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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Speciation: It’s all in how you play the tune?

British physicist David Tyler discusses the recent claims for the possibility of new species of finch developing on the famous Galapagos Islands - a possibility because the authors don’t think they are there yet, and they may never be. Tyler explains,
An ecological theory of speciation but no support for Darwinism

The Galapagos Islands have long been recognised as the home of numerous endemic species, stimulating questions about how such species came into being. Those responding with answers have supported their views more by theory than observation. But Peter and Rosemary Grant are different, because they have pioneered longitudinal studies of the Galapagos finches, particularly on the small (and relatively isolated) island of Daphne Major. A newly reported study of an immigrant male ground finch (Geospiza fortis) covers the period 1981 to the present. "We have followed the survival and reproduction of this individual and all of its known descendants, here termed the immigrant lineage, for seven generations (F0 to F6) spanning 28 years."
The bird sings differently (maybe better, if you are a hen finch). Tyler goes on to note,
Science reports of stories relevant to evolutionary theory can degenerate to the level of cheer-leading for a favoured cause. One account of the Grants' research refers to "a real-time record of evolution in action. In the PNAS paper, they describe something Darwin could only have dreamed of watching: the birth of a new species." For more, please refer to Jonathan Wells comments here.
The problem is that speciation of this type is just as likely to reverse itself when the ecology changes. Go here for the rest.

Note: For that matter, too easy speciation can lead to extinction of species.

Now and then, some environment groups shake the collection can at me for causes like (hypothetically*) the Three-Blue-Spot Horned Toad, one of hundreds of toad species in its region, including the Two-Blue-Spot, and the One-Blue-Spot.

Assume its range of one hectare is seriously threatened due to a housing development that replaces local shacks and huts. What’s more important?

Even if the housing development were not built, maybe a natural disaster overtaking a hectare would wipe out a species with this small a range.

Chances are, a viable population may be relocated, and if not, the toads would be of serious interest to collectors – who would cherish them far more than nature ever would.

I guess it all depends on how you view nature. Should we try to save every species? If so, how - consistent with other worthy goals? I don’t want to live in a hut myself, so I can understand why other people don’t. If I am going to say those people can’t have the modern housing development, the least I could do is let them move in with me, right?

Otherwise, I just don’t know. I think the canids of North America were better off in that they never fully speciated. We have wolves, dogs, coyotes, wolf-dog crosses, wolf-coyote crosses, coyote-dog crosses ... Speciation is a final decree of divorce. You want to think hard about it because you are on your own after that.

Personally I prefer to give to environment causes like maintaining shoreline and wetlands for a wide variety of species’ young and reducing water pollution wherever possible. Leave the species to sort the rest out themselves. They’ve done it for a long time, and there is still plenty of life on Earth.

*PS: But if you think something like this has never occurred, go here.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


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