Home » Darwinism, Evolution, Intelligent Design, News » Hybridization: A genuine type of evolution we don’t often hear about – and not magic either

Hybridization: A genuine type of evolution we don’t often hear about – and not magic either

hybridised fungus/Janine Haueisen

In a time when most discussion around evolution consists of frantic efforts to “prove” that Darwin’s mechanism is responsible for most changes in life forms on Earth, we now and then encounter an example of a real world process of evolution at work: combining strengths through hybridization.

In “ Two Species Fused to Give Rise to Plant Pest a Few Hundred Years Ago” (ScienceDaily, July 3, 2012), we learn:

A fungal species native to Iran which attacks grasses is the result of natural hybridisation that occurred just a few hundred years ago

The fungus which, unlike its more globally active cousin, preferentially attacks grasses in Iran, clearly arose just a few hundred years ago from the fusion of two unknown parent species. The researchers’ results make it clear that entirely new and successful pest species can arise extremely rapidly by natural hybridisation.

If two different species breed successfully, the descendants are known as hybrids. While animal hybridisation in the wild tends to be a short-lived exception, primarily because the offspring are frequently less fit or even infertile, in plants and fungi speciation by crossing is an “everyday” evolutionary event. However, what happens at the gene level was previously unknown: in naturally occurring hybrid species, the initial mixing of the genomes usually took place so long ago that almost no traces remain in the genetic material.

The identity of the two original parents remains unclear, however. “We could not identify any matching species from our Iranian sample collection. This may either be purely and simply because our samples do not reflect the entire range of pest diversity, or because the hybrid descendants have driven out the parent species”, she says. And this would not seem all that unlikely, as it is precisely in plants and fungi that new hybrids often have new characteristics that enable colonisation of other habitats or even offer competitive advantages over pre-established species.

If these findings hold up, it is fairly easy to see why the Darwin lobby doesn’t highlight them as a significant example of evolution: They are not magic.

Darwinian evolution is about magical transformations from – famously – a lemur-like creature to a human. The claim that the winnowing process of natural selection magically adds all that information.

This real-world example of evolution (if it holds up) is about a hybrid proving more vigorous than the parent species: Odd but quite possible. And, at any rate, it’s just another fungus, though a wildly successful one to be sure.

Truth is, we can see evolution happening all around us if we lower our standards from magic to reality. The original source of all the packed information, even in a fungus, is still unknown, but that’s what science is for. And Darwinism, along with all other forms of magic, is against.

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3 Responses to Hybridization: A genuine type of evolution we don’t often hear about – and not magic either

  1. 1

    You claim that hybridization is “[a] genuine type of evolution we don’t often hear about” the article you quote from explictly makes the statement that:

    While animal hybridisation in the wild tends to be a short-lived exception, primarily because the offspring are frequently less fit or even infertile, in plants and fungi speciation by crossing is an “everyday” evolutionary event.<

    The idea that

  2. 2

    You claim that hybridization is “[a] genuine type of evolution we don’t often hear about” the article you quote from explictly makes the statement that:

    While animal hybridisation in the wild tends to be a short-lived exception, primarily because the offspring are frequently less fit or even infertile, in plants and fungi speciation by crossing is an “everyday” evolutionary event.

    The idea that hybridization occurs and results in new species is not new. The literature is filled with examples of such events.

    On the topic of evolution and hybridization, there is a recent high profile case of hybridization being put forward as an important step in evolution. Donald I. Williamson argues that holometabolous species (e.g. butterflies) are not decedents of a single lineage, but rather the result of an ancient hybridization between two lineages; one that resembles the larval form and one that resembles the adult form. However, the paper received much criticism on several grounds: I have written briefly about this on my blog, as have prominent biologists.

    What this demstrates is that your allusion to hybridization as some kind of ‘swept-under-the-carpet’ mechanism for evolution is a straw-man. It ignores the mass of literature on the topic that clearly accepts the role of hybridization role in speciation where demonstrable, but rejects it where it is not.

  3. Agreed. But, like you pointed out, this is not the type of evolution that will get them from an original living cell to man.

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