Short Film Explores Miraculous Genesis Of Animal Life
A fascinating video by Jan van IJken, “Becoming” documents the genesis of animal life. From the moment the single celled egg is fertilized to the birth event, there is no point where the creature is not a qualified member of its species. If it is ever argued that a creature is not a living member of its tribe because it looks different on some scale, whether that is its size, or number of cells, or heartbeat, surely that must be an arbitrary assignment.
Every animal, no matter classification it hails from—invertebrates, fish, reptiles, birds, or mammals, in the beginning we are shockingly the same. At a certain point the human fetus is almost indistinguishable from that of an elk or a tortoise. As cells differentiate and specific forms begin to manifest we can tell what the creature is destined to become. Ontogeny or morphogenesis is the process by which the fertilized egg “becomes”. The stage from one cell to 128 cells is called the blastocyst, which looks like a hollow ball. As the blastocyst becomes increasingly complex, it is called an embryo. In biology 101 there is a saying—at least, they used to say it, that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”. That’s a fancy way of saying that each increasingly evolved species goes through the various lower evolutionary stages during its development in the womb, until it ends up in the link of the evolutionary chain where its parents came from. So, a human may start out in a stage that looks and has every bit of the properties of a fish, even gills! But our gills turn into ears.
Every creature with a vertebrate has the same general features: First, of course, is the backbone, or vertebrate. It’s like we are designed according to a master blueprint. “Designed” comes with certain metaphysical implications that aren’t to be argued here. It’s just that all animals with a backbone share a similar architecture. We have a head or caudal region, a chest (thorax), and abdomen. Even human fetus have a long tail, before the rest of the body fills in the tail to pretty much make it look like it’s disappeared.
It becomes increasingly obvious that the subject of this video clip is becoming a member of the class Amphibia, and specifically is turning into an Alpine newt. For as different as the newt is form the human, we recognize it as a creature from Planet Earth, one of us.
Filmed, produced and edited by Jan van IJken