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Importance of Survival Skills

How to win at evolution and survive a mass extinction | Lauren Sallan

How to win at evolution and survive a mass extinction | Lauren Sallan

Congratulations. By being here, listening, alive, a member of a growing species, you are one of history’s
greatest winners — the culmination of a success story
four billion years in the making. You are life’s one percent. The losers, the 99 percent of species
who have ever lived, are dead — killed by fire, flood, asteroids, predation, starvation, ice, heat and the cold math of natural selection. Your ancestors, back to the earliest fishes, overcame all these challenges. You are here because
of golden opportunities made possible by mass extinction. (Laughter) It’s true. The same is true
of your co-winners and relatives. The 34,000 kinds of fishes. How did we all get so lucky? Will we continue to win? I am a fish paleobiologist
who uses big data — the fossil record — to study how some species win
and others lose. The living can’t tell us; they know nothing but winning. So, we must speak with the dead. How do we make dead fishes talk? Museums contain multitudes
of beautiful fish fossils, but their real beauty emerges when combined with the larger
number of ugly, broken fossils, and reduced to ones and zeros. I can trawl a 500-million-year database
for evolutionary patterns. For example, fish forms can be captured by coordinates and transformed to reveal
major pathways of change and trends through time. Here is the story
of the winners and losers of just one pivotal event
I discovered using fossil data. Let’s travel back 360 million years — six times as long ago
as the last dinosaur — to the Devonian period; a strange world. Armored predators
with razor-edge jaws dominated alongside huge fishes
with arm bones in their fins. Crab-like fishes scuttled
across the sea floor. The few ray-fin relatives
of salmon and tuna cowered at the bottom of the food chain. The few early sharks
lived offshore in fear. Your few four-legged ancestors,
the tetrapods, struggled in tropical river plains. Ecosystems were crowded. There was no escape, no opportunity in sight. Then the world ended. (Laughter) No, it is a good thing. 96 percent of all fish species died during the Hangenberg event,
359 million years ago: an interval of fire and ice. A crowded world was disrupted
and swept away. Now, you might think
that’s the end of the story. The mighty fell,
the meek inherited the earth, and here we are. But winning is not that simple. The handful of survivors
came from many groups — all greatly outnumbered by their own dead. They ranged from top predator
to bottom-feeder, big to small, marine to freshwater. The extinction was a filter. It merely leveled the playing field. What really counted was what survivors did
over the next several million years in that devastated world. The former overlords
should have had an advantage. They became even larger, storing energy, investing in their young, spreading across the globe, feasting on fishes, keeping what had always worked,
and biding their time. Yet they merely persisted for a while, declining without innovating, becoming living fossils. They were too stuck in their ways and are now largely forgotten. A few of the long-suffering ray-fins,
sharks and four-legged tetrapods went the opposite direction. They became smaller — living fast,
dying young, eating little
and reproducing rapidly. They tried new foods, different homes, strange heads
and weird bodies. (Laughter) And they found opportunity, proliferated, and won the future
for their 60,000 living species, including you. That’s why they look familiar. You know their names. Winning is not about random events or an arms race. Rather, survivors went down alternative,
evolutionary pathways. Some found incredible success, while others became dead fish walking. (Laughter) A real scientific term. (Laughter) I am now investigating how these pathways to victory and defeat
repeat across time. My lab has already compiled thousands
upon thousands of dead fishes, but many more remain. However, it is already clear that your ancestors’ survival
through mass extinction, and their responses in the aftermath made you who you are today. What does this tell us for the future? As long as a handful of species survive, life will recover. The versatile and the lucky
will not just replace what was lost, but win in new forms. It just might take several million years. Thank you. (Applause)

98 thoughts on “How to win at evolution and survive a mass extinction | Lauren Sallan

  • Essential Topic!
    'Over-specialization leads to Extinction'- Robert Heinlein IIRC…or Karl Marx, either one.

    This can be applied to Economics as well as Biology.

    -The Internet Police

  • I can't believe how discriminating this comment section already is. I mean seriously this women is trying to educate people on her field and I think she's doing some great work. No one has the right to make nasty remarks about her weight or her appearance in general, which doesn't even has anything to do with the video. This is disgusting.

  • Stop body shaming. You're not perfect either. Bunch of keyboard warriors have to bully others so they feel better about themselves. Let's see you get on stage.

  • Another brain washing, ridiculous, and agenda pushing Ted talk… unless you are awake, the only response I can see is zzzZZzzzZ

  • cause the woman's appearance negates her intelligence. she's fat so what??? at least her career has progressed further than watching videos on YouTube.

  • This talk needs to be longer, I want to know how humans can survive. I don't need to know that after a mass extinction "life will go on" tell me how we can survive!

  • so i watched the video and while i didnt find it especially interesting i dont see why there would be so many dislikes…. Are you REALLY gonna dislike the video just because shes overweight? Im no fan of feminism/fat acceptance but this video has nothing to do with those topics, you are literally hating on her because she happens to be fat, hopefully you are not very proud of that.

  • in the first minute I was wondering why she was talking about fish so much, then she said she was a fish paleo-biologist, and then I understood why.

  • wow, she thinks it is a good think that 95% of all fish (spezies) died and people complain about comments regarding her weight or annoying voice.

  • These comments are why I sometimes feel like all sides of politics/social issues are made up of jerks. I dislike modern feminism and politically correct attitudes to things like obesity but I equally don't care what size other people are and I don't see what it has to do with what she's talking about here. She's given a very interesting speech and is clearly a highly intelligent woman and all you can say about her is you think she's too fat.

  • I disliked the Video because i feelt baited by the Title of the Video. I think it is to early for her to Hold a ted Talk about surviving Evolution just with a poosible way to find a clue. Also i dont think i learned somerhing new.

    Please accept my bad English as a German.

  • This comment section really showcases how out of hand we’ve become with being so comfortable behind a screen. What assholes. I didn’t like the talk, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a degenerate and berate her about it.

  • So, winning Evolution is not random. One of the winning features she said is being smaller. People, it's ok if it's small ;))

  • Wow, the comment section is terrible. I think this woman is beautiful although it has nothing to do with how great this talk was

  • The title doesn't make sense. A single person overcoming something is not evolution and therefore not "winning at it." Evolution is change in a population over generations, not change within an individual during their own life. Although their survival will slightly influence the gene pool, which will slightly influence evolution. (No, I didn't watch the video before writing this.)

  • Definitely she is doing a great work and is appreciated. It is quoted form Al Quran
    "The creator has proportioned human and all creation at the whole earth in a balanced manner. He who created, proportioned him and breathed into him, from his (created) soul and made hearing, vision and hearts, little are you grateful”. Also at one place, it is described, “He who created, taught him eloquence, the Sun, the moon, by precise calculations and stars and trees prostate, and the heavens, He raised and imposed balance that you not transgress within the balance and established weight in Justice and do not make deficient the balance. And the laid earth for the creatures. So which of the favors of your lord would you deny". Chap 55: 1 to 13.

  • Wtf is yalls problem with people making mean comments. So they do, what is saying "I'm so ashamed of these comments" gonna do buddy? That's right, nothing. So, just scroll through and realize that not everyone agrees with you.

  • I mean, I'm not one to complain about being fat or something but is is something like a U.S. Defense minister giving a speech about peace or a certain FCC lawyer giving one on how important digital freedom is. It's just wrong. If you want to talk about the success of evolution and the current state of human health in that matter make sure you look the part.

  • I first thought that I would figure out the methods for human to survive a mass extinction in the present situation, when we are suffering from detrimental effects of pollution not the history of our ancestors being a fish and won at evolution.

  • its comment sections like this that justify some of the things that sjws are saying, all this woman was trying to do was give a talk on evolution yet half the comments here are trashing her weight and voice; how would you like it if you were invited to give a ted talk about something you were truly passionate about only to have legions of shrill land-whales ignoring everything you said in favour of judging your physical characteristics like your tiny arms or your pathetic attempt at growing facial hair.

    you guys have become so hyper-reactive to anything that reminds you of feminism that youve completely ruined your ability to think critically; just because a stupid ideology pisses you off, doesent mean that you should adopt the polar oppisite, equally stupid equivalent.

  • I enjoyed the presentation. Initially because I'm a fishery biologist but in the end it was a discussion of evolution and that turned out to be interesting as well. And then I went to the comment section.

    At the time I looked at the comments, there were 668 likes and 175 dislikes. I suspect a relatively high proportion of dislikes. Which could be alarming if you don't view it with at some degree of scientific objectivity. But if you do, it's somewhat reassuring because it affirms that Darwinian principles continue to proceed at a snails pace full speed ahead. While at the same time we patiently wait for the next comet that will level the playing field once again.

    Both of which make the rationale behind the dislikes, as I generalize and interpret them, an expression of impatience directed toward not providing a vision of the end result. Which of course there will not be – neither the vision nor an end result.

  • Me: Will this be one of the few interesting Ted videos lately? I'll check the comments real quick.
    Comment section: This comment section sucks.
    Me: I know nothing about this video still. Oh well, probably boring or misleading.

  • Inspiring!!!! Maybe if our world ends it all of these extinctions happening in our current times are only making room for even greater evolutionary changes to come ❤️

  • I liked the way she explained her work. Beauty is not just a physical form but the meanings we decipher from numbers, data or poems. The whole process of understanding is itself beautiful.

  • heard History in the story world dinosaurs in end, was be the largest discovery but both the statement and history past. but renew something Gonna better search in.

  • "What can I do"?

    According to the experts you should:
    1. Garden with sustainable agriculture techniques (less pesticides and fertilizer (organic or better yet permaculture)).
    2. Buy food and manufactured goods made locally
    3. Pay down debt
    4. Learn skills they will be useful in the future and make friends that have useful skills you don't have (related to providing food, water, shelter, and medical care. A necessary skill is organic/permaculture gardening/farming). Very important: medical skills are the best way to ensure your survival. All others will gladly sacrifice their life to protect your life, so you are around to use your medical knowledge to keep their families alive.
    5. I recommend to invest some money into technologies to increase the "carrying capacity" of the planet (high risk investments);
    A. decrease environmental impact per capital
    B. alternatives for our food system input to improve production
    C. alternatives to our current living arrangements,
    D. alternatives to our plastics industry,
    E. alternatives to disaster capitalism
    F. "Savior technologies", ie faster-than-light travel, "game changer" technologies, ie Cold fusion energy & "delaying technologies", ie deep drilling technologies.
    6. I also recommend you inform and prepare your family, friends, and others. It is best to initially suggest people have an emergency kit… for any emergency such as flood, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, loss of electricity due to a winter storm. Then, if the friend or relative puts together a disaster kit, what I do is introduce Peak Oil (by telling them of the 43 second movie trailer , the "National Geographic Collapse" movie on YouTube, & free book downloads;
    7. For the truly motivated, a community based organization to mitigate Climate Change and Peak Oil is:
    (For non USA;

    Google "2052 free book summary download", &

    The free book "Plan C" workbook download;

    See the Facebook page: "National Geographic Collapse movie"

  • okay but where are the 'negative comments' everyone is talking about? feel like there are more complainers than anything else

  • The Jews won it all in America. . . For those that can see at least. Long live The U.S. of Israel and the Sheep that support it.

  • That blue dress makes her look like the ocean! Lmao. She’s like, “ I study fish cuz they are so tasty! Anyone got any snacks? I only ate a steak and potatoes like 15 minutes ago so I’m starving”!

  • I was afraid that the answer will be something like "equality" or "social justice" or "LGBT rights" 😉

    BTW. I love the comment section. The top 20 comments are like "wow, comment section is really bad, how you can be such assholes and write something like this!". But still, I can't find the comments all are talking about.

  • So my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather was a fish?

  • were the bad comments taken down? cuz all I hear ppl saying is stop calling her fat when like two people are calling her fat

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