New research challenges evolutionary theory

Oct 20, 2011
New research challenges evolutionary theory

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research from the University of Reading overturns conventional views on the nature of evolution, arguing that mammals did not develop into their many different forms in one early and rapid burst of evolution but rather found many different evolutionary routes.

It is widely assumed that often diverge rapidly early in their evolution, and that this is followed by a longer, drawn-out period of slower evolutionary fine-tuning.

Explanations for this pattern suppose that mammals moved into a largely unoccupied niche and geographical space as they came to be the dominant vertebrate group on Earth. Then, as time went on, niche space and unexplored geographical regions became scarce, reducing opportunities for .

However, the research led by Professor Mark Pagel, in conjunction with Dr Chris Venditti and Dr Andrew Meade, shows that there is no necessary connection between the rates at which new species emerge and the underlying rates of evolution of their features. Thus, the majority of , including two of the most prevalent orders of mammals (the rodents and ), have no history of substantial and sustained increases in the rates at which they evolve.

Instead, these species achieved high rates of ‘speciation' or the production of new species, even though their rates of evolution were close to normal for mammals.

By comparison, some of the highest average rates of change occur in one of the least numerous groups. The Proboscidea, including elephants and sea cows, evolve on average 4.6-fold faster than the mammalian norm. The results highlight natural selection's role as a precise sculptor of mammalian size , able to produce rapid body size changes seemingly at will.

Professor Pagel said: "It has long been believed mammals underwent a burst of body-size that occurred early in their history and that this was followed by a gradual slowdown towards the present. However, we find that the processes that give rise to the morphological diversity of this class of animals are far more free to vary than previously considered. Niches do not seem to fill up, and diversity seems to arise whenever, wherever and at whatever rate it is advantageous. We find that natural selection has found multiple different routes to producing the current diversity of sizes."

‘Multiple routes to mammalian diversity', by Chris Venditti (now at University of Hull), Andrew Meade and Mark Pagel, is published in Nature on Wednesday October 19.

Explore further: Rock-paper-scissors model helps researchers demonstrate benefits of high mutation rates

More information: DOI:10.1038/nature10516

Provided by University of Reading

3.5 /5 (19 votes)

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User comments : 34

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OvertOddity
5 / 5 (21) Oct 20, 2011
How long do you think it'll take Creationists to misconstrue this article?
involution
4.9 / 5 (22) Oct 20, 2011
Right, this is no "challenge to evolutionary theory." Please make up titles more carefully, people? Most won't go beyond the title, sadly.
Jaeherys
4.9 / 5 (14) Oct 20, 2011
This is indeed a very upsetting title as the only thing that that may change are details of what/when diversification happens.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (11) Oct 20, 2011
Evolution is rock solid, our descriptions of it are not, so no big deal, eventually all theories need modification/extension.

kaasinees
4.2 / 5 (15) Oct 20, 2011
Right, this is no "challenge to evolutionary theory." Please make up titles more carefully, people? Most won't go beyond the title, sadly.

Right, this is no "challenge to evolutionary theory." Please make up titles more carefully, people? Most won't go beyond the title, sadly.

Sadly physorg article writers aren't that bright and seek sensational headlines. They probably hire freelance writers or something.
LivaN
4.6 / 5 (8) Oct 20, 2011
Technically the heading is fine; however the source has a more appropriate heading.
Multiple routes to mammalian diversity

Then again, who would read an article with such a boring heading?
jdbertron
4.6 / 5 (9) Oct 20, 2011
Who writes this crap ? "seemingly at will". Oh yeah it must be the heavens.
hard2grep
1 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
For what this article was about, I would imagine the author had to be creative to make it work. Most of the work that really adds to humanity's body of knowledge is not very sensational alone; These advances are often cryptic and hard to put into words for a writer, So keep chewing your grass and be thankful the writer attempted to make it readable for you instead of putting it in the language it was intended to be used with. Quit smacking your gums and chew like the rest of us educated fools.
aroc91
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 20, 2011
inb4kevinrtrs
FrankHerbert
2.6 / 5 (15) Oct 20, 2011
Kevin likes to get the first AND last word in his witnessing. At this point he probably won't post :).

Congrats everyone!
Cynical1
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 20, 2011
A devout non-believer of any religious dogma and a absolute believer in the evolutionary process (of ALL things, not just "life as we know it")here.
That said, what if - evolution was the designed thing, not the actual evolving things that are a part of it? In an (quantum)infinite possibility system that everything in it is an evolutionary product of, you have to, at least, admit it is a POSSIBILITY (however remote)...
Hell, we humans do it all the time - "let's try this and see what happens...." - Like the time I threw a little gasoline on a bonfire - a completely unplanned action - to get it going. Let's call that MY mini big-bang event. It had a certain "designed-ness" to it(That was not very well thought out, it turned out), And I STILL run into innumerable, totally unintended, results of that act... "After-the-fact" analysis reveals the connection of a particular consequence to that event.

So... Just a "what if", mind you. NOT a statement of fact.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 20, 2011
Kevin likes to get the first AND last word in his witnessing. At this point he probably won't post :).

Congrats everyone!
Kevin only works on Sundays.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
evolution was the designed thing

And how did this being that designed "us" come to evolve?

Evolution perhaps? ;)

You can't have an intelligent being from 1 frame to another, intelligence has to evolve from something. In fact even something had to came to evolve from something smaller.
Noumenon
4.3 / 5 (56) Oct 20, 2011
Yes, Cynical I think that is possible,.. but imo the reason religious people do not put forth that argument is because they are not educated enough to do so,... or once they become educated enough they tend to be no longer religious.

They "could" just ascribe "creation" to first cause or underlying natural laws which lead to evolution, ...metaphysical questions outside the bounds of scientific applicability, rather than competing with scientific observation.

If they still want to question evolution or any other scientific theory, then they need to answer 'why it is that god has given us ability to understand the world and yet we are apparently misled in our observations'.

By their logic there would have to be a redundant and artificial seam to reality,.. existing between 'His Creation' and what appears to have occurred given inductive reasoning, which doesn't seem compatible with a perfect god.
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (16) Oct 20, 2011
Why are scientists still studying evolution? I thought the science was settled.
CHollman82
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2011
That said, what if - evolution was the designed thing, not the actual evolving things that are a part of it?...


That's all well and good and I certainly wouldn't say it's impossible, the question is what evidence is there to suggest it?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 20, 2011
Nou says
religious people do not put forth that argument is because they are not educated enough to do so,... or once they become educated enough they tend to be no longer religious.
And then rygga says
Why are scientists still studying evolution? I thought the science was settled.
-Thereby providing instant confirmation. Happenstance or numinosity...?
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
but rather found many different evolutionary routes
Does it challenge evolutionary theory more, than the creationistic idea of single one early and rapid burst of evolution? IMO it's just an example of boulvarism in science. These journalists just pretending the revolution, where it isn't being completely confused.
Noumenon
4.3 / 5 (54) Oct 20, 2011
Nou says
religious people do not put forth that argument is because they are not educated enough to do so,... or once they become educated enough they tend to be no longer religious.
And then rygga says
Why are scientists still studying evolution? I thought the science was settled.
-Thereby providing instant confirmation. Happenstance or numinosity...?


What?
Cynical1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2011
Okay. My head is about to explode from all the new words I am observing.
Evidence is the result of observation. Observation comes from experimentation, which we design based on OTHER observations.
I suggest we haven't experienced enough observations to design the right experiment to test my postulate.
I read another article on here, last night, that seemed to suggest (from their observations of an experiment) that the actions of a "system" (thing, set, whatever)can be predicted by the repeated observation of an element OF that set.
Based on that premise, I also suggest that "evolution"(of life as we know it) is an element of a much larger set and therefore observable "evidence"
Of course, that set would have to be an element of an even LARGER set...
Therefore; Mandlebrot was a prophet...:-)
xznofile
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2011
I don't think Physorg chooses the headline, it comes with the article & the writer sexes it up to get maximum exposure. It's ok w/ me, scientific lit can sometimes be excruciatingly dull, something to read before falling asleep.
biggingeryeti
5 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2011
Yay, another irresponsible headline that I will have to spend more time explaining when debating with creationists instead of actually getting to explain evolution. You wouldn't believe the fun I have had since New Scientist had a front cover with Darwin Was Wrong.
Alex_
5 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2011
how does this "challenge" the evolution theory. ?

terrible title. whoever wrote this needs to read the actual article.
Deesky
5 / 5 (6) Oct 20, 2011
Why are scientists still studying evolution? I thought the science was settled.

Why are you still making idiotic posts. I thought your stupidity was settled.
DavidMcC
not rated yet Oct 21, 2011
If body-size is the measure of evolutionary rate, then you wouldn't expect to see anything dramatic happen, except when that happened to be the trait on which the speciation was based. Often it would be some other trait that defined the species, so the period of rapid change gets missed in this study.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Oct 21, 2011
@NoU
What?
No, you see I was just commenting on the IRONY of the religionist marjons cynical comment about evolution which was made perhaps with some (a lot) of unfamiliarity with (ignorance of) the subject; in the CONTEXT of course of your comment about Religionists not being sufficiently educated (ignorant) with regard to the FACTS concerning evolution and all such and sundry things related.

I do hope this helps to assuage (ameliorate) your consternation.
CHollman82
2 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
If body-size is the measure of evolutionary rate


Generational period is the measure of evolutionary rate... body size is probably tightly correlated to generational period though.
mauro48it
not rated yet Oct 23, 2011
The only argument that I consider important is that the conservation of species diversity must take even more value.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Oct 23, 2011
Why are scientists still studying evolution? I thought the science was settled.

Why are you still making idiotic posts. I thought your stupidity was settled.

We keep being told the climate science is settled and we are told evolution is settled so why do people keep wasting their time and money to study them?
OH, you mean the science is NOT settled?
Ethelred
2 / 5 (4) Oct 23, 2011
OH, you mean the science is NOT settled?
You do like lie a lot.

The details of how evolution occurs and has occurred in the past will never be fully known. That evolution occurs is as solid as gravity. More so really since both mutations occur and organisms die thus evolution is something that cannot not happen.

Now as for the climate. It changes. That is settled. Only someone that is a complete ignoramus or idiot would claim otherwise. Only ignoramuses and liars claim that CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas. The only questions how much effect the variability of the Sun is involved and if CO2 is causing global warming or staving off global cooling.

And ALL evidence shows that YOU are not the person with the skills or knowledge to discuss either of these in a rational manner.

Ethelred
DavidMcC
not rated yet Oct 25, 2011
If body-size is the measure of evolutionary rate


Generational period is the measure of evolutionary rate... body size is probably tightly correlated to generational period though.


Not very. It's more complicated than that, otherwise a 25-year-old queen honey ant might have a problem fitting into one of those tight little tunnels they build!
DavidMcC
not rated yet Oct 25, 2011
OK, I confused generational period with individual life-span in my previous post. Perhaps the size of a one-year-old Humboldt squid is a better example. (They don't live much longer than most squid, but they eat a lot more in the time.)
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2011
... I agree, however, that generational period is more important than body size as a measure of the maximum "evolutionary rate" that could occur within a given line.
Mr Bill
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
For what this article was about, I would imagine the author had to be creative to make it work...


Science is about observing the way things actually appear to occur. New discoveries are fascinating in their own right. If you require that the information be jazzed up with colorful, sensational language that detracts from the science at hand, then you probably don't really like to learn about scientific discoveries. Obviously, the copy editors (those that set the headlines and require the puns and jokes and whatnot of their journalist) think science is boring too. But the rest of us would prefer to have our science straight. Please note all the comments above from frustrated readers that love real science. Physorg ought to be able to summarize new science without squirting verbal Cheeze Whiz all over it.

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