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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Evolution News - Still Making Monkeys of Creationists

Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus mona
Population Genomics Reveals Incipient Speciation, Introgression, and Adaptation in the African Mona Monkey (Cercopithecus mona) | Molecular Biology and Evolution | Oxford Academic

A research paper dealing with the evolution of a widespread species of African monkey, the Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus mona, illustrates several mechanisms by which a species can diversify and speciate, and gives the lie to the Creationist claim that the Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis.

The reality is that the TOE is the foundation of modern biology and the only theory that explains the observed facts. Creationist frauds like to tell their dupes that it's about to be overthrown by some flavour of Bible-literalist fundamentalist creationism or other to make them feel intellectually superior to 'mad' scientists with their 'false' theories and wacky ideas.

A) Image of typical Cercopithecus mona taken at Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove protected area.
(B) Comparative genomics analysis among C. mona and six related primates. Node bars refer to 95% confidence intervals of divergence time and blue triangles indicate fossil-based calibration points
Ayoola, Adeola Oluwakemi, Zhang, Bao-Lin, et. al.
The mona monkey is a widespread African monkey of the Cercopithecus genus, showing considerable phenotypic, taxonomic, and ecological diversity across its range, forming numerous geographical varieties and subspecies. However, until now, it was not known how geographical populations of this species relate to one another and to other members of the Cercopithecus genus. Now an international research team, led by Adeola Oluwakemi Ayoola and Bao-Lin Zhang of the State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has successfully sequenced the genome of 13 individual mona monkeys from Nigeria.

From their analysis, the team showed that there had been evolution by:
  • Classic Darwinian allopatric speciation. Isolated populations east and west of the River Niger, separated by a physical barrier, evolve according to local environmental factors and genetic drift.
  • Introgression and hybridization. The East population showed signs of introgression of genes related to pigmentation.
  • Natural selection. Genes involved in immunodeficiency virus defences and malaria resistance showed evidence of being under positive selection pressure.
In other words, the "phenotypic, taxonomic and ecological diversity", giving rise to the "geographical varieties and subspecies" of mona monkeys could be accounted for by classic evolutionary processes operating at the genetic level.

Some years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining exactly how this process of divergence and speciation had probably occurred in the African monkeys, as an illustration of how evolution is a process, not an event and why we would not expect to find 'transitional' fossils showing this diversification, or why it can appear to be sudden in the geological record. Here is what I said at the time:
So where and what was the 'speciation event'? At what point in the process could an observer say, "Hey! I've just seen speciation occur! It happened when...". In fact, we only know that speciation has occurred retrospectively because, according to our rules of taxonomy, failure to interbreed means they are now different species. Maybe if we had been able to examine them a hundred thousand years ago, we might have found that they could still interbreed...

There was no sudden emergence of a new species; no sudden branching of the 'tree of life'; no mutation which brought a new species into being and no 'macro-evolution' event. There was no event which creation pseudo-scientists proclaim to be impossible and which they claim has never been seen. All there was was a slow accumulation of difference, directed by natural selection with each group doing nothing but struggling to survive and reproduce with the ones which left the most descendant contributing the most genes to the gene-pool.
This open access paper vindicates everything I said in that post. Although appearing in the March 2021 edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, it was published online in September 2020.

Abstract


Guenons (tribe Cercopithecini) are the most widely distributed nonhuman primate in the tropical forest belt of Africa and show considerable phenotypic, taxonomic, and ecological diversity. However, genomic information for most species within this group is still lacking. Here, we present a high-quality de novo genome (total 2.90 Gb, contig N50 equal to 22.7 Mb) of the mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona), together with genome resequencing data of 13 individuals sampled across Nigeria. Our results showed differentiation between populations from East and West of the Niger River ∼84 ka and potential ancient introgression in the East population from other mona group species. The PTPRK, FRAS1, BNC2, and EDN3 genes related to pigmentation displayed signals of introgression in the East population. Genomic scans suggest that immunity genes such as AKT3 and IL13 (possibly involved in simian immunodeficiency virus defense), and G6PD, a gene involved in malaria resistance, are under positive natural selection. Our study gives insights into differentiation, natural selection, and introgression in guenons.

And yet another scientific paper gives the lie to the Creationist claim that the TOE is a theory in crisis. As a reading of this research shows, it is the bedrock of biology as the only theory capable of explaining the diversity we see in nature, and it has the major benefit of not relying on magic and mysteries. It also reinforces the constant biologist refrain:

Where does one color change into another?

Evolution is a process, not an event,
so why demand evidence of an event?





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