A reader has sent in links to two evolutionist sites listing examples of speciation, and asked us which are not real examples of speciation. The list includes the Hawthorn fly, Three-spined sticklebacks, Cichlid fishes in Lake Nagubago, Tennessee cave salamanders, Greenish Warbler, Ensatina salamanders, Larus gulls, Petroica multicolour, Drosophila (fruit flies), Mayr bird fauna, Finches, Squirrels in the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, Apple maggot, Faeroe Island house mouse, Primula kewensis (a flowering plant), and Croatian lizards.
Answer by Diane Eager
Actually all are classed as good examples of speciation, but none of them are evolution!
So what is speciation?
It is a process that occurs when a group of living things that originally were freely interbreeding, become divided into subgroups that sooner or later no longer breed with one another. The newly formed non-interbreeding groups are technically a new species. But note carefully: After this happens the squirrels on either side of the Grand Canyon are still squirrels, Chichlid fish are still chiclid fish, Larus gulls remain gulls, Drosophila are still fruit flies, etc. So this is not evolution. The plants and animals are still actually within the one kind.
We have written about this process in our Evidence newsletter. See links in text below.
Galapagos finches are a well-known example of non-evolutionary variation. They have been represented as the classic example of speciation, with birds on the different Galapagos Islands being classified into different species according to their beak shapes. However, when circumstances have caused a change in available food and many of those with the wrong shaped beak shape have died out, some have survived by breeding with different beaked species, thus proving they are still the same ‘kind’ of finch no matter what shape their beak was, and regardless of what species we have labelled them. Genome studies have shown there is a gene flow between the different finch species, confirming they do breed with one another. See our report Finch Gene Flow.
Other studies have shown that the variation in beak shape is simply due to variations in interaction of growth promoting chemicals during embryonic development. All the “species” have these same chemicals, confirming that the differences are just variation within kind. See our report Finch Beak Variation.
For more information on Galapagos finches see the question: GALAPAGOS Island finches have shown new evolution recently, so how do you explain this? Answer here.
In some cases speciation has been shown to be the result of degeneration of genes in one of the subgroups. Here is an example of this happening in Thale cress.
In some plants, speciation occurs due to genetic polyploidy, i.e. incorporating two complete sets of chromosomes into a hybrid offspring between two parent plants. The offspring can no longer breed with the parent plants, so technically are a new species. This is not evolution. No new genes were produced. Existing genes have just become mixed. Sometimes this process can be deliberately done by plant breeders. Here is an example in a daisy.
Sometime the separation only based on variations in behaviour, e.g. mating calls. The animals are still physically the same. Here is an example in frogs.
Larus gulls are a famous example of a ring species, or partial separation into species. We have written about these in another question: Ring Species: don’t Herring Gulls and other ring species prove evolution is occurring as we watch? Answer here.
Sometimes the separated species occur because of lack of opportunity to breed, rather than mating being a biological impossibility. In these cases the classification into different species is simply a man-made distinction. I remember being told by a conservationist in Australia that there was a problem with imported ducks breeding with native ducks and contaminating the gene pool. The same complaint has been made about salamanders in the US. Apparently the ducks and salamanders did not know they have been classified as different species, but just got on with doing what comes naturally.
Sometimes two similar species can be shown to be a case of over-splitting in the classification system by using hybridisation experiments in the laboratory. Here is an example in butterflies.
If anything, speciation is the opposite of evolution. Whenever a large and varied group of living creatures has been split into smaller and less variable sub-groups, regardless of the reason, each of the less viable (often called specialised) subgroups is more likely to die out if the environment changes. This is because natural selection, (another real but non-evolutionary process), will eliminate any organism that does not have the appropriate genetic variations needed to survive in the new environment.
Examples of apparent and real speciation remind us that the real issue in the creation-evolution debate is not about the origin of species, but the origin of Kinds. Darwin may have written about the origin of the species, but the Bible does not! In Genesis we read that God created the various life forms according to their Kinds. When the original Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek around 300BC, the word for Kind was rendered as γένος or “genos,” which is ultimately where the creation based inventor of the classification system Linnaeus derived the word for Genus in the classification system.
This does not mean that every genus in the classification system is a different Kind. In some cases there has been over-spitting of genera as well as species, and the original Kind was probably a much larger and varied group. This reminds us that the current classification system that identifies living things according to a base unit we label as a species is a man-made system that simply enables us to keep records of what living things we have observed, and organise our knowledge of them. It is not a record of evolutionary changes.
For a comment on Darwin’s Origin of Species click here
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