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Hybridization and Polyploidy

(Stephen Caesar MA) We can certainly notice the fact that brand-new species of plants and animals suddenly appear in the fossil record bearing remarkable similarities to related species. Automatically credited to Darwinian evolution, in many cases these new species, similar to but noticeably different from their near relatives, are actually the result of hybridization between two different species within the greater created kind (the Hebrew miyn of Genesis 1:11, translated genus in the Latin Bible). Several examples of this, occurring before scientists’ very eyes, have been mentioned in this column.

Robbin C. Moran, Curator of Ferns at the New York Botanical Garden, has observed this phenomenon with common ferns and lycophytes, a genus of plants that, like ferns, reproduce via spores. In an article in the journal Natural History, Moran pointed out that scientists who study ferns now make use of reticulograms, scientific diagrams that “depict the relationships between species and their hybrids, showing which species have come together to form which hybrids” (Moran 2004: 55). Reticulograms also show which hybrids are sterile (producing non-viable offspring), or fertile (producing viable offspring). According to Moran, almost all hybrids start off as sterile, but if they double their number of chromosomes through a process called polyploidy, “they automatically become fertile” (ibid.).

According to Moran, a large number of species have popped into existence through hybridization and polyploidy rather than through Darwinian evolution. Referring to the second volume (Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms) of the Flora of North America, published in 1993, which was the first scientific treatise on plants to include reticulograms, Moran wrote: “Of the 420 species of ferns and lycophytes described in the treatise, about a hundred originated as hybrids and later became fertile through polyploidy” (ibid.).

 

Plant polyploidy happens in nature when an abnormality occurs in the cell division that produces spores. Usually, a spore gets only one chromosome from each pair of chromosomes in the parent plant, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, and instead a spore gets a full contingent of chromosomes (meaning two of each pair). Once this abnormal spore germinates, the resultant eggs and sperm also carry the double contingent of chromosomes. “That,” says Moran, “sets the stage for polyploidy” (ibid. 56).


Hybrids, on the other hand, come about when the sperm from one species of fern fertilizes the egg of another species. The resultant hybrid grows into a normal plant, but it is sterile. This is because during the cell division that produces reproductive spores, the chromosomes of the two parent plants don’t pair up properly (if at all), and are then distributed unequally to the daughter cells (ibid.). Often, however, polyploidy steps in to work with hybridization to create new species within the greater fern miyn. Moran explains:
If polyploidy leaves two copies of each chromosome in a hybrid’s cells, each chromosome gets a partner that is an exact duplicate of itself. During spore formation in the hybrid, normal pairing of chromosomes can take place, and the chromosomes can be distributed equally to the spores. The new plant is now fertile, able to disperse and reproduce, SOMETIMES BEYOND THE RANGES OF ITS PARENTS (Ibid. [emphasis added]).

This fits in well with a Genesis framework: after the original creation of plants “according to their miyn/genus/kind,” the fern miyn/genus began to spread across the globe, undergoing a combination of hybridization and polyploidy as the years progressed, with each new fern species spreading slightly farther than the geographical range of its parent species. Appearing in the fossil record, this would certainly create the impression that these new species sprang up as the result of evolution, when it could just as well have been what is still occurring today for scientists to witness and report on: the creation of new species through hybridization that produces viable offspring via polyploidy.

 

 

The new butterfly specie of Agrodiaetus genus

According to the Genesis model of origins, God created not each individual species, but the wider genus to which each species belongs. Genesis 1:11 and 1:21 state that God created animals and plants “according to [their] kind.” “Kind” is miyn in Hebrew; the Latin Vulgate translates miyn as genus. Charles Linnaeus, the scientist who formulated the genus/species system of nomenclature for animals and plants, used the Bible as the source of his formula. When he saw the word genus in his Latin Bible—the Hebrew miyn—he chose that as the designation not for an individual species, but for the wider genus to which it belonged.

For example, the scientific name for the domesticated dog is Canis familiaris. Canis is the genus/miyn, while familiaris is the species. Canis is Latin for “dog,” referring to the wider dog “kind,” while familiaris refers to the familiar, domesticated dog as an individual species. Canis encompasses wolves and coyotes: Canis lupus is the wolf (lupus being Latin for “wolf”), while Canis ladrans is the coyote (ladrans being Latin for “thief”). The same logic applies to Felis domesticus, the scientific name for the housecat. Similarly, the lion is Felis leo.

Genesis thus indicates that God created each genus/miyn, not each individual species. Within each genus He provided a blueprint for diversity, enabling each genus to split, over time, into numerous species (a process called speciation). This has happened before the eyes of Harvard and Russian scientists, who have witnessed the speciation of the Agrodiaetus genus of butterflies. In a process called reinforcement, new species within the genus/miyn are being created, as individual butterflies’ wing colors are becoming different enough to avoid confusion at mating time with other species within the genus. This avoidance helps prevent the butterflies from creating less-fit hybrid offspring (Powell 2005: 11).


According to the Harvard Gazette, the researchers, led by Harvard biology professor Naomi Pierce, found that

newly diverged species [within the Agrodiaetus genus] living in the same area that could still mate and have hybrid young had more distinctive wing colors than other closely related species that had diverged at an earlier time, as well as those living in different areas from each other (ibid.).

This happens because the butterfly species are still closely related enough that they occasionally interbreed, but the resultant hybrids are less fit than their parents. To ensure that this does not persist, the various Agrodiaetus species have developed distinguishing characteristics, such as male wing color, that reduce the risk of mating with a different Agrodiaetus species and producing weak offspring. “The fact that the hybrids are less viable,” Pierce noted, “drives the divergence between the parent species” (ibid.).

Since the Agrodiaetus genus lives in a huge swath of territory in Eurasia, its members frequently become geographically isolated. Pierce’s team has observed that, among groups that have been isolated long enough to diverge into new species, wing color is one of the first traits to change. When diverged species are brought back together, they are still able to mate with each other. However, when these incipient species interbreed, they produce hybrid offspring that are less able to survive and reproduce than are the offspring of butterflies that mate within their species. Male wing color was the leading factor in preventing members of incipient species from interbreeding (ibid. 28).

This fact weakens the theory that new species appear as the result of natural selection. According to the Harvard Gazette,

Natural selection’s role in the creation of new species is a controversial topic among biologists. Some biologists believe that natural selection does not play a direct role in the formation of new species. Rather, speciation is seen as simply the byproduct of changes that take place when populations evolve in isolation over time. This can happen when populations are geographically separated by a barrier such as a mountain rising up to isolate populations in valleys on either side. In these cases, the accumulation of different traits over time in the two populations living in different environments eventually results in different species that, if reunited, will not interbreed (ibid.).

This matches the Genesis model: As each genus spread out and became geographically isolated, they underwent changes that eventually became significant enough that they could no longer interbreed with members of their genus from whom they had become separated. The resultant “evolution” was not an upward march from primitive to more-advanced species, but a divergence into roughly equal species within the created kind/genus/miyn. The various species of the Agrodiaetus genus are not evolving upward into superior butterflies, but are fanning out to become new species, none of whom is more advanced than the others, but merely better adapted to the particular geographical location which they find themselves in.

Visit: biblearchaeology.org

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