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

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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 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 in my comfy house, 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: Yes, that one is hypothetical, but if you think something like this has never occurred, go here.

Yeah I would like to see a pomeranian successfully mate with a great dane... Joseph
Dr Wells' further comments are indeed instructive. By the way, none of this has anything to do with ID, which asserts only that some features of living things are better explained by an intelligent cause than by unguided processes. The splitting of one species into two species that are very similar to each other (as the Galápagos finches are) could happen without design. Dr Wells further asks (somewhat rhetorically) whether dog breeds and human races are incipient species. Since he notes two separate concepts of incipient species, he could get two different answers. The Grants impose a stricter standard on the use of the term, by using it only for an endogamous population. Dogs and humans would not qualify under that definition. Darwin's version might be satisfied for dogs and humans, though even in Darwin's time it was clear that humans formed a single interbreeding population across the face of the planet. Nakashima
Reverse speciation? I hear humans are awfully similar to chimps. Perhaps we should give thanks for what we are, lest some random mutation turn us back into monkeys. Mung

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