Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Pity the creationists
According to the usual description of evolution, speciation is the emergence of a new species from an old species through gradual mutations from one generation to the next. Though biologists may point out changes in domestic animals and lab animals as examples of change over time, creationists point out that these are changes directed by a superior being (debatably, us) and that, anyway, selective breeding only produces varieties of species, never a new species. Speciation has never been observed in nature. Till now.
Scientists at the University of Arizona may have witnessed the birth of a new species for the first time.

Biologists Laura Reed [a grad student] and Prof Therese Markow made the discovery by observing breeding patterns of fruit flies that live on rotting cacti in deserts.

The work could help scientists identify the genetic changes that lead one species to evolve into two species.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Whether the two closely related fruit fly populations the scientists studied - Drosophila mojavensis and Drosophila arizonae - represent one species or two is still debated by biologists.

However, the University of Arizona researchers believe the insects are in the early stages of diverging into separate species.

That gnashing sound I hear keeping me from going to bed, is the angry teeth of the gang at the Discovery Institute, about eight miles south of my house. Evolution has been observed happening in the wild without human help. These are not lab animals. These are not farm animals. These are wild flies in the deserts of the American Southwest evolving without help from anyone.

I’m sure we can expect press releases from the Discovery Institute over the next few days either explaining why this does not count as speciation or moving the goalposts for proof of evolution from species change to genus change or higher: “sure, a fly can turn into a different kind of fly, but can it turn into a moose or a guava?”

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