yawning across the billennia in Soldotna, Alaska
slowly ploughing backwards thru photos from my trip.
Soldotna, Alaska, I think 9 May 08. Round the back of the hotel where I was staying is the Kenai River, a fishing mecca with so many fishing lodges/spots/hangouts along its length its a miracle anything with gills lives in there anymore.
Taking an evening break, I walk along the banks to look for birds. I find a nearby Mew Gull, a commonish small gull and decide to take a record shot of it. As I’m snapping away, it calls up to its mate…
…which comes down to say hi…
…and then gets bored and goes off to fiddle about with its bill in the dirty unmelted snow our protagonists are standing on (I have no idea why).
A bit later both birds fly off a few metres, one landing on an even dirtier bit of snow…
…where it settles down…
…and then (here’s the interesting bit), yawns.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, this particular yawn reminded me that I’ve seen lizards and even fish yawning, and just about every mammal you could care to think of. Clearly the common ancestor of us and many other vertebrates around today was a yawner. (Birds branched off the vertebrate evolutionary tree in the Jurassic – like somewhere between 200 and 145 million years ago.)
What’s the point of yawning? Do amoebas yawn? Why is this funny habit so many hundreds of millions of years old? I mean, crap, humans and birds evolved out of lizards or coelocanths or whatever into hectic endothermic creatures with wings, big brains, lord knows what else, but we haven’t managed to evolve out of YAWNING?
Do you think yawning could be evidence of Intelligent Design?
I’m going to stop now, because if I carry on I’ll find myself with a stellar academic career on my hands, and that may be disastrous. But I look forward to your ideas!