Backyard birdfeeders driving avian evolution

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Backyard birdfeeders driving avian evolution
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Sat, 5 Dec 2009 16:40:01 +1000
For ornithologists interested in this study, the details are:

Contemporary Evolution of Reproductive Isolation and Phenotypic
Divergence in Sympatry along a Migratory Divide
Gregor Rolshausen, Gernot Segelbacher, Keith A. Hobson, and H. Martin Schaefer,
Current Biology 19, 1–5, December 29, 2009
DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.061


On 05/12/2009, at 12:01 PM, L&L Knight wrote:

There is probably a better discussion at

'Schaefer says it isn't clear whether the ecotypes will ever become separate species; in fact, he doubts they will because the habits of humans will tend to change over time. Even so, the findings do speak to the long-standing debate about whether geographic separation is
necessary for speciation to occur. In particular, it had been
contentious whether selection could act strongly and consistently
enough in sympatry to separate a united gene pool.
"In highly mobile organisms such as birds, the consensus is that
sympatric speciation is extremely rare, mainly because it is
difficult to envisage how gene pools could be kept separate until
speciation has occurred," Schaefer said. "Our results now show that the initial steps of speciation can occur very quickly in a highly
mobile, migratory bird," because divergent selection during the
overwintering phase leads to the evolution of reproductive isolation.
"This is a nice example of the speed of evolution," he added. "It is something that we can see with our own eyes if we only look closely enough. It doesn't have to take millions of years."'

On 05/12/2009, at 11:51 AM, Ross Macfarlane wrote:

That's not "challenging the conventional view", that's called
sympatric speciation (as opposed to allopatric speciation, which is the result of geographic separation). It is well and truly part of "conventional" evolutionary theory:

But it's not unusual for a science journalist not to know much
about science...

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