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View Diary: Dawn Chorus: Incredible Evolving Birds (92 comments)

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  •  Speciation... (15+ / 0-)

    ...is a much more complex topic then it used to be, and one moving increasingly into my realm - molecular biology.  It used to be that the primary method of determining species vs. subspecies is "do they breed and make fertile offspring?"  To a large extent, that's still true, but there are MUCH more subtle gradations when you start looking at DNA, and looking at molecular evolution alongside macro evolution (such as the cliff swallow example) can provide insights denied to the pioneers such as Bumpus and Darwin.

    Whew!  You start talking about taxonomy, you get into the weeds quicker then a Grasshopper Sparrow making a nest.

    However, the point that this article made is an important one: just because two birds look different and occupy different niches, does NOT make them different species. And speciation is a far more complex process then it looks, especially at the DNA (molecular) level.

    Finally, I'll leave you with this little tidbit: the genetic similarity between human beings and chimpanzees is about 95%.  (Not 98-99% as previously claimed).  But in that 5%, and in the way different genes are regulated and turned on, immense changes can happen at the macro level.

    Now to go listen to the Blue Jays announcing spring outside.

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