Mouse to Elephant in 24 Million Generations

The creationists will be screaming about this one. At the website of the largest university in Australia, Monash University in Melbourne, we found this press release: Mouse to elephant? Just wait 24 million generations. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Scientists have for the first time measured how fast large-scale evolution can occur in mammals, showing it takes 24 million generations for a mouse-sized animal to evolve to the size of an elephant.

Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) describes increases and decreases in mammal size following the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

We went to the PNAS website, but we can’t locate the paper. It’ll turn up later. [Addendum: here it is: The maximum rate of mammal evolution.] Let’s continue with the press release:

Dr Evans, an evolutionary biologist and Australian Research Fellow, said the study was unique because most previous work had focused on microevolution, the small changes that occur within a species.

“Instead we concentrated on large-scale changes in body size. We can now show that it took at least 24 million generations to make the proverbial mouse-to-elephant size change – a massive change, but also a very long time,” Dr Evans said. “A less dramatic change, such as rabbit-sized to elephant-sized, takes 10 million generations.”

We rarely see a genuine biologist use the word “microevolution.” Let’s read on:

The paper looked at 28 different groups of mammals, including elephants, primates and whales, from various continents and ocean basins over the past 70 million years. Size change was tracked in generations rather than years to allow meaningful comparison between species with differing life spans.

Even so, you know the creationists will be going crazy over the required time spans. One more excerpt:

“The huge difference in rates for getting smaller and getting bigger is really astounding – we certainly never expected it could happen so fast!” Dr Evans said.

Many miniature animals, such as the pygmy mammoth, dwarf hippo and ‘hobbit’ hominids lived on islands, helping to explain the size reduction. “When you do get smaller, you need less food and can reproduce faster, which are real advantages on small islands,” Dr Evans said.

Without the published paper, we can’t determine how this study was conducted, but that will soon be available. Meanwhile, let’s sit back and watch the inevitable fireworks from the usual websites.

See also: ICR: Mouse to Elephant Evolution Is Fallacious

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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9 responses to “Mouse to Elephant in 24 Million Generations

  1. I found the paper: The maximum rate of mammal evolution. I’ll add it to the posted article.

  2. Christine Janis

    Actually this paper is a good one to beat creationists over the head with, as it shows that the actual rate of mammalian body size evolution is *less* than the maximal rate observed at the level of the species. So much for “not enough time” for this all to happen

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    Mice? Elephants? blah-blah-blah. What we cdesign proponentsists want to hear about is humans.

    So until the “scientists” can publish something useful about the Prime Product of Design, its just more speculative chit-chat about something no one has actually ever observed.

    Wake us up when the NBA raises the height of the basket ball hoop above 10 feet because the players have gotten taller over time.

  4. The bad thing about this is that we can no longer truthfully say “micro vs macro is only a creationist distinction.” At first, I thought, well, from SC’s excerpt, the “microevolution” was in an indirect quote, indicating the biologist himself may not have said it. Clicking on the link for the paper itself, however, I see this sentence in the abstract:
    “Our findings allow more rigorous comparisons of microevolutionary and macroevolutionary patterns and processes.”
    No big deal, in the larger context of things. But you know how the creationists love to blow things out of proportion.

  5. aturingtest writes> The bad thing about this is that we can no longer truthfully say “micro vs macro is only a creationist distinction.”

    I’m going to go with this as a good thing. Some creationists might claim macro can’t happen, but now we can says that it happens in a relatively short time. If we listen closely, I bet we can hear the sounds of goalposts moving.

  6. The creationists seem very squishy on what constitutes macro vs. micro evolution. I think their definition is “whatever we accept is micro, everything we do not accept is macro.” I think it’s good that the writers of this paper label the evolution that they are studying to be “macro” evolution – even if unintended, their language directly challenges the creationists’ sacred cow. It should be fun to see the reaction.

  7. Ed says: “I think it’s good that the writers of this paper label the evolution that they are studying to be “macro” evolution”

    I don’t. That’s because a creationist thinks macro-evolution is a cat giving birth to a dog. I’d prefer to speak of “short-term” and “long term” evolution. Or words to that effect.

  8. Well, on the one hand, folks who disbelieve stridently enough in evolution to cling to the whole silly “micro vs macro” thing to begin with aren’t going to be convinced by any rational explanation of why it’s a bad argument (that one [macro] is just more, over a long period of time, of the other [micro]). They’ll continue to make a distinction that makes no difference because all they want is any ammunition that makes noise, even if it’s blanks. So, this is fodder for them (“See!? I toldja there was such a thing as micro and macro! Your own guys say so! Nyaaahhh!”).
    On the other hand, anyone not so committed will see that “micro” and “macro,” as used in this paper, ARE just “words to that effect.” If they’re not pre-disposed to the idea that evolution predicts a crocoduck, or whatever, they won’t indulge in the kind of hairsplitting that can’t see that it isn’t a case of “micro VS macro,” so much as “short-term BECOMES long-term.
    I guess it will depend on who’s making (or debunking) the argument, and who’s listening to it.

  9. Curmie writes>”I don’t. That’s because a creationist thinks macro-evolution is a cat giving birth to a dog.”

    I know what you mean, but either way is still a win. They now have to further define what they mean by micro/macro, and their perception of evolution is all the more ridiculous.