Thursday, 30 July 2015

New Wolf Dogs Creationists

African golden jackal, Canis anthus
Photo credit: Eyal Cohen
Source: AAAS Science Magazine
Genome-wide Evidence Reveals that African and Eurasian Golden Jackals Are Distinct Species | Current Biology

The world has a new species of dog - and creationists have another embarrassing fact to ignore.

Although strikingly similar, scientists have shown that the African and Asian golden jackal, until now classified as a single species, Canis aureus, are actually two different species which diverged from ancestral coyotes and grey wolves at different times; 1.3 and 1.9 million years ago, respectively. The similarity is probably due to very similar habitats, food and lifestyle giving rise to parallel evolution. The team have proposed the new name Canis anthus (African golden wolf) for the African species.

The key to the difference was found in the mitochondrial DNA which the team of researchers found differed by 6.7%. Other genetic evidence supported the finding.

  • African and Eurasian golden jackals are genetically distinct lineages.
  • Divergence between lineages is concordant across multiple molecular markers.
  • Morphologic convergence is observed between African and Eurasian golden jackals.
  • African golden jackals merit recognition as a distinct species.

The golden jackal of Africa (Canis aureus) has long been considered a conspecific of jackals distributed throughout Eurasia, with the nearest source populations in the Middle East. However, two recent reports found that mitochondrial haplotypes of some African golden jackals aligned more closely to gray wolves (Canis lupus), which is surprising given the absence of gray wolves in Africa and the phenotypic divergence between the two species. Moreover, these results imply the existence of a previously unrecognized phylogenetically distinct species despite a long history of taxonomic work on African canids. To test the distinct-species hypothesis and understand the evolutionary history that would account for this puzzling result, we analyzed extensive genomic data including mitochondrial genome sequences, sequences from 20 autosomal loci (17 introns and 3 exon segments), microsatellite loci, X- and Y-linked zinc-finger protein gene (ZFX and ZFY) sequences, and whole-genome nuclear sequences in African and Eurasian golden jackals and gray wolves. Our results provide consistent and robust evidence that populations of golden jackals from Africa and Eurasia represent distinct monophyletic lineages separated for more than one million years, sufficient to merit formal recognition as different species: C. anthus (African golden wolf) and C. aureus (Eurasian golden jackal). Using morphologic data, we demonstrate a striking morphologic similarity between East African and Eurasian golden jackals, suggesting parallelism, which may have misled taxonomists and likely reflects uniquely intense interspecific competition in the East African carnivore guild. Our study shows how ecology can confound taxonomy if interspecific competition constrains size diversification.

© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Asian golden jackal, Canis aureus
Source: Wikipedia
So why should this be yet another embarrassment for creationists?

Basically, there are two types of creationist: those who flatly deny that there is such a thing as evolution so they won't accept that there is any relationship in terms of common ancestry between any species. According to their superstition, an invisible magic man magicked everything in one day a few thousand years ago. It's not those loons who need to feel any more embarrassed than having those childish beliefs should make them feel anyway; the ones who will be embarrassed are the second version of creationism.

This version says that evolution does happen and sometimes at warp speed with lots of new varieties, regional forms and subspecies evolving in a single generation, in order to explain how we have so many different varieties, subspecies, etc., in just a few thousand years from just two or three pairs. However, this version of creationism insists that while this form of evolution is perfectly possible, though they never explain how it works so quickly, for it to progress to the point where taxonomists classify the results as different species it has to involve a different mechanism of evolution which is declared to be impossible. They call these versions of evolution 'micro-' and 'macro-' evolution respectively.

Now, had we been having a discussion last week about how the Eurasian and African golden jackals differed, creationists of the second type would be quite happy to explain that this was just 'microevolution' so it was entirely consistent with their superstition and its holy book; no problem at all with natural selection acting on small variances because they were both Canis aureus and not different species.

Now, they have to argue that the mechanism they would have been quite happy with last week, is now impossible and never happened.

Creationists are normally quite use to these sorts of embarrassment. Indeed, most of them seem so ignorant of the science and its implications for their superstition that they don't even realise they should be embarrassed by reality.

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