From Jane Qiu at Nature:
Giant pandas and the distantly related red pandas may have independently evolved an extra ‘digit’ — a false thumb — through changes to the same genes.
The two species share a common ancestor that lived more than 40 million years ago. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are distant relatives of other bears, whereas red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are more closely related to ferrets. Both species subsist on a diet composed almost entirely of bamboo, with the help of a false digit.
In a new study, Wei Fuwen and Hu Yibo, conservation geneticists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology in Beijing, and their colleagues, produced the first genome sequence of the red panda and compared it with the giant panda genome. This comparison turned up a list of 70 genes that showed signs of evolutionary change in both species.
Has anyone run the odds on the likelihood of those seventy genes just happening to have changed in a way to enable this outcome on the basis of chance alone? Didn’t hear. Instead, we hear,
“Evolution, Stern says, ‘is actually much more predictable than anybody predicted.’More.
Well then, evolution is not what we have been told. But it is apparently difficult to have a discussion about that fact, even among top science boffins. Which is why the sea is currently boiling hot.
Note: Some Darwin fanboys actually named their blog Panda’s Thumb. Wonder if they would now…?
See also: Mechanism for photosynthesis found in primeval, non-photosynthetic microbe
So what kind of evolution should the rest of us call the pre-existence of needed traits? We’re not allowed to say “design,” right?
Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?
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