Skip to comments.Scruffy little weed shows Darwin was right as evolution moves on
Posted on 02/20/2003 2:30:45 PM PST by Junior
IT STARTED with a biologist sitting on a grassy river bank in York, eating a sandwich. It ended in the discovery of a scruffy little weed with no distinguishing features that is the first new species to have been naturally created in Britain for more than 50 years.
The discovery of the York groundsel shows that species are created as well as made extinct, and that Charles Darwin was right and the Creationists are wrong. But the fragile existence of the species could soon be ended by the weedkillers of York City Councils gardeners.
Richard Abbott, a plant evolutionary biologist from St Andrews University, has discovered evolution in action after noticing the lone, strange-looking and uncatalogued plant in wasteland next to the York railway station car park in 1979. He did not realise its significance and paid little attention. But in 1991 he returned to York, ate his sandwich and noticed that the plant had spread.
Yesterday, Dr Abbott published extensive research proving with DNA analysis that it is the first new species to have evolved naturally in Britain in the past 50 years.
Ive been a plant evolutionary biologist all my life, but you dont think youll come across the origin of a new species in your lifetime. Weve caught the species as it has originated it is very satisfying, he told the Times. At a time in Earths history when animal and plant species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, the discovery of the origin of a new plant species in Britain calls for a celebration.
The creation of new species can takes thousands of years, making it too slow for science to detect. But the York groundsel is a natural hybrid between the common groundsel and the Oxford ragwort, which was introduced to Britain from Sicily 300 years ago. Hybrids are normally sterile, and cannot breed and die out.
But Dr Abbotts research, published in the journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, shows that the York Groundsel is a genetic mutant that can breed, but not with any other species, including its parent species. It thus fits the scientific definition of a separate species.
It is a very rare event it is only known to have happened five times in the last hundred years Dr Abbott said. It has happened twice before in the UK the Spartina anglica was discovered in Southampton 100 years ago, and the Welsh groundsel, discovered in 1948.
The weed sets seed three months after germinating and has little yellow flowers. The species, which came into existance about 30 years ago, has been called Senecio eboracensis, after Eboracum, the Roman name for York. According to the research, it has now spread to spread to several sites around York, but only ever as a weed on disturbed ground.
However, more than 90 per cent of species that have lived subsequently become extinct, and its future is by no means certain.
It is important for it to build up its numbers rapidly, or it could get rubbed out which would be sad. The biggest threat to the new species is the weedkillers from the council, Dr Abbott said.
However, he does not plan to start a planting programme to ensure his discovery lives on. The next few years will be critical as to whether it becomes an established part of the British flora or a temporary curiosity. But we will let nature take its course, he said.
Oh no! We're evolving the wrong way!!
Discovery of a new weed proves that human beings weren't created? Uh huh... Sure.
Charles Darwin would have been the first to say that this has nothing to do with his Theory of Evolution.
The Theory of Evolution posits the gradual transformation of one species into another owing to the "survival of the fittest." If the analysis is correct, this is an instance of a hybrid of two species that unusually proved to be fertile.
It actually accords better with Medieval science, which posited creatures such as the gryphon, a cross between an eagle and a lion, than with the Theory of Evolution. In itself, it neither proves nor disproves the T of E.
I don't recall Creationism addressing what's happening now, only what happened then.
This dolt thinks he has proven what happened then by a single data point from now. That would take a much larger "leap of faith" than believing in God ever has.
That came from some other scruffy little weed, not a marigold, not a mum, not an oak tree. A weed came from a weed. Big deal.
You're right. A hybrid weed isn't exactly proof of evo any more than a mule is.
At a time in Earths history when animal and plant species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, the discovery of the origin of a new plant species in Britain calls for a celebration. The creation of new species can takes thousands of years, making it too slow for science to detect.
The above statement is itself a problem for evolution: If species are dying out at an alarming rate (which was as true 200 years ago as it is now) and new ones take thousands of years, is this not evidence that things are devolving?