Academic journal article The Science Teacher

New Origin of Species Model

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

New Origin of Species Model

Article excerpt

The tremendous diversity of life continues to puzzle scientists, long after the 200 years since Charles Darwin's birth. However, in recent years, consistent patterns of biodiversity have been identified over space, time, organism type, and geographical region.

Two views of the process of "speciation"--the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise--dominates evolutionary theory. The first requires a physical barrier such as a glacier, mountain, or body of water to separate organisms enabling groups to diverge until they become separate species. In the second, an environment favors specific characteristics within a species, which encourages divergence as members fill different roles in an ecosystem.

In a new study, "Global patterns of speciation and diversity," published in the journal Nature, Les Kaufman, Boston University (BU) professor of biology and associate director of the BU Marine Program, and a team of researchers from The New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) have found a way that they think settles the debate on the origin of species independent of geographic isolation.

Using a computer model, the researchers demonstrated how diverse species can arise from the arrangement of organisms across an area, without any influence from geographical barriers or even natural selection. Over generations, the genetic distance between organisms in different regions increases, the study notes. Organisms spontaneously form groups that can no longer mate resulting in a patchwork of species across the area. Thus, the number of species increases rapidly until it reaches a relatively steady state. …

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