Looks like you are using an old version of Internet Explorer - Please update your browser
Thanks to a difference in a single gene, one bird species is splitting into two. Does this mechanism illustrate how evolution works, or is it compatible with the Genesis model of created kinds?
Actually, that’s a trick question; the mechanism of speciation fits with both the evolution and the creation model. That said, we argue that the creation model better explains the types and speed of speciation we observe. A new study of monarch flycatcher birds gives us a chance to explain.
Coloration is the only known difference (other than habitat) between the populations.
A team led by Syracuse University biologist J. Albert Uy examined two populations of flycatcher birds in the Solomon Islands. One of the populations, on the large island of Makira, have all black feathers. The other population, spread among smaller islands, have some black feathers but also a chestnut-colored underside. Coloration is the only known difference (other than habitat) between the populations.
Uy’s team needed to determine whether the all-black and black-and-chestnut populations of flycatchers were still breeding with one another. If not, then—by one definition of species, anyway—the two populations can each be considered unique.
It would have been impossible for the team to be in all places at once, confirming that members of one population never mated with members of the other. Instead, the scientists looked at territorial rivalry between males in the two populations. The males attack any potential rival that enters their territory. So, the researchers hypothesized, if the all-black flycatcher males reacted less violently to black-and-chestnut flycatchers entering their territory, that could be a sign they no longer see the other population as sexual rivals—and, thus, that interbreeding is uncommon.
Using taxidermic models, Uy and his team “invaded” mating territories—presenting (live) all-black males with both all-black and black-and-chestnut models, then doing the same to (live) black-and-chestnut males. The birds were much less likely to attack models representing members of the opposite population than those representing their own population. The team also found a genetic basis for the difference in plumage coloration: different versions of the gene MC1R, which regulates the production of melanin.
The news release describing the study emphasizes, “Speciation, the process by which different populations of the same species split into separate species, is central to evolution.” That’s true; Darwinian evolution requires a mechanism to create diverse species from a single common ancestor. But creationists believe observed speciation fits much better within the creation model for several reasons:
Both creationists and evolutionists justify their models based on the unobservable past.
If the creation model explains speciation better, why is there even a debate? The problem is that both creationists and evolutionists justify their models based on the unobservable past. Creationists’ “kinds” come from Genesis 1. At the same time, evolutionists claim the information-adding genetic changes happen only rarely, too rarely for us to have observed them in the present (they instead point to claimed transitions in the fossil record). Thus, the controversy transitions from a debate over observational science (where both creationists and evolutionists see speciation) to a debate over the interpretation of those observed facts.
In related news, scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute have discovered that short legs across various breeds of dogs all trace back to the same genetic mutation: “an extra copy of the gene that codes for a growth-promoting protein called fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4).” This mutation—a corruption of information—could have happened just once, such as in a dog lineage not long after dogs stepped off Noah’s Ark. As this mutation was passed on, it eventually gave rise to all short-legged dog breeds of today.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, FOX News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch all the latest News to Know, why not take a look to see what you’ve missed?