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Is Darwinism hinted to be on life support in this journal article?

File:Crataegus, various species, fruit.jpg

hawthorn fruit/Nadiatalent

At Eurekalert, we learn about “The mechanics of speciation: Model examines factors that contribute to the emergence of new species” (24-Jun-2011). And we learn that sympatric speciation – a key current claim – is “not impossible.”

Thumbnail for version as of 09:20, 30 July 2005

Where would you rather dine if you were a hungry little fly?

The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) explains,

Mate choice, competition, and the variety of resources available are the key factors influencing how a species evolves into separate species, according to a new mathematical model that integrates all three factors to reveal the dynamics at play in a process called sympatric speciation.New species more commonly occur when plants or animals cannot interbreed because of strong mate choice, and therefore they become isolated genetically. A less common type of speciation, called “sympatric,” occurs when a new species arises from a single population that has no geographic or physical barriers. A famous example is the Rhagoleitis pomonella fruit fly that originally feasted on the fruit of hawthorn trees, then shifted and began to feed on apples, evolving into a more genetically distinct type of fly.

“More genetically distinct”?

The hawthorn tree (Crateaegus) is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), as is the apple tree. The difference is that the apple got domesticated for fruit (in a thousand varieties) with a high sugar content, which probably explains why many fruit flies living in orchards gravitated to them and forsook the stingy wild hawthorn. May we assume that “more genetically distinct” does not mean “a new species”?

The new model integrates three key factors that can lead to sympatric speciation: the degree to which male foraging traits influence female mate choice, the degree to which different individuals compete for resources, and the variety of resources available. By incorporating three different factors together, the study’s authors, Xavier Thibert-Plante, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, and Andrew P. Hendry, an associate professor at McGill University, have taken a different more inclusive approach than in previous studies, which examine one or a few primary factors.”This way we can consider the effects of multiple factors and their interactions simultaneously. At the very least, having a variety of resources available in the model is a productive way of generating insights into biological diversity,” Thibert-Plante said.

If one is interpreting correctly, this means that where fruit flies can infest Golden DeliciousTM instead of wild haw apples (hawthorn fruit), they should in time become a separate species. But did they?

According to the results, competition was much less important factor for sympatric speciation to occur than strong mate choice and the variety of resources available.Yet, even under ideal conditions, sympatric speciation occurred only a fraction of the time in the model. But that does not mean sympatric speciation is not impossible in nature, the authors argue. “Mate choice allows the population to specialize to different resources and become reproductively isolated,” Thibert-Plante said.

Okay, so speciation didn’t really happen. There is surely a typo in the report, identified in red; the writer seems to have got all the “nots” in knots, and meant to say something like “that does not mean sympatric speciation is impossible in nature, the authors argue.”

Well, if  something as obviously Darwinian as sympatric speciation is strictly “impossible,” Darwinism is dead. So are they hinting that Darwinism is on life support? Thoughts?

(Citation: Thibert-Plante X, Hendry AP. Factors influencing progress toward sympatric speciation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Online edition 24 June 2011.)

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4 Responses to Is Darwinism hinted to be on life support in this journal article?

  1. And the trend I noticed concerning the answers to questions you pose continues to hold true…

  2. With support like this, who needs dissent?

    Not many cars would sell if it were advertised: “It is not impossible that you will arrive safely at your destination.”

  3. In regards to speciation, this genetic study found a ‘anomaly’ that is none to kind to neo-Darwinists:

    This following study is very interesting for the researcher surveyed 130 DNA-based evolutionary trees to see if the results matched what ‘natural selection’ predicted for speciation and found:

    Accidental origins: Where species come from – March 2010
    Excerpt: If speciation results from natural selection via many small changes, you would expect the branch lengths to fit a bell-shaped curve.,,, Instead, Pagel’s team found that in 78 per cent of the trees, the best fit for the branch length distribution was another familiar curve, known as the exponential distribution. Like the bell curve, the exponential has a straightforward explanation – but it is a disquieting one for evolutionary biologists. The exponential is the pattern you get when you are waiting for some single, infrequent event to happen.,,,To Pagel, the implications for speciation are clear: “It isn’t the accumulation of events that causes a speciation, it’s single, rare events falling out of the sky, so to speak.”

    ,,,which agrees with the ‘dropping out of the sky’ pattern we find in the fossil record:

    Punctuated Equilibrium and Patterns from the Fossil Record – Casey Luskin
    Excerpt: “The Cambrian Explosion is by no means the only “explosion” in the fossil record. One evolutionist concedes that for the origin of fishes, “this is one count in the creationists’ charge that can only evoke in unison from paleontologists a plea of nolo contendere [no contest].” Plant biologists have called the origin of plants an “explosion,” saying, “the … radiation of land (plant) biotas is the terrestrial equivalent of the much-debated Cambrian ‘explosion’ of marine faunas.” Vertebrate paleontologists believe there was a mammal explosion because of the few transitional forms between major mammal groups: “There are all sorts of gaps: absence of gradationally intermediate ‘transitional’ forms between species, but also between larger groups — between, say, families of carnivores, or the orders of mammals.” Another study, “Evolutionary Explosions and the Phylogenetic Fuse,” found a bird (as well as a mammal) “Early Tertiary ‘explosion’” because many bird and mammal groups appear in a short time period lacking immediately recognizable ancestral forms. Finally, others have called the origin of our own genus Homo, “a genetic revolution” where “no australopithecine (ape) species is obviously transitional” leading one commentator to call it, like others called the Cambrian Explosion, a “big bang theory” of human evolution.”

    Here is a page of quotes by leading paleontologists on the true state of the fossil record:


    Saltational Evolution: Hopeful Monsters are Here to Stay – Günter TheiBen – 2009
    “While we already have a quite good understanding of how organisms adapt to the environment, much less is known about the mechanisms behind the origin of evolutionary novelties, a process that is arguably different from adaptation. Despite Darwin’s undeniable merits, explaining how the enormous complexity and diversity of living beings on our planet originated remains one of the greatest challenges of biology.”

  4. OT: new video upload from IDquest (note the ‘Darwinism is Dead’ heading on the first slide):

    Molecular Machines and Irreducible Complexity (Frank Turek and Greg Koukl) – video

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