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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Happy Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, February 16, 2020/Categories: natural history, birds, environment

     Darwin's Galapagos finches from Voyage of the Beagle (credit: Wiki-commons & public domain)

Perhaps you missed it but Darwin Day was last week. The annual celebration of Charles Darwin's birth was particularly relevant as a genetic discovery of the actual gene in Galapagos finches for the fundamental evolutionary factor driving biological change mediate by natural selection. Nature Magazine presented the discovery by university researchers in Sweden, New Jersey, and Texas. They conclude that:

DNA sequencing of Darwin finch species and two finch relatives finds extensive evidence for interspecific gene flow in the birds. Hybridization has given rise to species of mixed ancestry. A specific section of their genome encodes for a gene (ALX1) that affects craniofacial development strongly associated with beak shape diversity in the ground finch (Geospiza fortis), a species that has undergone rapid evolution of beak shape in response to environmental changes. The gene has contributed to diversity of shapes among the finches allowing expanded utilization of food resources.


Geographic Distribution, Species Relationships, & Beak DNA Sequences in Darwin's Finches  (credit: Nature)

The discovery will require updating textbooks removing "theory" from any mention of the science of genetics and evolution. Every organism as Darwin elegantly showed in his 19th Century observations of beaks in Galapagos finches over 150 years ago. A clever video by the science guy Bill Nye provides a humorous look at how evolution works:

Happy International Darwin Day 2020!



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