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The science of speciation evolves

by campustalkeditor
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 10:45 pm
Photos taken from Travelchannel.com
 Evolution is a process that usually takes countless generations, yet on the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin's finches call home, they are still teaching us a thing or two about evolution and natural selection.
Photos taken from Travelchannel.com Evolution is a process that usually takes countless generations, yet on the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin's finches call home, they are still teaching us a thing or two about evolution and natural selection.

Science is, more often than not, a game of waiting. Unfortunately, it is far from the picture of science that we see in something like “Star Trek”, where new discoveries and lifeforms jump from behind every corner to dazzle us with their strangeness and newness. However, every once and awhile, scientists get the rare privilege to see things first hand that no one else does. 

Recently, scientists got such an opportunity in a rather unlikely place. When we think Galapagos, Charles Darwin and finches usually spring to mind. Though we may think it odd that there is anything left to learn there, even today, scientists still study the finches that helped make Darwin a household name, and their studies have paid off. 

Scientists who study finches in the Galapagos have been watching a new species of finch evolve on the island, right before their very eyes, in quite a short amount of time. The migratory species that arrived did so just 36 years ago, according to Science Daily. In the scale of the earth and evolution, that's less than the blink of an eye. To clarify, this is not a straight form of evolution. That being when one organism gains a useful mutation, allowing it to procreate more successfully until the entire species has evolved into a new form of finch. Rather, the new species has arisen through a process called hybridization. 

This means that one type of finch migrated to an island and mated with another kind of finch, producing a hybrid. This occurs many places in nature, famous examples being the liger and the mule. Though unlike these examples, this new finch, dubbed, “Big Bird,” had to play by a different set of rules. In order to survive, the finches had to resort to inbreeding, as their new beak shape and song did not attract finches native to the island. However, despite this hurdle, the new hybrid species has managed to survive many generations. These new finches had one distinct advantage because they were able to access new food sources on the island that the native species was unable to. Rounding out in its entirety, the idea of Darwin’s finches right before these scientists’ eyes.

According to BBC, what makes this so particularly noteworthy is that it is in fact a new species all together, and occurred so rapidly through hybridization. It has changed our understanding of how evolution of new species occurs as well as how rapid evolution works in the field of speciation.

Personally, I’ve never been one for psychics, it was fairly interesting, but I had no talent for it. Biology was always more interesting to me; it was alive and always changing. This week, there’s no deep issue to explore here, no deeper social consequences, no standing on the precepice of an earth shattering discovery. I simply wanted bring to attention something beautiful in the world, something that we do not get to see everyday and it was all because of science. 

Science often gets a bad rep. People tend to think of it as either the glitzy science fiction filled with adventure and discovery, or they turn their nose up in disgust at the number crunching data obsessed scientists locked in their labs waiting forever for a discovery that will never come. However, science is like anything else in this world; if you want to see it turn into something beautiful, you’re going to have to put some serious work into it.

Scientists have been studying the Galapagos since natural selection was a working scientific concept. Now, scientists themselves have watched their attentiveness and their observations bear fruit. They had the opportunity to see a new species force it’s way into existence, against all odds. 

The idea of Darwin’s finches is, naturally, an old one. Yet, even to this day, these tiny finches on those tiny islands in that tiny corner of the world are still fueling us with the excitement of science and knowledge of one of the great fundamental biological laws that govern the world

Quite often, science influences and is influenced by the rest of the world. It dips its hands into things like politics, religion and even social life. At its core, science is something that serves truth and discovery, and once in awhile it’s nice to put away the, “what can science do for us?” mentality and appreciate something truly fantastic about science itself.

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