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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Happy Darwin Day, 2015

Happy Darwin Day, 2015

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, February 15, 2015/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. This year, the annual celebration of Charles Darwin's birth was particularly important as a DNA discovery has uncovered the actual gene in  Galapagos finches  that is the basis for his fundamental discovery of biological change mediate by environmental natural selection.

Publishing in  Nature Magazine  genetic and ecological researchers from Sweden, New Jersey, and Texas universities report that:

DNA sequencing of 120 Darwin finch species and two relatives finds extensive evidence for interspecific gene flow in the birds. Hybridization has given rise to species of mixed ancestry. A specific 240 kilobase section of their genome encodes a gene (ALX1) affecting 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 beak shapes among the finches and, thereby, to an expanded utilization of food resources.

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

The groundbreaking discovery will now require changes in reference books to delete "theory" from any mention of genetics and evolution. It just happens in every living organism as Darwin elegantly showed with his close naturalist's observation of beak details in Galapagos finches over 150 years ago.

A cute video by Bill Nye, the science guy, provides a humorous look at how evolution actually works:



Happy Darwin Day!

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