(The intensity of the light of the flash during photography led the light-blue coloration along their vertebral column to become less apparent.)
In what appears to be a spooky example of Richard Dawkins' analogy of 'Climbing Mount Improbable', where he likened a species evolving in a fitness landscape to occupying the peaks by moving up an improbability gradient a small step at a time as small changes accumulate into big difference, we have this lovely example of seven new species of frog, each occupying a different mountain peak.
This was also something I tried to illustrate with a blog a few years ago which, with typical disingenuity, several creationists managed to 'misunderstand' completely, where I posed a simple algorithm based on the simple inevitability of natural selection acting on natural variance with no direction, no plan and no intelligence, yet appearing to produce design.
But of course the analogy breaks down slightly in this case because what we have is an example of different species becoming isolated on mountain peaks rather than moving up them as part of the evolutionary process. In fact, what we have is very probably the result of classical Darwinian evolution by population isolation and including genetic drift and founder effects. This has resulted in distinct species evolving. How they came to occupy the particular peaks they occupy isn't really relevant here. In fact, the Andes is a relatively young mountain range so the founder populations could have found themselves isolated as the land on which they lived rose up.
And then, of course, local microclimate and other local environmental factors would have acted differently on the different species which would have evolved locally accordingly. Wth no longer any ability to exchange genes, there was nothing to maintain the former genepool. One of the more noticeable changes probably related to miniaturization - these species are about the size of bumblebees - is a reduction in the number of toes.
Incidentally, this open access journal, PeerJ, commendably makes its publications freely available under CC-BY licence. If only other science journals did the same.
Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is a remarkable genus of miniaturized frogs of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. Many of its species are highly endemic to cloud forests, being found only on one or a few mountaintops. Such level of microendemism might be caused by their climatic tolerance to a narrow set of environmental conditions found only in montane regions. This restriction severely limits the chance of discovery of new species, given the difficulty of exploring these inaccessible habitats. Following extensive fieldwork in montane areas of the southern portion of the Atlantic Rainforest, in this study we describe seven new species of Brachycephalus from the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. These species can be distinguished from one another based on coloration and the level of rugosity of the skin in different parts of their body. These discoveries increase considerably the number of described species of Brachycephalus in southern Brazil.
Ribeiro LF, Bornschein MR, Belmonte-Lopes R, Firkowski CR, Morato SAA, Pie MR. (2015)
Seven new microendemic species of Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) from southern Brazil.
PeerJ 3:e1011 https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1011
So, here we have seven beautiful little frogs, the evolution of which is entirely consistent with accepted theories of evolution and yet, presumably, creationists of whatever currently fashionable form they're disguised as, believe they can explain them as the work of an intelligent designer. How they imagine coming up with slightly different designs, one for each mountain peak in a Brazilian rain forest, is the act of an intelligent designer, and just how, exactly, this is a more logical explanation of the existence of these frogs than that offered by the science of evolutionary biology, is a mystery. If the comments from even the more sane creationist on this blog are anything to go by, a mystery is something that it will forever remain.
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