A Stranger Arrives. Just 2 Generations Later

New species of finch evolved on Galapagos Islands in just two generations

This generative segregation is thought to be a crucial step in the evolution of new species. He sang a different song to the other birds, and his body and beak were unusually large compared to all the other birds.

So, while it was previously believed that it would take hundreds of generations to bring about a new species, this example shows that it can happen just two generations after two separate species breed in nature.

"Charles Darwin would have been excited to read this paper", said Leif Andersson of Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Texas A&M University, coauthor of the study.

It all started with one courageous finch that chose to explore other islands and flew off to find a new mate among the native finch species on Daphne Major. The research team followed the new species for six generations, taking blood samples for genetic analysis.

The new species, called Big Bird, was observed by British husband and wife researchers Rosemary and Peter Grant, of Princeton University in the United States, evolving and establishing itself on the island of Daphne Major within the Galapagos from 1981. The peculiar tale takes place on a remote island in the Galapagos chain tucked away in the Pacific Ocean, and it's helping scientists to understand how new species can form much faster than we typically imagine.

The bird also sounded different, so it was clear that it wasn't from Daphne Major, but its origins were unknown.

The original breeding pair's offspring were unable to persuade other species to mate with them so bred between themselves.

"The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild", said B. Rosemary Grant, a senior research biologist, emeritus, and a senior biologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

In the case of the Big Birds, researchers believe that the new line has a good potential for success. The Galapagos Islands are known for being remote, which makes them flawless for studying evolution.

However, when these Big Birds reached maturity they couldn't find mates because they couldn't repeat the song of the native finches; they were also different in size and that prevented them from attracting partners. The male parent was a large cactus finch of the species Geospiza conirostris from Española Island, which is more than 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) to the southeast in the archipelago.

"We have no indication about the long-term survival of the Big Bird lineage, but it has the potential to become a success, and it provides a lovely example of one way in which speciation occurs", said Leif Andersson, a professor at Uppsala University.

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