless trying to speculate about what life might look like – there are just way too many degrees of freedom. Life could go in so many different ways.”

羅索斯同意此說。他說:“總而言之,潛在的發展面向是如此之廣闊,又如此之不確定,因此試圖預測未來生命的形態可以說是刻舟求劍,如做無用之功,因為演化的隨意度實在太大。生命可能的呈現方式多不勝數。”

But if the weirdness of present-day life is a guide, we should not discount the possibility that future evolution could go down some truly mind-boggling paths. And a great deal of current natural creativity and diversity remains unexplored.

但要是參考現代生命的千奇百怪,我們就不應低估這一可能性,即地球未來可能會有神乎其神的生命演化形態。實際上,在今天的地球上,尚有許多自然的創造成果和多樣模式人類還有待探索認識。

Indeed, Dixon notes that several of the original “purely speculative” creations he described in his After Man book in 1981 were subsequently discovered: for example, walking bats and snakes that can snatch bats from the air. As he reflected in the 2018 edition of the book: “Many’s the time that I have come across some new ecological or evolutionary development and thought, ‘If I had put that in After Man everyone would have laughed’.”

確實如此。迪克森指出,他在1981年出版的《人類滅絕之后的未來動物世界》所描述的一些怪異動物,本是他“純屬猜測”的個人臆想,后來竟然真的在自然界發現,比如地上行走的蝙蝠和空中獵殺蝙蝠的蛇。該書2018年再版時,他在書中如此反思,“有好幾次,每當我遇到一些新發現的自然生態系統或演化新形態,就不免想到,‘如果我當時把這些發現寫進《人類滅絕之后》,我應該會大笑不止’。”

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