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So much for evolution - sort of . . .

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A new study seems to indicate that evolution is mainly the result of time and luck rather than being dependent primarily on environmental adaptation.

One reason scientists are skeptical is that Hedges’ clocklike pattern conflicts with the traditional picture of how evolution unfolds. “The classic view of evolution is that it happens in fits and starts,” Benton said. A change in the environment, such as a rise in temperatures after an ice age, might spark a burst of speciation as organisms adapt to their new surroundings. Alternatively, a single remarkable adaptation such as flight in the ancestors of birds or hair in mammals might trigger a massive expansion of animals with those characteristics.

Hedges argues that while such bursts do occur, the vast majority of speciation is more prosaic and evenly timed. To start, two populations become separated, driven apart by geography or other factors. New species emerge every 2 million years, on average, in a metronomic rhythm tapped out by the random nature of genetic mutations. He likens the process to radioactive decay. It’s impossible to predict when an individual radioactive nucleus will decay, but a clump of many atoms will decay at a highly predictable rate known as the material’s half-life. Similarly, mutations strike the genome randomly, but over a long enough time the accumulation of mutations follows a pattern. “There is a kind of speciation clock ticking along,” Hedges said.

Consider Hawaii’s honeycreepers. The speciation clock started once the birds migrated to a new island and began to accumulate random mutations. The vast majority of these mutations were neutral, having no effect on the birds’ appearance or behavior. Occasionally a beneficial mutation appeared, such as one that made the beak longer and its bearer a more efficient hunter. According to the traditional model of speciation, the adaptations eventually made the two populations too different to interbreed even if they were to come back into contact. In this scenario, adaptations drive the creation of a new species.

But Hedges contends that speciation and adaptation are two distinct processes, each proceeding along its own path. (A team led by Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading in England, has made a similar proposal, though for different reasons.) According to Hedges’ model, after about 2 million years the two groups of birds accrued so many random genetic differences that they became incompatible. It wasn’t adaptive mutations that made it impossible for the birds to intermingle, but rather the accumulation of enough mutations overall, most of them neutral ones. Geographic isolation provided the necessary spark for speciation, but simple time drove the process to its conclusion.
 
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I feel like this isn't anything new. This is what evolution is about. Mutations stacking up over time. Environmental factors are known to have an impact but so does mutations over time.


For one bird living in the desert a slight mutation that helps it withstand increased heat will be better off, while the same bird experiencing the same mutation living in colder climates will not do as well.

Its both internal and external variations that matter (again I thought this is known unless I missed the point). If the argument is which matters most I suppose it would be the internal.
 

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A new study seems to indicate that evolution is mainly the result of time and luck...
This is evolution.

...rather than being dependent primarily on environmental adaptation.
This is natural selection.

The latter is a component of the former. Nature weeds out the weak from the strong meaning those that do procreate are more likely to survive in the next generation. Note how that bolded phrase ties back into the former. It's not "luck;" it's probability.


Frankly, I'd like to see more research into eggs and sperm; specifically, through which function do millions of variations form. None are exact copies--all have minor, deliberate variations. Every mammal is capable of producing millions of variations of itself excluding the mate. That is the heart of evolution. Crack that nut and I think it will expose not only the function of evolution in complex organisms but it will likely reveal the path to evolution of single celled organisms.

We need to someone that has donated their body to science and map the genetic code of most, if not all, of their eggs/sperm (eggs being preferable, so female would be better). I think it would lead to many breakthroughs in biology.


It still boggles my mind how virtually all humans on Earth, despite our major differences, are still sexually compatible. I suspect this may be because our differences developed over 70,000 years where the birds had 2 million. It's something to ponder.
 
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They're not saying that there is NO adaptation, just that adaptation occurs by chance rather than environmental pressures. For example, you might get a genetic adaptation that allows a plant to use water more efficiently. It doesn't need the adaptation, it just lucks out.

Naturally, such a plant will be able to survive in a more arid climate than other plants. So if it's seeds get transported to a place that tends to be drier and there aren't other plants already there to compete with, it will survive and look like it had adapted to dryness.
 

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That's pretty much how Darwin described it though...unless I have revisionist history. I should really read On the Origin of Species.

Or maybe I am looking at this wrong. Darwin assumed mutations had to occur in order for natural selection to matter but there really hasn't been much proof that it happens prior to this. Darwin published his book at about the same time DNA was first described. The birds were to Darwin as the apple was to Newton. This paper could be to Darwin as General Relativity was to Newton. Monumental, if that is the case.
 
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Thats how i thought it always worked, as ford said its evolution vs natural selection.

Evolution is slow randomness, natural selection kills off the failed ones.
 
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Just as a side note, there is evidence that organisms respond differently to stress. IIRC, there is a class of genes that produce stress proteins when there aren't enough resources, have temperature extremes, etc.

In addition, it's now known that environmental factors can cause changes to the epigenome - the tags on dna that determine if a particular gene is active or not. I think it can also up or down regulate gene activity. And in recent years it's been shown that these epigenetic changes can be inherited. I think there was some speculation that this could be the cause for typical Darwinian evolution.
 
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