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Study Catches Birds Splitting Into Separate Species 153

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-not-me-it's-you dept.
webdoodle writes "A new study finds that a change in a single gene has sent two closely related bird populations on their way to becoming two distinct species. The study, published in the August issue of the American Naturalist, is one of only a few to investigate the specific genetic changes that drive two populations toward speciation."
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Study Catches Birds Splitting Into Separate Species

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  • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:06AM (#28745411) Homepage
    . . . for intelligently designing these species to evolve.
    • by flydude18 (839328) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:13AM (#28745467)

      This isn't evolution, it's just God applying a patch.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        but... proving God fallible would end all existence! Quick, soil yourself then cower in the nearest bunker!
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @01:03AM (#28745703)

          No. Obviously the birds sinned,and THAT'S what caused the need for the separation in species. That leaves one good, and the other sinful.

        • by martas (1439879)
          Thou shalt not question His patches, for they are always just. And yes, I am talking about Microsoft.
      • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:22AM (#28745515) Journal
        Sounds more like a fork.
      • by Chabo (880571)

        I'm a deist, you insensitive clod! If God has to issue a patch, he can't do it without hitting Ctrl+C, recompiling, and starting over!

  • by XPeter (1429763) * on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:07AM (#28745413) Homepage
    I know Slashdot has a reputation for late articles, but this was discovered by Darwin over a hundred of years ago, it's called natural selection. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection
    • by Draek (916851)

      That it happens was known, that it can happen as a result of a change in a single gene was not.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Yeah, it was. Problem is, they keep wanting to execute Darwin for heresy. I don't think they care if he's already dead.

      But foolishly, folks, I'll be interested to see the 'intelligent design' behind this speciation. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do some quick research to find a good pharaceutical company to invest in on Monday, as I'm sure the blood pressures of some of our more religious citizens is about to triple upon hearing this news...

    • Actually, the natural selection would be the second part, random mutations being the first. For CS people, one might think MapReduce ;-)
      While there are several schemes for identifying species, the point is (I think) that just one random mutations makes two species. No natural selection, otherwise one species would not be here.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        No natural selection, otherwise one species would not be here in this particular case.

        That's probably obvious, but this being the kind of area of research it is, I think you ought to say it explicitly.

  • This result contradicts the Wholly Scientific Theory of Baraminology [creationbiology.org]! The facts must be wrong.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Makes me wonder about the rest of the curriculum at some of these 'colleges'. Hell, I might wanna update my BA in philosgen chemistry to a PhD someday...
    • "While we reject strict materialistic presuppositions as a basis for science, we respect scientists who hold that view as being intellectually honest in interpreting data in accord with evolutionary theory"

      Just wonderful. Do they mean with this that hard facts are no basis for science?

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        No, I think that what they mean is that the hard facts are interpreted and not absolute and anyone interpreting them differently can be honest in what they are seeing even if it reaches a different conclusion.

        This is a basic principle of science by the way. It's the only way to allow new discoveries concerning what is thought to have been known and to improve our base of knowledge.

  • Praise God! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bky1701 (979071)
    This is so obviously a case of God himself reaching down and dividing these species, and none of this "evolution" tripe! Open your minds, Atheists, and see the truth. Do not be misled by these Satanic, Atheist scientists who would deny His hand in our creation! God not only cares about and intervenes in your personal problems (hence we pray), he also really cares about separating species of birds. He truly works in Mysterious Ways.
    • Looking at the Flamebait mod I guess you didn't apply enough sarcasm sauce to that post there bud :) Me, I like my Jesus like I like my women... ridin a moped on I50
    • Praise the FSM! (Score:1, Redundant)

      by itsdapead (734413)

      This is so obviously a case of God himself reaching down and dividing these species

      Once again the scientists and the Christians collude to hide the truth. Here, there is a conspiracy to conceal the almost certainly true factoid that significant traces of oregano and Parmesan were detected in these birds' habitat: clear evidence that these species were divided by the mere touch of His Noodley Appendage. [venganza.org]

      Ramen.

      Anybody want to come and picket a Pot Noodle factory (the blasphemers!)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sumdumass (711423)

      Actually, if you read the article, these birds are still the same species by the classic definition of species. They were only labeled as a new species because they don't willingly interbreed. I think your premise is completely off and premature. Perhaps in another 2 or 3 million years, but as of right now, it's just grasping at this point.

  • Keep in mind... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:15AM (#28745475)

    Keep in mind that the criteria for speciation is, itself, somewhat arbitrary and there exist few fine borders in nature for classifying things. These birds CAN produce offspring, but behaviorally, don't. This may be where some creationists get confused, thinking of dogs and cats and fish, etc in terms of some sort of central "essence" of an animal, when in reality the borders exist mostly in human minds.

    • by Dunbal (464142)

      and there exist few fine borders in nature for classifying things.

      The most obvious fine border I can think of is those that do the eating, and those that get eaten.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This would surely split the vegetarians from the Homo sapiens sapiens.

      • What about cannibals?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by im_thatoneguy (819432)

        The most obvious fine border I can think of is those that do the eating, and those that get eaten.

        That's perhaps the least obvious fine border I could possibly think of. And easily the most confusing.

        A Shark which eats a Human which ate a Shark which another Shark which ate a Barracuda which ate a smelt which ate a shrimp which ate...

        All of those "Did the eating". So are they all the same?
        All of those "Got eaten". So are they still all the same?
        What about the shark which ate another shark? Are they different?

        Your border seems to ignore the fact that carnivores eat other carnivores. Also there are ca

    • You wrote: "This may be where some creationists get confused, thinking of dogs and cats and fish, etc in terms of some sort of central "essence" of an animal, when in reality the borders exist mostly in human minds." The idea of essence in church thinking seems to have originated mostly from Aristotle who was an avid biologist. Alexander, tutored by Aristotle, was said to have sent Aristotle specimens from conquered lands. Aristotle was the leading philosopher of church thought for many centuries. He champ
    • These birds CAN produce offspring, but behaviorally, don't.


      Therefore then isolated human communities that don't often intermarry, such as in parts of the southern USA ;) can be considered a different species?
    • by jipn4 (1367823) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:04AM (#28746299)

      These birds CAN produce offspring, but behaviorally, don't.

      So, you're saying it's like computer geeks and supermodels?

    • Re:Keep in mind... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by srussia (884021) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:25AM (#28746497)

      Keep in mind that the criteria for speciation is, itself, somewhat arbitrary and there exist few fine borders in nature for classifying things.

      Exactly. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_problem [wikipedia.org]. The concept of "species" is so poorly defined that it deserves no place in scientific discourse.

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        How does that make any sense? Not that I disagree, but it seems to me that removing 'species' from scientific discourse completely removes any space in scientific discourse for evolution as an accepted part of the scientific establishment. Evolution as a science depends on species and their granular definition.

        • by srussia (884021)

          How does that make any sense? Not that I disagree, but it seems to me that removing 'species' from scientific discourse completely removes any space in scientific discourse for evolution as an accepted part of the scientific establishment. Evolution as a science depends on species and their granular definition.

          I think biologists (especially taxonomists) should become more familiar with set theory, beginning at least with the Principia and type theory (and thus avoid the Russell's Paradox they keep running into). They can deal with Goedel and Wittgenstein later ;-)

    • ... when in reality the borders exist mostly in human minds.

      All boundaries are mental constructs.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        All boundaries are mental constructs.

        Post-modernist deconstructionism is arrant crap, and should be lumped in with other intellectual goo like "creation science".

    • These birds CAN produce offspring, but behaviorally, don't.

      As such, any mutation that propegates through one of those groups will not be seen in the other. After a few times, you will have two wholly seperate branches.

      This is no different from how Dawkins proposed that geographic boundaries may induce speciation -- a group of animals gets seperated from the "main" colony, say, by a mountain range or something. That new group then interbreeds for a couple hundred generations, and after a while, are q
    • by HiThere (15173)

      Dogs are a really interesting case. E.g., if it weren't for the breeds of intermediate size, Chihuahuas and St. Bernards would be different species. As it is, they aren't.
      Dogs are but one example of a ring species (I *think* it's a ring species even if the separation isn't geographical), but it's the one that everyone can relate to. Not that many people know their butterflies or gulls.

      OTOH, getting back to the flycatchers, there isn't just one gene involved. They've only TRACKED one gene, but there's go

      • OTOH, getting back to the flycatchers, there isn't just one gene involved. They've only TRACKED one gene, but there's got to be another that controls which breast color is preferred by the females.

        Breast color preferred by females is likely simply due to experience.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          It's a possibility. Has it been proven? (That'd be a reasonably easy experiment...just switch eggs in a few nests. Reasonably easy doesn't mean easy or cheap, though.)

    • by hawk (1151)

      But . . .

      I was impressed with their indirect method of seeing whether other males attacked.

      It does, though, leave a question as to the females of the species.

      For example, if the females fly after the invading males . . .

      hawk

  • Old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by WeirdJohn (1170585) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @01:13AM (#28745735)
    This was observed with the Eastern Rosella several decades ago, when the Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme split the population in two. There are now two distinct species, that will not mate to produce fertile and viable offspring under natural conditions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shin-LaC (1333529)
      By "natural conditions", do you mean that their habitats are now separated by the irrigation works and so they don't meet? If you took a bird from side A and moved it on side B, would it be able to mate?
      • The birds from either side no longer recognise each other as potential mates. Those from Eastern New South Wales are mostly green, those from South Australia are mostly red. The region where habitat was destroyed is over 800 km wide by the way, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme is, like most things Australian and agricultural, very large.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        They can interbreed but don't. This isn't really a true separate species because the definition of species says can't interbreed not doesn't. I know plenty of minorities who will not interbreed and it does not make then a different species, they are human contrary to what some evolutionary biologist attempt to imply if this concept was applied across the board. I find it really irritating when speciation can occur outside the definition of species and have that new definition apply selectively as if we aren

        • The definition is that different species will not mate under natural conditions and produce viable and fertile progeny. The 2 new species of Eastern Rosella do not recognise each other as potential mates, and so will not mate under natural conditions. Put them a pair of the two colours in a cage and feed them hormones they will mate and produce young that can (and will) mate with the other two kinds. But in nature this intermediate form is extinct.

          If the definition was "can't not won't" then Sally and he

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            No, the definition is not under natural conditions. That is a preposterous condition invented by the needs of evangelical atheist to prove macro-evolution true in the face of evidence and the lack of being pointed out to them. This is how preposterous it is, People in AU that would never leave would thereby be a different species then people in Europe or America who would never leave their country or continent. It's so preposterous that under that definition, two Golden retrievers, one in England and one in

  • no camera? (Score:1, Troll)

    by Swoopy (101558)

    Where were the creationist "scientists" with cameras, catching scientific evidence of the "intelligent designer" at work?

  • by Kebis (1396783) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:12AM (#28745967) Journal
    So, the difference comes down to the birds wanting to have sex with other birds with the same belly color? First parrots taught us birds can talk, and ravens taught us birds can use tools, now we find out birds can be racist! Forget the AI Singularity, birds will be the death of us all as soon as they invent their own laser weapons!
  • by thephydes (727739) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:13AM (#28745969)
    It is not speciation occurring ...YET. It is two related bird populations not seeing each other as sexual rivals, apparently because of feather colour. The article is clear. This MAY lead to speciation if other genetic changes occur in one or both bird populations.
    • Not quite. As I posted above, "speciation" is sort-of a human concept and the criteria for it is arbitrary. In fact, we do have different species that CAN reproduce with each other. Perhaps not always forming fertile offspring, but nevertheless reproduce. Domesticated dogs and wolves are a different species and can easily breed with one another. Another example is, of course, horses and donkeys producing mules. The main problem is there is no universal definition of "species" and thus no universally a

      • by radtea (464814)

        The main problem is there is no universal definition of "species" and thus no universally accepted criteria for what constitutes speciation.

        This is not a problem. You're confusing two unrelated issues:

        1) There is no arbitrarily fine line that can be drawn using perfectly objective criteria to distinguish class A from class B

        2) Class A and class B cluster around widely separated collections of characteristics.

        As I said, these have nothing to do with each other. You can have a case where the first criterion

        • My response was to the OP who said speciation is not occuring; I was pointing out the problem in his argument is that there's different ideas of what constitutes "species" and, from that, "speciation." My intent was to show that the criteria for "speciation" has no universal definition, not to attack the idea or claiming that categorizing into species is worthless.

          The "problem" I was addressing was, of course, the claim that some say speciation occured while some may claim that it did not. The OP claims t

    • by radtea (464814)

      This MAY lead to speciation if other genetic changes occur in one or both bird populations.

      Yeah, this is an article about the specific mechanism that is driving speciation in this particular case. It is connecting the dots between a minor genetic variation, and a behavioural variation that is sufficient to decrease the mating probability between groups.

      This research is either quite clever or a little circuitous, I can't decide which. They are using the territorial defence behaviour of the males of each va

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only difference is in the gene responsible for melanin production, a gene that varies in different colored people, too.

    So if speciation has occured (according to the article) when the two populations no longer mate, does that mean if white people and black people stopped mating they would be different species?

    • The only difference is in the gene responsible for melanin production, a gene that varies in different colored people, too.

      So if speciation has occured (according to the article) when the two populations no longer mate, does that mean if white people and black people stopped mating they would be different species?

      Maybe in a few hundred thousand (or possibly million) years.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        So then why is this bird population with the same gene difference being considered a speciation even and a new species?

        Or does the hundreds or thousands of years, like the American and Aztec Indians before we discovered America, only count when it is convenient?

    • by turbidostato (878842) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @06:10AM (#28746623)

      "So if speciation has occured (according to the article) when the two populations no longer mate"

      Re-read the article: it doesn't say so. It says that since those two populations no longer mate, the door is open for speciation to happen, not that it already has happened.

      "does that mean if white people and black people stopped mating they would be different species?"

      Change it for "they may end up eventually as different species" and you are right.

  • You can see it in the change of a single gene in the human males. One male has the dominant jock gene, whereas the other does not, allowing the recessive geek gene to dictate behavior.

    The question of whether these two populations are on the road to speciation comes down to sex. When two populations stop exchanging genes-that is, stop mating with each other-then they can be considered distinct species. We wanted to see if these two types of humans were heading in that direction.

    It would be all but impossib

  • Cuckoos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kanweg (771128)

    My father happened to tell me last week that cuckoos put their eggs in the nests of birds of the same kind in which they were raised, and that their eggs have the same speckle pattern as that of the bird they take advantage off. This could mean that cuckoos will also mate with cuckoos raised from the same type of nest, or the speckle pattern would be messed up. Alternatively, the speckle pattern is entirely female determined. In case of the former, speciation is on its way.

    Bert

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From WP:

      In animal behaviour, a gens (pl. gentes) is a race of host-specific brood parasite. Brood parasites, such as cuckoos, which use multiple host species to raise their chicks, evolve different gentes, each one specific to its host species. This specialisation allows the parasites to lay eggs that mimic those of their hosts, which in turn reduces the chances of the eggs being rejected by the hosts.

      The exact mechanisms of the evolution and maintenance of gens is still a matter of some research, however,

  • The first author's website has the PDF of the original paper: http://jauy.syr.edu/PUBS/Publications.html [syr.edu]
    It's the first paper on the list: Difference in plumage color used in species recognition between incipient species is linked to a single amino acid substitution in the melanocortin-1 receptor [syr.edu]
    And here's the abstract if you don't want to read/download the whole paper:

    "Many studies demonstrate that differences in mating signals are used by incipient species in recognizing potential mates or se
  • Animals have been shown in the past to be able to exhibit various adaptions (beaks, spots, hair color, eye color, etc) by turning on a particular gene in their set. What this study adds is some information on how likely the adapted animal will mate with the non-adapted form. But this isn't all that new either, some guys prefer blondes (look at its effect on Iceland). Now an animal without an eye producing an eye and not by activating existing genes would be a neat trick. Basically you would have spontaneo
    • by sgage (109086)

      No, information theory does not have a problem with spontaneous generation of complexity. Read some Prigogine or something. And learn something about evolution, too - the "evolution of the eye" thing has been richly studied.

  • I don't understand (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:36PM (#28749019) Homepage

    Why whenever we observe speciation people make such a big deal about it. We've observed speciation in plants for almost a hundred years and observed it in insects since the 1960s. Speciation in birds and mammals have also been repeatedly observed. See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html [talkorigins.org] and http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html [talkorigins.org].

    At this point the evidence for speciation is so overwhelming that even many young earth creationists acknowledge that it occurs. See http://creation.com/arguments-we-think-creationists-should-not-use [creation.com]. At this point anyone who is who thinks that speciation doesn't occur is so colossally ignorant that discussing matters with them should probably be done only if one is amused by talking to people under mass delusions by people so estranged from reality that reality probably got a restraining order against them.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Why whenever we observe speciation people make such a big deal about it.

      Because there's a pervasive myth, believed by IIRC about 80% of people, that we never have. So, we have to make as much noise as possible about what we have seen.

  • Everyone knows he isn't going to get laid but him.

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