A team of researchers caught a glimpse of a unique event which occurred for the first time in 150 years, since Charles Darwin wrote its theory of evolution. They observed a process called speciation, where a species of Galapagos finches evolved into a completely different species.
While looking at the bird populations on Daphne Major, one of the Galapagos Islands, scientists noticed one species which slowly turned into a different one. The birds in question are known as Darwin’s finches, which helped Darwin illustrate how the process of natural selection occurs. After analyzing the physical traits and genes of the bird, they discovered it turned into a whole new species.
In 1981, there were three species of finches on the island. Then, a male belonging to the cactus finch group also arrived there, and scientists quickly noticed the specimen was different from the three native species. Therefore, it couldn’t have been born on the island.
An entirely new species of finches evolved in less than 40 years
Shortly after its arrival, this bird started mating with the females of a native group, the medium ground finches. This is how they laid the bricks of a new species, which now numbers about 30 individuals. The process was quite slow and difficult, as the offspring lived isolated and needed to mate with its own kind.
Fortunately, the new species of finches was bigger, had a different call, and had a bigger beak. This gave them a clear advantage in getting food from difficult locations, which made it easier for them to survive. Even so, the evolution of an entire species occurred over a period of 30 years, which is still extremely quick.
Now, there are four species of finches which are native on Daphne Major. These newly evolved specimens might soon start breeding with other of the three species, which might give rise to a new speciation process. The study has been published in the journal Science.
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