Lizards on Lava

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Scientists studying a species in the Mojave Desert, known as side-blotched lizards, have learned that individual lizards can change coloring within a few weeks to match their environment. Most of the lizards live on sand and are a light, mottled brown, but those that live on the dark rocks of the Pisgah Lava Flow are dark. When a lizard is transferred from either environment to the other, it changes color to match its new home.

Side-blotched lizards can change color within weeks to match their environment, contrary to the expectations of classic evolution.

Researchers have also learned that the dark lizards that live on the lava have genetic differences from their sandy cousins, even though both can change color to match the other’s environment. This flexibility, called phenotypic plasticity, is an example of a radical idea known as the Baldwin effect, first proposed in 1896. It suggests that some animal traits are flexible and can vary with new environments, and then the animal can pass those variations on to their offspring. This study of side-blotched lizards is the most thorough study of the Baldwin effect to date.

Evolutionists are interested because it doesn’t fit classic Darwinian evolution, and they’re still trying to work out the details. One thing is certain, however: phenotypic plasticity is not a process that evolved by random mutations. These lizards are clearly designed to regulate melanin production to match their scaly skin to their background (which is not a simple process). Phenotypic plasticity enables these lizards to make relatively rapid appropriate changes in a world of flux and pass them to their descendants. All of this helps these creatures to multiply and fill their part of the earth. This isn’t aimless evolution of totally new kinds of creatures with completely new characteristics. Rather, it is the genetic kaleidoscope of this created kind, doing what God designed it to do.

Answers Magazine

January–February 2019

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