Saturday, February 25, 2006


New Evidence: Natural Selection Driving Force Behind origin of species

In the last 20 years, studies of a number of specific species have demonstrated that natural selection can cause sub-populations to adapt to new environments in ways that reduce their ability to interbreed, an essential first step in the formation of a new species. However, biologists have not known whether these cases represent special exceptions or illustrate a general rule.

A new study – published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – provides empirical support for the proposition that natural selection is a general force behind the formation of new species by analyzing the relationship between natural selection and the ability to interbreed in hundreds of different organisms – ranging from plants through insects, fish, frogs and birds – and finding that the overall link between them is positive.

"This helps fill a big gap that has existed in evolutionary studies," says Daniel Funk, assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University. He authored the study with Patrik Nosil from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and William J. Etges from the University of Arkansas. "We have known for some time that when species invade a new environment or ecological niche, a common result is the formation of a great diversity of new species. However, we haven't really understood how or whether the process of adaptation generally drives this pattern of species diversification."

The specific question that Funk and his colleagues set out to answer is whether there is a positive link between the degree of adaptation to different environments by closely related groups and the extent to which they can interbreed, what biologists call reproductive isolation.

Read more here.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?