Hybridization Creates New Species

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Excerpt When new species appear suddenly in the fossil record, scientists automatically ascribe the new appearance to evolution in the classical Darwinian style. However, it is now known that brand-new, viable, reproducing species can suddenly appear not necessarily through evolution and survival of the fittest, but through the hybridization of separate, already-existing species... Continue reading

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When new species appear suddenly in the fossil record, scientists automatically ascribe the new appearance to evolution in the classical Darwinian style. However, it is now known that brand-new, viable, reproducing species can suddenly appear not necessarily through evolution and survival of the fittest, but through the hybridization of separate, already-existing species.

An example of this was observed by Jesús Mavárez of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He discovered that a black South American butterfly with bold stripes originated in the wild from the crossing of two other species of the same genus. The new species, known by its scientific name of Heliconius heurippa, is the product of two other butterfly species of the genus Heliconius, but prefers to mate with others displaying the same type of bold stripes, thus preserving the new species distinct from its two parent species (Milius 2006: 371).

Mavárez had suspected that H. heurippa was the product of the hybridization of Heliconius cydno and Heliconius melpomene, because H. heurippa’s genetic code showed genetic markers similar to the two other species. Mavárez and his colleagues crossed H. cydno and H. melpomene in the laboratory and then back-crossed some of the offspring with H. cydno and then bred those offspring. The procedure re-created the distinctive stripe pattern of the wild specimens of H. heurippa (Ibid. 371-2).

The team then tried to determine why the newly created species, H. heurippa, didn’t get absorbed back into the parent species by breeding in the wild with individual butterflies from the cydno and melpomene species. In a laboratory at the University of the Andes in Colombia, Mavárez and his team set up courtship tests in which they discovered that male heurippa were at least twice as likely to try to mate with females of their own species than with cydno and melpomene females (Ibid. 372).

Bruce McPheron of Pennsylvania State University, who has studied how some flies form new species via hybridization, commented: “In animals, the dogma has been [that] hybridization is a dead end—it’s not important for creating species.” Mavárez’s discovery, however, shows that hybridization “can be a much more important source of new species than people have recognized” (Ibid. 371).

Hybridization does not occur solely among fly species and butterfly species. For example, botanists have long known that new plant species arise from interbreeding, especially when the hybrids end up with more chromosomes than their parent species (Ibid.). Loren Rieseberg of Indiana University, Bloomington, an expert on the hybridization of sunflowers, referred to Mavárez’s experiments as “very thorough and elegant” (Ibid. 372).

We thus have empirical evidence that hybridization creates new species in the wild. This is not theory, as is the case when scientists see a new creature appearing in the fossil record and ascribe its sudden origin to classical Darwinian evolution. Hybridization is observable fact, both in the wild and in the laboratory.

Reference:

Milius, S. 2006. “Mixed Butterflies.” Science News 169, no. 24.

 

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Comments Comment RSS

4/24/2009 6:41 PM #

pardon my ignorance, but what disqualifies this process from being a small step in the 'goo to you' process?

best,

frank

frank - 4/24/2009 6:41:19 PM

4/29/2009 12:37 AM #

Thanks for the e-mail. I'm just using the term "species" as the journal Science News used it, as did the scientists involved in the experiments.
Technically, biologists have not nailed down, nor reached a consensus, on exactly what does & does not constitute a species.
Steve Caesar

Steve Caesar - 4/29/2009 12:37:56 AM

4/29/2009 1:35 AM #

I wonder if the use of "species" in describing "new" life forms which won't mate with the normal variety actually constitutes a new species? Isn't this just genetic variation doing its thing and producing variety among kinds of creatures? Ancillary question might be "What is a species anyway?"

Thanks.

Anonymous - 4/29/2009 1:35:31 AM

5/1/2009 11:33 PM #

Hi,

I enjoy ABR. Thanks for sharing all this info.

Question though - what does "young" mean to these scientists? And, what does it mean to you?

I often feel when I read articles that refer to others work- no matter what side of the debate the authors are on - leave out crucial differences that affect how one views the material.

Of course, part of the problem for me is ignorance and forgetfulness.

Sorry to be so wordy but it's in my DNA  : )

Elaine

Elaine - 5/1/2009 11:33:01 PM

5/6/2009 1:16 AM #

Assuming the accuracy of Mr. Mavarez's observations and correctness of his "hybridization" explanation, how would this discovery in any way substantiate the story of Genesis or the notion that a supernatural being has and/or continues to intervene in natural selection/evolution?

Johnny - 5/6/2009 1:16:39 AM

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