Backyard birdfeeders driving avian evolution

To: Andrew Bell <>
Subject: Backyard birdfeeders driving avian evolution
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Mon, 7 Dec 2009 21:23:53 +1000
In species that breed every year, I would think that consistent divergence could lead to speciation in time periods of the order of thousands of years.

Regards, Laurie.

On 07/12/2009, at 7:30 PM, Andrew Bell wrote:

Hi all

Some more thoughts on a very intriguing subject, it was an interesting

Google: evolution rapid finches

There are many examples of such minor changes in bird populations being cited as evidence for observable evolution, including melanotic urban rock doves. Darwin hypothesised that the development of all species was due to
the gradual accumulation of just such minor variations over very long
periods of time. He also investigated at length the inheritance of variation in domestic animals including dogs. He didn't have any knowledge though of how novel variations appeared. He would have revelled I think in modern genetics - rearrangement of genes, mutation of DNA and pondering of the
possible role of all that "junk" in controlling and changing gene

"Species" is of course an arbitrary division of a continuous, if mostly extinct, chain of variation, with more than one definition to choose from - the old one of genetic isolation certainly doesn't work very well, many "species" hybridize and produce fertile offspring. In the example discussed it is entirely reasonable to suppose we are seeing the first discernable link in this chain - we're just not going to be around nearly long enough to observe separation into "species". If we had observed this process in warblers, would we yet recognise as speciated the Willow Warbler and the Chiff Chaff, of for that matter the Northern, Mangrove and Grey fantails?

The recent ABC Catalyst on Gouldian's certainly set me thinking. It
discussed the strong tendency of Red heads to select Red heads as mates with
subsequent increased breeding success. The explanation offered was of
previous geographical isolation and merging of diverged populations when the
climate changed. It certainly suggests early speciation and raises the
possibility of continued now sympatric speciation within actual flocks. Who knows, if they survive another million years of climate change there might
be an additional "tick" to wait for.


Andrew Bell

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Peter Shute
Sent: Monday, 7 December 2009 8:24 AM
To: ; 
Cc: ; 
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Backyard birdfeeders driving avian evolution

I don't know much about genetics, but I was wondering the same thing (I

Dogs have been selectively bred till we have an astonishing range of breeds of varying sizes and traits, that breed true. Yet I'm told if you let them inter breed they quickly revert back to something like their ancestors.

I've never heard of this being offered as an example of evolution.

Peter Shute

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