In “One bat species turns out to be seven” (as a result of genetic analysis), readers were urged, “Don’t forget how much of the whole concept of a ‘species’ is obscured and vitiated by the hunt for observed Darwinian speciation.” A recent article seems to make that point quite nicely by accident.
Due to the fact that, when external characters are used, only size is useful to distinguish these frogs the scientists employed additional characters to determine species affiliations. One the one hand, they used genetics, and, on the other, advertisement calls of different populations. Male frogs have to attract their females via species specific calls, so call characteristics (e.g. duration, frequency) reliably tell whether animals belong to one or several species.
The two sets of populations have been previously declared as belonging to the same species based on morphological, meaning external, similarities. With their work the researchers from Berlin proved their expectations right, and revealing they were in fact working with four and not two species: two different sets of one large and one small specie, which live in West and Central Africa respectively.
In order to facilitate other researchers the verification of these results, not only genetic but also acoustic data are publicly available and the latter can be downloaded from the animal sound archive of the Museum für Naturkunde.
Species are the basis for all biological questions. Therefore, they are not only important for taxonomists but also a reference parameter for physiologists, ecologists or conservationists. Thus it is of central importance to be able to distinguish whether animals of two different populations belong to one or two distinct species. A clear showcase is an example, which was examined in a recent publication by zoologist from Berlin and Geneva.
So species are the basis for all biological questions but we actually can’t tell how many there are. (It gets way worse than that, but that’s a tale for another day.)
For now, early in my many years’ investigation into the issues around evolution, I ran into a pleasant, friendly Christian Darwinist, of the sort who would hang out at BioLogos today. He allowed me to know that taxonomists (people who classify species) could be divided into “lumpers” and “splitters,” laughing about the fact that depending on which the taxonomist was, there could be ten times as many species.
I said nothing, but wasn’t laughing. Species, I learned, can be classified by calls, by genetics, by body shape, by whether they interbreed and produce fertile offspring, or any combo of the above. …
What if we applied the same approach to chemistry? To deciding what an element is? Some will insist that elements are, by their nature, simpler than life forms. True, of course, but that’s only part of the story.
We could start by asking whether the concept of a “species” is on the wrong track. Maybe the world is so fuzzy below the level of the genus (and bound to stay that way because it is the locus of change) that another approach to classification should be sought.
That won’t happen soon. The chronic itch, punctuated by moments of uproar (call it the Darwin’s finches syndrome), to find good evidence for explicitly Darwinian methods of speciation likely vitiates any attempt to create at least some order. The current chaos is pleasant and comfortable because it multiplies the instances in which one can point and shriek, See! See! Darwin at work!
And hear chants of Aha! and see all the pom poms waving in the science media — We have found an instance of natural selection acting on random mutation producing a new species. Look, look, the females of this group will not mate any more with the males of that group, so inevitably, over time …. .
And these cries are periodically drowned out by Darwin’s trolls bawling that there are innumerable observed instances of Darwinian speciation, not that they can cite many that are not under fire. But it doesn’t really matter.
Darwinism’s chief role is to create enough smoke and noise to prevent most people from drawing the correct conclusion: The precise locus where it is to be proven – speciation – is itself in need of serious and searching question.
– O’Leary for News
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Tree frog calls (not necessarily species studied, just general idea)