Peter and Rosemary Grant, the iconic Darwinian speciation couple, are backtracking in the face of new evidence that it doesn’t really work that way. On the other hand, this is a great time to be a recovering Darwinist. The world is much more interesting than that.
Sutherland: This crazy talk became crazier still when [Howell S.] England predicted that types of monkeys would be bred with particular human races: orangutans with “humans from the yellow race, gorillas from the black race, chimpanzees from the white race” and gibbons with Jews.
In reply to the reader who wondered the other day if ligers (lion plus tiger) can breed and produce offspring, the answer is yes. The results give rise to big kitties with a horde of odd names to describe the crosses: ti-tigon, ti-liger (tig-liger), li-tigon, li-liger. But only the females are fertile.
Darwinian Ernst Mayr cast doubt on hybridization as an important source of change so for decades few believed it could be. Now, says one researcher, the consensus is that it “is hugely widespread and much more common than was appreciated.” But isn’t hybridization cutting into a lot of the things Darwinism supposedly did?
At Smithsonian Magazine: That Mammuthus columbi originated as a new species, born of a hybridization event, “has major implications for our understanding of the population structure of Pleistocene megabeasts,” MacPhee says. The ancestors of the woolly mammoth and the Krestova mammoth had diverged from each other for about a million years before a population produced a hybrid that was different from both, giving rise to Mammuthus columbi.
At The Economist: “These findings muddy Darwin’s concept of speciation as a slow and gradual process. Biologists now know that in the right circumstances, and with the help of hybridisation, new species can emerge and consolidate themselves in a mere handful of generations. That is an important amendment to evolutionary theory. “
Does anyone remember Darwin’s claim: “It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, wherever and whenever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.” Yes, that “daily, hourly” thing seems quaint to us too. It probably even seems quaint over at New Scientist, given the stuff they’re saying now.
Then what was On the Origin of Species about? Never mind.
Researcher: “They mix their machinery to survive or do metabolism, and that’s kind of extraordinary, because we always assumed that each and every organism has its own independent identity and machinery,” said Papoutsakis.
Paper: “Horizontal gene transfer and mating between diverged lineages blur species boundaries and challenge the reconstruction of evolutionary histories of species and their genomes.”
A friend writes to ask, “If we don’t have common descent, and we don’t have natural selection, why do we still call it evolution?”
At Phys.org: Other hybrids were found between species with over 12 percent pairwise distance in mitochondrial DNA. Pairwise distance is a measurement of differences in pairs of DNA sequences. “This genetic separation is quite astounding, considering that hybrids are rarely reported between species that share more than 2 percent in genetic distance,” Mr Tea said. “Though coral reef fish hybrids are common; they are usually formed by closely-related species.”
We are also informed that both fish are “living fossils,” which is supposed to settle the matter. The main strength of the explanations is that they uphold Darwinian thinking.
That this is rare is beside the point. It shouldn’t happen if the Darwinian idea of species is clear enough to be a valid science concept.
Yes, of course they do. But imagine anyone asking such a question years ago for any purpose except to show that it ain’t so: Stamp OUT Darwin Doubt!! was the permitted approach. But now we read doubt about Darwinian speciation in typical think mags.
But the cichlids were absolutely POSTER fish for natural selection acting on random mutation (Darwinism) to produce new species! If even cichlids can’t do Darwinism reliably, how important a vector in evolution can it be?