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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Butterfly Study Sheds Light On Convergent Evolution

A classic creationist canard is to find something that science may not have figured out yet, and proclaim, "therefore my supernatural entity did it!"  That is just plain wrong.  Not having an answer yet is no reason to substitute in a totally unfounded and unsupportable answer of "magic" in its place.  Especially when eventually science does figure it out!  Then the unnecessary "magic" answer seems really silly (which it was all along to people who subscribe to reality).

One of the stumper questions was Convergent Evolution.  It just seemed like a weird thing that happened in nature, and whe knew that it provided a benefit (the why), but the how was puzzling.  So this article is all part of replacing the magic with an actual how explanation.

Butterfly Study Sheds Light On Convergent Evolution: Single Gene Controls Mimicry Across Different Species

For 150 years scientists have been trying to explain convergent evolution. One of the best-known examples of this is how poisonous butterflies from different species evolve to mimic each other's color patterns -- in effect joining forces to warn predators, "Don't eat us," while spreading the cost of this lesson.

Now an international team of researchers led by Robert Reed, UC Irvine assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, has solved part of the mystery by identifying a single gene called optix responsible for red wing color patterns in a wide variety of passion vine butterfly species. The result of 10 years of work, the finding is detailed in a paper that appears online July 21 in the journal Science.

"This is our first peek into how mimicry and convergent evolution happen at a genetic level," Reed said. "We discovered that the same gene controls the evolution of red color patterns across remotely related butterflies.
"This is in line with emerging evidence from various animal species that evolution generally is governed by a relatively small number of genes. Out of the tens of thousands in a typical genome, it seems that only a handful tend to drive major evolutionary change over and over again."

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