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Coffee!!: New York Times admits heresy into the House of the Beard


First, a moment of prayer, led by Sister Sindya N. Bhanoo, from the New York Times (March 3, 2011):

Charles Darwin has had a remarkable record over the past century, not only in the affirmation of evolution by natural selection, but in the number of his more specific ideas that have been proved correct.

Now that the Beard has been appropriately honoured, we learn, shocka!:

He may, however, have been wrong about invasive species, at least where amphibians are concerned. Darwin believed that when an invasive species entered a region where a closely related species already existed, it would most likely be unsuccessful because of a competition for resources.“Instead, we found the opposite pattern with amphibians,” said Reid Tingley, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “When frogs and toads and salamanders invade an area where a similar species exists, they are more, not less, likely to establish themselves.”

– “Invasive Amphibian Species Upend a Darwin Idea”

On the face of it, the findings seem obvious, because if business was good for the current lot of amphibians, why wouldn’t it suit invaders with similar needs? If Darwin thought otherwise, we can be pretty sure that someone other than him was ridding his kitchen of cockroaches and mice.

Yet we are told that “This is the first study that contradicts Darwin’s invasive species hypothesis using animals.” One can’t help wondering if it’s the first study that dared to.

What’s remarkable about this story is not the fact that invasive species can easily take hold where they are not wanted but that the New York Times would actually give the cockroaches and lampreys of the world permission to “upend” Darwin?

Better call in the thought thugs, to sanctify the House of the Beard.

And of course there is the ultimate invasive, good old H sap, that opportunistic, environment adjusting omnivore. kairosfocus
Spell that: OPPORTUNISTIC species, that can profit from a disturbed environment and/or unoccupied niches. And it's not just invasives. There is a certain local bird here in M/rat that seems to be profiting at everybody else's expense, along with invasive rats etc. kairosfocus
Thanks, PaV. I suspect that people in Darwin's day had less experience than we do today with invasive species (think zebra mussels and lampreys in the Great Lakes, deer in new Zealand, and rabbits in Australia). What biologists of his day may have missed is that some species escape into a vast territory where they have no local competitors and few predators in their niche. O'Leary
Darwin held that each species interacts with its environment in a finely-tuned way: that is, they were highly adapted to their environment. This formed in many respects the basis for his principle of divergence, without which 'progressive' evolution is not possible. This isn't the only study to show how invasive species---which are, per se according to Darwinian thought, not as highly "fit" as native species---can actually do quite well in new habitats, even when competition is present. But, of course, it doesn't matter that Darwin was wrong about everything, and that, contra the author's initial statement, almost, if not, all of Darwin's putative "predictions" have been falsified by facts. PaV

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