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Education Science

Study Catches Birds Splitting Into Separate Species 153

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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:41AM (#28746055)

    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?

  • Cuckoos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kanweg ( 771128 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @03:54AM (#28746281)

    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.


  • Re:Old news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shin-LaC ( 1333529 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @04:12AM (#28746327)
    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?
  • 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 []. The concept of "species" is so poorly defined that it deserves no place in scientific discourse.

  • Re:Cuckoos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2009 @05:39AM (#28746535)

    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, it is believed that in cuckoos, gens-specific properties are sex-linked and lie on the W chromosome of the female. Male cuckoos, which have no W chromosome, are able to mate with females of any gens, and thereby maintain the cuckoo as one species.

  • by kbaud ( 1001076 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @10:50AM (#28747695)
    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 spontaneous generaiton of complexity (complexity here being different than mere information). Information theory has no problem with adaption but it does have a problem with spontaneous generation of complexity out of a less complex system.
  • by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @12:02PM (#28748077)
    I hate to feed the trolls, but you're actually right on that one. If two groups of people really did stop mating outside of their groups, they would differentiate over time. However, it would take a long-long time. Certainly much longer than it took for the racial differentiation we see today, which was tens of thousands of years (and a whole lot of geographic separation) in the making. However, the modern trend of fast transportation and mingling global population means it will almost certainly not happen; we're much more likely to form a single quasi-homogeneous genepool over time.
  • Re:Thank God. . . (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @02:37PM (#28749023) Homepage

    Okay, I thought you were referring to the ten commandments (you might like to cite a reference to be clearer).

    Furthermore, even with literal interpretation, how is this equal to your statement ??? I'll repeat your statement about this verse :

    I don't consider it consistent to demand you kill children who talk back to their parents

    It doesn't seem to be talking about "talking back to parents" at all, unless I've suddenly forgotten the better part of the English language, it seems to be quite a bit softer than you exposed it, mentioning clearly an extended period of disobedience, neglect and substance abuse (none of which has anything but a casual association with "talking back"). I can't really understand why, I mean this is a harsh enough verse without you misrepresenting it.

    The law specified here is basically a death penalty for extended drug abuse, and only after such abuse has resulted in serious consequences for the family and/or the society (note that, clearly, ABuse is specified, indicating that mild and/or social drug use was tolerated). Harsh, yes, certainly. Though not nearly as harsh as "killing children for talking back to their parents".

    Of course, you might know that Christians don't actually use this book as a source of laws. This was the law as laid down by Moses (excluding the 10 commandments).

    Your comment could probably serve as a criticism against Judaism, especially orthodox Judaism, which takes these laws to be a contemporary guide to living and enforcing law. No Christian agrees with them (since, you know, this little carpenter 2000 years ago made it quite clear exactly how to deal with these laws. All Christian application of the Bible is based on his actions, not on these laws directly).

    You will find stonings of women, burning "enemies" alive in homes and so on in these books. They may be part of the bible, but Christians see this as a historical tale, featuring God. The part to be respected in the pentateuch are the ten commandments, and even then only insofar they match this little carpenter's representation of them, the rest is merely taken to be laws of the land of Caanaan. Those are certainly not taken to be divine revelation (again, except for the ten commandments).

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay