The discovery of genetic evolution in Darwin’s finches has been made possible by the research carried out by a group of scientists.
Scientists from Princeton University and Sweden have discovered a gene that caused a change in a finch within a year’s time span. This was due to a drought that decimated the food supply. This genetic matrix for evolution and natural selection could come in handy in the future.
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Evolution is a pretty complex process and human beings have hardly come to know the ABCs of this intricate intelligence that governs Nature (both the original one and the human one which is a replica of the former).
Environmental transformation coupled with the gene HMGA2 caused the evolution of beak size in a finch known as Geospiza fortis. The finch comes from the Galapagos Islands.
The 18 bird species that inhabit the island had tiny or huge beaks depending upon several factors. Those finches who had smaller beaks survived the two year drought on the island better than those with larger beaks.
The study was reported in the journal Science.
The medium ground finches had perished in their competition with the larger ground finches. However the small-beaked ones did not lose the battle in the survival game.
The event provoked the comments of the experts. It was natural selection in fast forward mode. The HMGA2 gene played a pivotal role in this act of Nature.
Thus we see that even during short periods of time, when acute stress manifests itself, beak size may change dramatically causing everyone to sit up and take notice.
While such has been demonstrated before in bacteria, it has seldom been seen in a vertebrate. The gene seemed to control beak size. It is with beaks that the nutritional intake takes place.
This effect can be demonstrated by a simple example. A person who loves white rice and hates black rice is given a bowl containing both regularly. He will start avoiding the black rice and eat the white ones instead.
Over time the white rice will get scarce and the black ones will multiply. Thus we can say that the black rice have survived whereas the white rice have undergone a diminishing of sorts.
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Similarly the HMGA2 gene favored smaller beaks in finches over larger beaks. Beak shape and size is dealt with by a host of genes. The matter is far more complex than meets the scientist’s microscopes.