November 19th, 2009 11:54 EST
A Whole New Species
Divergent evolution or convergent evolution? Why are there so many animals within the same family that look so different, a horse, a donkey, a zebra? Why are there so many animals that are not even related that look so similar, a bat, a bird, a shark, a dolphin? Are we a product of evolution? Are we still evolving? If so, which category do we fit in?
Last spring my brother-in-law and I took our children on a hike through the Peralta desert, east of Gold Canyon, a seemingly endless hike for the empty little fuel tanks we brought with us. But what kept them going was the idea of exploring a famous bat cave at the end of our journey, a spooky, yet enthralling adventure.
When we finally reached the cave the little ones clicked over to their reserve tanks and marched full speed ahead. With our flashlights we crept further and further into the cave. The air was musty and it smelled like urine, a smell I was sure would follow us home, but it didn`t bother the ninos. The whites of their eyes were nearly gobbled up by their pupils. Some of the bats flew back and forth over our heads, letting us know we were trespassing.
Other bats clung to the top or stayed wedged in the crevices of the cave, clearly unamused by our presence. For them it was like watching a rerun for the umpteenth time. Although the bats had wings like birds and they flew like birds I knew they were not related. They hung from the top of the cave crossing their arms and their flappy skin-like wings across their chests.
The bats squeaked, they didn`t chirp, they didn`t have beaks, they had little mouths and they didn`t have feathers, they had fur. I wondered how they could be so similar but so different at the same time. I have learned that the two are a product of Convergent evolution, the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.
In a recent trail I followed on the Internet I ended up at Evolution Suite 101. There I found another interesting example of convergent evolution. Fish found in polar waters produce a type of protein in their bloodstreams. It is called glycoprotein and it acts as a type of anti-freeze. These proteins are found in fish near the Arctic and Antarctica. As brilliant as this phenomenon is, the genetic pathways that produce those proteins are different in the Arctic fish than they are in the Antarctic fish. This shows that the molecular evolution two separate species of fish produced the same results.
Divergent evolution, on the other hand, is when members of a species take different pathways of evolution than others like them. For example, the Honeycreeper finches of the Hawaiian Islands, once of the same species are now starting to evolve in different directions, taking on separate and unique traits. It is said that, due to their environments, some maintained a diet of strictly insects, while others ate only nectars. Some ate the fruit from trees and others only ate hard seeds. Over time these diets began to express different characteristics in the way these finches looked and acted.
Mankind is a direct result of divergent evolution. We are all of the same species, however, do you think it is interesting that we look so differently? Some of us are big, some of us are small, some of us are short and some of us are tall. Some of us have dark skin, while others have light. Some of us eat lots of meat, some of us don`t eat any meat. Some drink wine, some do not. Have you ever thought that this might influence the way we look.
Would the differences ever become strong enough that a whole new species would emerge for classification " just food for thought? It makes sense, but on the flip-side, there is a stark difference in what God will allow and what Science demands.