The authors of the media release take an interesting tack:
One of the most convincing arguments proving the theory of evolution is that it is fairly easy to predict how animals and plants will evolve to adapt to changes in their habitats. There is no shortage of proof that organisms with a common ancestor evolve in the same way even if they are entirely isolated from each other.University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, “Identical evolution of isolated organisms” at ScienceDaily
Whoops! Such a theory of evolution would hold that evolution proceeds according to laws. But Darwinian evolution is considered random: “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows.” (Darwin, “Life and Letters,” i, p. 278)
It’s hardly possible that life forms would undergo identical courses of evolution if there were not some underlying design because they are unlikely to all be affected by exactly the same forces in the same circumstances.
Emilia Jarochowska’s research focuses on evolution in different ecosystems, but rather than studying animals which are still alive today she concentrates on conodonts, organisms which lived in the sea approximately 500 to 200 million years ago and were one of the first vertebrates. The cone-shaped teeth of the eel-like organisms can still be found as micro fossils in sedimentary rocks across the globe. Scientists estimate that there were roughly 3000 different species of conodonts. ‘Scientists have suspected for several years now that a certain subspecies known as Conodont Sweetognathus developed several parallel evolutionary adaptations,’ says Emilia Jarochowska.
The researchers from Erlangen set out with palaeontologists from the University of Calgary to prove this theory. The Canadian researchers had collected fossilised Sweetognathus teeth from various locations across the world, including Bolivia and Russia. Emilia Jarochowska explains, ‘As we now have such a good knowledge of tectonics over the history of the Earth, we can rule out the possibility that organisms from these regions were ever in contact with each other.’ The fossils measuring a mere two to three millimetres in length were scanned at GeoZentrum Nordbayern in a scanner with a spatial resolution of four micrometres, which delivers even higher definition pictures than a CT in a hospital. Precise 3D models and mathematical descriptions were made of more than 40 samples.
The painstaking analysis of the morphologies in the dental elements confirmed what scientists have suspected for years: Conodont Sweetognathus adapted repeatedly in response to different food sources after emigrating to new habitats in an almost identical fashion in spite of these habitats being isolated from each other. Comparing samples from a large number of fossils over a number of years has now allowed researchers to confirm without a doubt that the teeth found in Bolivia and Russia come from organisms with a common ancestor. ‘We were able to prove that two lineages of Sweetognathus in two different parts of the world followed the same developmental pattern,’ Emilia Jarochowska explains. ‘That is further proof for the theory of evolution — and for the effectiveness of international collaboration.’University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, “Identical evolution of isolated organisms” at ScienceDaily
Well, it’s certainly good evidence for a theory of evolution but not for the Darwinian theory that has reigned for many decades. It would be great to get some insight into how these built-in capacities for identical adaptation are carried from one generation to the next.