The degree to which evolution is a predictable process has been a long-standing debate in biology. The main problem is a lack of data about the underlying processes of selection and inheritance. Furthermore, it is difficult to identify the deterministic and stochastic characteristics of trait variation, which are necessary to predict genetic change.
The new study reveals that the genetic code of a single species of ape can evolve in different directions. For instance, the descendants of one ape species lived in Africa six million years ago and evolved into chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans. It is these small differences that cause splits in a population.
The authors of the study cite several examples of such fluctuations. Observed results suggest that fluctuations in climatic conditions have influenced the distribution of seed sizes, while variations in rainfall on Daphne Major influence the relative abundances of large and small seeds. Similarly, the beak size of Geospiza fortis varies depending on drought conditions. The study also suggests that such changes may be the result of random mutations.
The researchers also claimed that there are numerous predictive aspects of evolution theory. For example, the absence of a eusocial mammal proves that Alexander’s theory about the origin of eusocial behavior is wrong, but doesn’t invalidate the broader theory. Other important tests of the theory include the age of Earth and the presence of transitional fossils.
The earth’s environment is constantly changing, but these changes are usually relatively subtle. However, they can cause mass death if the changes are too drastic. The genetic diversity of a natural population allows for the adaptation of traits that may be advantageous to survival. In the long run, these traits will become more common among the descendants of the survivors.
Evolution theory is a powerful tool for studying the distribution of species around the Earth. One compelling example is the distribution of species on islands. There, species have evolved to adapt to varying diets. This phenomenon is known as adaptive radiation. As a result, new species are created to fill a certain ecological niche.
Many biologists now accept the theory of evolution. This theory is backed by an overwhelming body of evidence. However, the specific evolutionary path of some species is still a mystery. In 1973, a noted environmental biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, summarized this debate.