Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fastest Evolving Creature is 'Living Dinosaur'

Livescience reports a very cool finding:

Scientists have pinned down the fastest-known evolving animal — a "living dinosaur" called a tuatara.

The tuatara, Sphendon punctatus, resembles a lizard and is found only in New Zealand. It is the only surviving member of a reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived alongside early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.

To make the estimate of evolutionary speed, researchers recovered DNA sequences from the bones of ancient tuatara. The team found that although tuatara have remained largely unchanged physically over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving — at a DNA level — faster than any other animal yet examined.The results will be detailed in the March issue of the journal Trends in Genetics.

"What we found is that the tuatara has the highest molecular evolutionary rate that anyone has measured," said researcher David Lambert from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution in New Zealand.

Many scientists have thought that molecular evolution would be fastest in animals whose physical form, or morphology, also evolved swiftly. The tuatara finding suggests otherwise, that there is no relationship between the two rates.

"Of course we would have expected that the tuatara, which does everything slowly — they grow slowly, reproduce slowly and have a very slow metabolism — would have evolved slowly," Lambert said. "In fact, at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly."

The rate of evolution for Adélie penguins, which Lambert and his team have studied in the Antarctic for many years, is slightly slower than that of the tuatara. The tuatara rate is significantly faster than for other animals that have been studied, including the lion, ox, horse and the now-extinct cave bear.

Lambert says the finding will be helpful in terms of future study and conservation of the tuatara, and the team now hopes to extend the work to look at the evolution of other animal species.
“We want to go on and measure the rate of molecular evolution for humans, as well as doing more work with moa and Antarctic fish to see if rates of DNA change are uncoupled in these species," Lambert said. "There are human mummies in the Andes and some very good samples in Siberia where we have some collaborators, so we are hopeful we will be able to measure the rate of human evolution in these animals too.”

Click here to go to the article.


Corey said...

This article was mentioned on a creationist blog to dispute evolution as false because it states the tuatara as a "living dinosaur." This term, I believe, is misleading.

AIGBusted said...

I agree it is slightly misleading. Popular Science articles tend to use buzz words and sensationalize as much as they can. BTW, I have an article on supposed "living fossils" and why they mean nothing for creationism.


Anonymous said...

Evolution is in its last days folks. True science proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most basic of living organisms are irreducibly complex. Macro-evolution is simply impossible.

Anonymous said...

irreducibly complexity isn't real science, it's pseudoscience.

Anonymous said...

Irreducible complexity is a fact of science. Macro-evolution is the pseudo science here and more and more secular scientists are finally realising, with the support of scientific studies and research, that grand scale evolution is simply not possible.

AIGBusted said...


Please see my article "Evolution for Creationists Part 4" As I have made a response to the Irreducible Complexity claim.

AJA said...

I really, really hate the term "Living Dinosaur". It's a buzz phrase that is horribly abused and leads to confusion. The only living dinosaurs are birds.

Anonymous said...

Someone on here stated this:

Evolution is in its last days folks. True science proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most basic of living organisms are irreducibly complex. Macro-evolution is simply impossible.

I do not understand the logic of this. Let us say that mico-evolution is true. Thus, you believe that horses look different today than in the past. The creation museum actually believes this, not just evolutionists. Therefore, even creationists admit some change is cultivated over time in species. Well, if this is true, then the only ingredient you need to jump from micro-evolution to macro-evolution is TIME. Let us say the earth is 6000-10000 years old as the museum claims. In that time period, horses have morphed in their appearance. If that is so, what will horses look like 10,000 – 100,000 – or ONE MILLION years from now? Is it not logical that if animals morph over time they will eventually morph so much that they will become so different to the point where only slight similarities remain between themselves and their historic, original counter parts? And if this is so, aren’t all surving animals destined to become so different that they might actually become a new species? After all, if you under go one million years of changes the changes will be so profound that something new has been formed.

Please, tell me how micro-evolution is true but macro-evolution is not based off the analysis above.If micro-evolution is true, then it MUST lead to macro-evolution in the future at some point in time.

Kinglemuel said...

What is meant by Macro-Evolution is that an animal can change from its original shape by mutation or some other means of new genetic information. what is meant by Micro-Evolution is that an animal my change its original shape due to genetic diversity, the main thing to remember is that Macro-Evolution requires the addition of new genetic information to the gene pool in order to change the animal into something els. While Micro-evolution means that an animal my change in shape because genetic information is lost from the gene pool. In other words if you eliminate all the genes for a specific feature then the entire group of animals will no longer have certain characteristics, making them appear different but they have not become something different at all.
What is actually taking place is the opposite of Evolution, because new genes are never added, rather we see gene pools being separated to create two different species while still retaining the ability to breed with each other, but because they're separated (usually geographically) they don't. What this is, is not the creation of new animals, but rather the beginning of the ultimate demise of the entire type of animal. Once they start splitting into separate populations, and loose certain genetic diversity they will not have the ability to adapt to certain conditions, once those conditions arise, the animal goes extinct.
If evolution were actually true we would not see animals going extinct at all because they would always be able to adapt to their environment.