An article just published to Nature has turned the world of evolutionary biology topsy-turvy!
Or, so they’d like us to believe…
The paper’s authors Chris Venditti, Andrew Meade and Mark Pagel have devised a new model that shows that evolution is not driven by natural selection or through the accumulative effects of random genetic drift. Rather than incremental and gradual change, their study suggests that the vast bulk of speciation results from rare stochastic events. They call this new theory “punctuated equilibrium” – NO WAIT! They don't...
Actually, they don’t call it punctuated equilibrium, which is strange because that’s what it looks like to me… What’s even stranger is that neither Niles Eldredge nor Stephen Jay Gould’s names appear anywhere in the paper – including the references.
Through phylogenetic analysis of 101 different plant, animal and fungi groups the researchers established that - what I’m going to call - the punctuated equilibrium model is the most parsimonious fit for explaining the branch lengths of the studied taxa.
Although, this ‘rediscovery’ of what’s been known for about the last 30-years may not seem too earthshaking, I’m confident that (with Nature’s help of course) creationists around the world will be harvesting quotes from the article and its associated news release.
Check out these lines:
Quotes from Nature’s accompanying news release-
“New species might arise as a result of single rare events, rather than through the gradual accumulation of many small changes over time, according to a study of thousands of species and their evolutionary family trees.”
“This contradicts a widely accepted theory of how speciation occurs: that species are continually changing to keep pace with their environment, and that new species emerge as these changes accrue.”
“The team's findings might stir things up in the world of evolutionary biology.”It really goes against the grain because most of us have this Darwinian view of speciation," says Pagel. "What we're saying is that to think about natural selection as the cause of speciation is perhaps wrong."
Quotes from around the web-
"A new study published in Nature contradicts the commonly-held belief that most species evolve gradually through sexual selection in response to subtle changes in their environment." (SOURCE)
"This new theory is likely to be quite controversial, as it goes against the Darwinian view of evolution that most people are familiar with. "It really goes against the grain because most of us have this Darwinian view of speciation," says Pagel. "What we're saying is that to think about natural selection as the cause of speciation is perhaps wrong." (SOURCE)
'The surprise is that this model is not compatible with the idea that lots of small events combine to bring about speciation,' he adds. (SOURCE)
"Our research indicates that the idea that new species occur by gradually becoming more and more adapted to their particular niches, is not true. In fact, we have found that new species appear due to rare random events that seem to simply just happen." Pagel (SOURCE)
Quotes from the study -
“The Red Queen describes a view of nature in which species continually evolve but do not become better adapted. It is one of the more distinctive metaphors of evolutionary biology, but no test of its claim that speciation occurs at a constant rate has ever been made against competing models that can predict virtually identical outcomes, nor has any mechanism been proposed that could cause the constant-rate phenomenon.”
“This model predicts a constant rate of speciation, and provides a new interpretation of the Red Queen: the metaphor of species losing a race against a deteriorating environment is replaced by a view linking speciation to rare stochastic events…”
“Speciation is freed from the gradual tug of natural selection, there need not be an ‘arms race’ between the species and its environment, nor even any biotic effects.”
“If the original Red Queen model had a ‘whiff’ of a species running out of breath from the accumulation of many detrimental biotic effects, and then being ‘knocked off’ by the next event, the interpretation we propose is different. Species do not so much ‘run in place’ as simply wait for the next sufficient cause of speciation to occur.”
“This means that researchers seeking to develop explanatory theories of speciation should focus their attention on the size of the catalogue of sufficient causes (speciation factors)
shared by a group of organisms, rather than on special driving forces or how these forces might combine.”
Venditti, C., Meade, A., & Pagel, M. (2009). Phylogenies reveal new interpretation of speciation and the Red Queen Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08630
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