Some recent news that we didn’t think was especially remarkable has been showing up in at least 50 or maybe 100 different newspapers. A good account is at PhysOrg: Galapagos study finds that new species can develop in as little as two generations. They say, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
The arrival 36 years ago of a strange bird to a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago has provided direct genetic evidence of a novel way in which new species arise.
In this week’s issue of the journal Science, researchers from Princeton University and Uppsala University in Sweden report that the newcomer belonging to one species mated with a member of another species resident on the island, giving rise to a new species that today consists of roughly 30 individuals.
This is the Science paper they’re talking about: Rapid hybrid speciation in Darwin’s finches. Without a subscription, all you can see is the abstract, which says:
Homoploid hybrid speciation in animals has been inferred frequently from patterns of variation, but few examples have withstood critical scrutiny. Here we report a directly documented example from its origin to reproductive isolation. An immigrant Darwin’s finch to Daphne Major in the Galápagos archipelago initiated a new genetic lineage by breeding with a resident finch (Geospiza fortis). Genome sequencing of the immigrant identified it as a G. conirostris male that originated on Española >100km from Daphne. From the second generation onwards the lineage bred endogamously, and despite intense inbreeding, was ecologically successful and showed transgressive segregation of bill morphology. This example shows that reproductive isolation, which typically develops over hundreds of generations, can be established in only three.
Okay, back to PhysOrg. They tell us:
All 18 species of Darwin’s finches derived from a single ancestral species that colonized the Galápagos about one to two million years ago. The finches have since diversified into different species, and changes in beak shape and size have allowed different species to utilize different food sources on the Galápagos. A critical requirement for speciation to occur through hybridization of two distinct species is that the new lineage must be ecologically competitive — that is, good at competing for food and other resources with the other species — and this has been the case for the Big Bird lineage.
“It is very striking that when we compare the size and shape of the Big Bird beaks with the beak morphologies of the other three species inhabiting Daphne Major, the Big Birds occupy their own niche in the beak morphology space,” said Sangeet Lamichhaney, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the first author on the study. “Thus, the combination of gene variants contributed from the two interbreeding species in combination with natural selection led to the evolution of a beak morphology that was competitive and unique.”
But isn’t this just a variety, like the numerous breeds of dogs? PhysOrg continues:
The definition of a species has traditionally included the inability to produce fully fertile progeny from interbreeding species, as is the case for the horse and the donkey, for example. However, in recent years it has become clear that some closely related species, which normally avoid breeding with each other, do indeed produce offspring that can pass genes to subsequent generations. The authors of the study have previously reported that there has been a considerable amount of gene flow among species of Darwin’s finches over the last several thousands of years.
“We have no indication about the long-term survival of the Big Bird lineage, but it has the potential to become a success, and it provides a beautiful example of one way in which speciation occurs,” said Andersson. “Charles Darwin would have been excited to read this paper.”
That’s the news. Now for the creationist reaction. The first we’ve seen is from the Discovery Institute. This showed up today at their creationist blog: Zombie Watch: Debunked Finches Re-Emerge to Validate Darwin. It has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Peter and Rosemary Grant are the Princeton pair who have spent their careers on the Galápagos Islands trying to tease out the slightest bits of evidence to support the iconic myth of Darwin’s finches. … In “Rapid hybrid speciation in Darwin’s finches” in the journal Science, four other lead authors, accompanied by the Grants, try to sanctify neo-Darwinism with a melodrama about three “species” of finches that can all interbreed. Mind you, they are all finches. They are all Galápagos finches. They are all family. Any differences among the groups are tiny changes in beak size and shape, and changes in the songs one group sings.
They’d better not push that idea too far, or else they will be calling Japanese a different species from Germans. That’s no joke; to evolutionists, human beings fit in the category “other animals.”
This kind of denial is an old story, and one we’ve discussed before — see Speciation Has Been Observed. Creationists won’t be impressed unless a bird gives birth to a tortoise. It’s the micro-macro mambo, which we discuss in Common Creationist Claims Confuted.
The Discoveroids go on and on, and finish their post with this:
Why do the Darwinians make so much of so little? The reason: the Galápagos Islands are holy ground. Researchers will work for years to honor the founder of their worldview.
Yes, we’re the dogmatic fanatics. Explaining how speciation occurs, and demonstrating an actual example of that process actually occurring in real time, isn’t sufficient for creationists. They’ll continue to claim that no one has ever seen a species evolve, and nothing will ever change their minds. Why? Because they already know The Truth™.
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