Matters Galapogean: The Beak of the Finch

Volatire

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What is a species?

After you read this paper, you may not be so sure any more. And you may be an awful lot less worried about the ability of species to adapt to change.

The paper is the summit of 40 years of work by two Princeton researchers, Peter and Rosemary Grant. The gist of it is that they have observed the appearance of a new species of Darwin finch on a Galapagos Island in the course of only two years (i.e two generations of finches). The absence of hybridisation between the new species and the original finch species present on the Island (Daphne Major) has now been confirmed by DNA. Effectively, if an ornithologist arrived on Daphne Major for the first time today, she would conclude that there were four species of finch present, not three as when the Grants began their work.

Daphne Major is tiny volcanic island which most visitors to Galapagos arriving at Baltra airport will see. The Grants have been camping out on it on and off for decades, studying the finches.



What the Grants observed was the arrival of a Large Cactus Ground Finch (Geospiz conirostris) which is endemic to Isla Española more than 50nm away. This was too far to return, and so the new arrival bred with the resident Medium Ground Finch (Geospiz fortis) on Daphne. This created the new lineage and a distinct species in a mere two generations.





Male large cactus ground finch on Isla Española.

Evolution, even in a complex species such as a bird, can occur far more quickly than anyone ever thought. This research is being presented as a confirmation of Darwin. Personally, I am not so sure. Darwin never envisaged anything as fast as on this timescale, nor did he anticipate this mechanism.

The new species did not arise through genetic drift. It arose because a horny finch bred with another species and to produce fertile offspring.

The whole thing seem distinctly non-Darwinian.
 


Lumpy Talbot

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Maybe mr god threw a finch at the island with the imprecation to 'shag off' and the bird promptly did?
 

Morgellons

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Male large cactus ground finch on Isla Española.


Horrible looking finch-like some shrunken raven with an oversized beak!

Hope he goes extinct as quickly as he 'evolved'.
 

owedtojoy

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What is a species?

After you read this paper, you may not be so sure any more. And you may be an awful lot less worried about the ability of species to adapt to change.

The paper is the summit of 40 years of work by two Princeton researchers, Peter and Rosemary Grant. The gist of it is that they have observed the appearance of a new species of Darwin finch on a Galapagos Island in the course of only two years (i.e two generations of finches). The absence of hybridisation between the new species and the original finch species present on the Island (Daphne Major) has now been confirmed by DNA. Effectively, if an ornithologist arrived on Daphne Major for the first time today, she would conclude that there were four species of finch present, not three as when the Grants began their work.

Daphne Major is tiny volcanic island which most visitors to Galapagos arriving at Baltra airport will see. The Grants have been camping out on it on and off for decades, studying the finches.



What the Grants observed was the arrival of a Large Cactus Ground Finch (Geospiz conirostris) which is endemic to Isla Española more than 50nm away. This was too far to return, and so the new arrival bred with the resident Medium Ground Finch (Geospiz fortis) on Daphne. This created the new lineage and a distinct species in a mere two generations.





Male large cactus ground finch on Isla Española.

Evolution, even in a complex species such as a bird, can occur far more quickly than anyone ever thought. This research is being presented as a confirmation of Darwin. Personally, I am not so sure. Darwin never envisaged anything as fast as on this timescale, nor did he anticipate this mechanism.

The new species did not arise through genetic drift. It arose because a horny finch bred with another species and to produce fertile offspring.

The whole thing seem distinctly non-Darwinian.
+1 for the post.

If the "new" species can interbreed, then they cannot be separate species. Perhaps the new "species" can be described as "hybrids"?

Species boundaries are fluid, and in fact there is no universally satisfactory explanation of what a species is. See Wikipedia for that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

This research is not terribly new. The blurb for The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, published in 1995 and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, says "... among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow; it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch." I happen to own a copy.



Charles Darwin described the long-term evolution of species from ideas he picked up from short-term changes observed in animals such as home-bred pigeons, for example. He brought many bird carcasses home from the Galapagos and was struck with an idea when he was told they were all finches. This research does not really cast any doubt on his work. Of course, Creationists may pick it up and try to make it so.

https://www.amazon.com/Beak-Finch-Story-Evolution-Time/dp/B003XJL0R2

Incidentally, the difficulty in defining a species, is another nail in the coffin of the idea that there are human sub-species.
 

Volatire

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Male large cactus ground finch on Isla Española.


Horrible looking finch-like some shrunken raven with an oversized beak!

Hope he goes extinct as quickly as he 'evolved'.
Read the post. The large cactus finch has been around for a very long time.

Not sure the new species has a name yet.
 

Volatire

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+1 for the post.

If the "new" species can interbreed, then they cannot be separate species. Perhaps the new "species" can be described as "hybrids"?

Species boundaries are fluid, and in fact there is no universally satisfactory explanation of what a species is. See Wikipedia for that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

This research is not terribly new. The blurb for The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, published in 1995 and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, says "... among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow; it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch." I happen to own a copy.



Charles Darwin described the long-term evolution of species from ideas he picked up from short-term changes observed in animals such as home-bred pigeons, for example. He brought many bird carcasses home from the Galapagos and was struck with an idea he was told they were all finches. This research does not really cast on doubt on his work. Of course, Creationists may pick it up and try to make it so.

https://www.amazon.com/Beak-Finch-Story-Evolution-Time/dp/B003XJL0R2

Incidentally, the difficulty in defining a species, is another nail in the coffin of the idea that there are human sub-species.
All of that is wrong, irrelevant or mad.
 

Morgellons

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Read the post. The large cactus finch has been around for a very long time.

Not sure the new species has a name yet.
OK. Still don't like that ominous looking monstrosity of a finch though.
 

Volatire

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OK. Still don't like that ominous looking monstrosity of a finch though.
Maybe you think that because they are tanagers not finches. Darwin didn't know much about birds and so called them "finches".

I have seen the large cactus finch in the galapagos and it is a beautiful bird.
 

Volatire

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My guess is that the Grants' findings on Daphne Major will, over time, further force major revisions of Darwinism.

The emergence of a new species of finch had nothing to do with "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest" or "adaptation to environmental change". Nor did it take place slowly.

The major mathematical problem with Darwinism have been ignored for decades by fanatics who seem more concerned with what the Creationists think than with objective scientific progress. Genetic change is simply not fast enough. Moreover, epi-genetics has elements of the Lamarckism that fundamentalist Darwinists have sneered at for a century or more.

Incidentally, AN Wilson's new biography of Darwin looks very interesting. It must be good because it has been hysterically condemned by the usual Darwinian fundamentalist fanatics. Wilson suggests that Mendel and Lamarck were derided by the "liberal" anglophone scientific establishment because of their religious background.




Mendel, to my mind, has always been a greater scientist than the storyteller Darwin.
 

Toland

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... This research is being presented as a confirmation of Darwin. Personally, I am not so sure. Darwin never envisaged anything as fast as on this timescale, nor did he anticipate this mechanism.
Nonsense.

And anyway, what Darwin actually historically anticipated is fairly irrelevant, really. The modern theory of evolution is not religiously connected to any particular text. The modern synthesis between Darwin's original arugments and observation and new genetic science is a substantial development and amendment of Darwin's central idea.
 

Toland

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Mendel, to my mind, has always been a greater scientist than the storyteller Darwin.
Which just goes to show how much you know about it. Mendel did great things in genetic theory. Darwin's work was different and complimentary.

Who is the "greater scientist" is a childish question.
 

Catalpast

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Nonsense.

And anyway, what Darwin actually historically anticipated is fairly irrelevant, really. The modern theory of evolution is not religiously connected to any particular text. The modern synthesis between Darwin's original arugments and observation and new genetic science is a substantial development and amendment of Darwin's central idea.
Mutations in living entities is rare and usually of not much benefit

Indeed in humans anyway a physical mutation is usually a disability

The chances of one being fortunate & then passed on generation to generation

- to the point that a new species would emerge and supplant the species from which it came from

- is too fantastic to be believable
 

statsman

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Nonsense.

And anyway, what Darwin actually historically anticipated is fairly irrelevant, really. The modern theory of evolution is not religiously connected to any particular text. The modern synthesis between Darwin's original arugments and observation and new genetic science is a substantial development and amendment of Darwin's central idea.
Which is how science works, and what differentiates it from faith.

Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
 

Deadlock

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Which just goes to show how much you know about it. Mendel did great things in genetic theory. Darwin's work was different and complimentary.

Who is the "greater scientist" is a childish question.
They were as peas in the same pod.
 

Volatire

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Nonsense.

And anyway, what Darwin actually historically anticipated is fairly irrelevant, really. The modern theory of evolution is not religiously connected to any particular text. The modern synthesis between Darwin's original arugments and observation and new genetic science is a substantial development and amendment of Darwin's central idea.
What is it with lefties and hysterical Darwinism?
 

Toland

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- is too fantastic to be believable
That's the argument from personal incredulity. It's not a strong argument.

Actually the mechanisms of mutation are pretty well understood, and there's plenty of data on how often they happen (very often, despite what you say) and even on how often they're beneficial (rarely).

You appear to think, or to be hoping, that the state of the science is more or less as it was thirty years ago. It ain't.
 

ShoutingIsLeadership

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Couldn't accelerated change, be the ultimate demonstration of Darwin's theory?
 

owedtojoy

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Which just goes to show how much you know about it. Mendel did great things in genetic theory. Darwin's work was different and complimentary.

Who is the "greater scientist" is a childish question.
Mendel's work was way ahead of its time. When scientists did re-discover his results, they gave him due credit. However, he was a bit of a dilettante, who results had no effect in his lifetime. Darwin devoted his life to observing and theorising, and was definitely the "greater" of the two, IMHO.

Modern evolutionary theory is a synthesis of Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetics, so there is no competition. One of the synthesizers, Theodosius Dobzhansky, said "Nothing in biology can be explained outside of evolution", and the same is true of the finches' beaks.
 


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