The holidays is a wonderful time of year when families come together, sit down around the dinner table, and get into heated political debates. This year, you can come prepared to argue over the validity of the theory of evolution with some exciting new evidence coming from the Galapagos. The Galapagos is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. The islands were made famous by Charles Darwin, who visited in 1835 to record observations of the varied species that exist only on the island. His time observing these species in this isolated environment later became the inspiration for his theory of evolution and his seminal work, On the Origins of Species. Since Darwin’s visit, evolutionary scientists have continued to return to the group of islands in search of additional evidence to support the theory of evolution. Now, we have some of the strongest evidence scientists could hope for.
Researchers from Princeton University were observing finches in the Galapagos when they noticed that a small subset of the group were starkly different birds with different wing colors and beak shapes. The researchers began observing these new birds to determine whether or not they were in fact new species or if they were just some normal finches with slightly different physical attributes. As it turns out, the birds were a product of two separate species of finch who mated and produced the new offspring. Scientists continued to study these new birds for two generations before finally concluding that evolution had produced a new species. It’s not uncommon for two species to produce a new offspring; however, it’s very uncommon for those species to be able to carry on the line due to limitations in the potential partner pool. These birds were only lucky enough to survive due to a few strong breeders who were able to produce a large number of children. The scientists watched this new species struggle to survive, but survive it did.
This exiting discovery is some of the strongest evidence in support of evolution to ever surface and you can read more about it here. In the past, we could only point to cursory examples of evolution where we saw natural selection take place or where evolution seemed to be a perfect explanation for events. Evolution is a slow process though that takes much longer than a single lifetime of any given species, so until now scientists had not actually observed evolution take place in the wild. Now we’ve seen evolution happen and it’s going to be much more difficult for deniers to deny the truth any longer.