The evolution of similar traits in unrelated lineages is rife in nature. The Marsupial lion had retractable claws, the same way the placental felines do today. The Marsupial mulgara has many resemblances to the placental mouse. We are informed that, over time, similar environments will select for similar traits in any species occupying the same ecological niche, even if those species are only distantly related.
Another way of saying that is “Earth knows how to cat”. It also knows how to mouse, ant eater, flying squirrel and that’s just the beginning. Earth has independently evolved sharp spines and prickly protrusions of the skin many times – echidnas (monotremes), the insectivorous hedgehogs, some tenrecs (a diverse group of shrew-like Madagascan mammals), Old World porcupines (rodents) and New World porcupines (another biological family of rodents)…. ALL make the point. A sharp pointed hypodermic tube has shown up independently 10+ times: jellyfish, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, various insects, cone shell, snakes, stingrays, stonefish, the male duckbill platypus, and the stinging nettles plant. What the Earth knows how to do goes on and on. Silk production, echo location, bioluminescence, long sticky tongues and more kinds of “eyes” than you can shake a stick at. Earth wants to see! Earth wants to smell! Earth wants to hear!… And, earth wants to poke you with something nasty if you insist on getting to close.
It is a terrible pity that our only experience with life is terrestrial. We have knowledge of a pin-point on a surface of a universe that is so vast we can’t comprehend it. We can only imagine. We can only use the information we have and the patterns we detect and try to guess what must be going on outside our view. Knowing some of what the Earth knows how to do we can ask if it ends there, or, if Earth is just a small example of what the Universe knows how to do. If the Universe wants to see, smell, hear and who knows what else?
Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html
Rupert wonders if there is no such thing as “Natural Law”. He suggests that the Universe learns by doing and that what appear to be laws to us are just habits that an intelligent universe has picked up by doing. Hard, or, by chance the first time. Easier every time after. What remains to be seen is if placental cats and marsupial cats are just the tip of the iceberg. Are there kinds of cats out there in the Universe beyond number? Are there as many different “kinds” of eyes as there are galaxies to view them with? Is the whole point of it all, the whole point of life no more than an elaborate game of Hide and Seek as the Hindus believe? The Universe, being all and one, could not help but be terribly lonely, so, it dreams that it is the myriad of separate things. Are we that dream?
I think we are nowhere near ready to be exploring the universe. I think Plate Tectonics and the relatively short distances between continents has left us far too unimaginative to be out there interacting with other sentient life forms that, no doubt, will not look exactly as we do. All we have are humans of differing shades of pink and brown. All we have are minor differences in color and THAT is enough to bring out our worst.
Just imagine how it all would have turned out if Asians hatched from eggs and black people were marsupial. How long do you think it would have taken them to figure out how awfully vulnerable decent white folks were when we were molting? Would we even have had a chance?