New bird species evolved in just two generations

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This generative segregation is thought to be a crucial step in the evolution of new species. It was larger and built differently than the few bird species native to the island, and it also sounded different.

The observation was made by B Rosemary and Peter Grant, two scientists from the Princeton University in the US.

Because of the distance, the male finch was not able to return home and so chose a mate from one of the three species native to Daphne Major. The peculiar tale takes place on a remote island in the Galapagos chain tucked away in the Pacific Ocean, and it's helping scientists to understand how new species can form much faster than we typically imagine.

The new species of Darwins finch was observed during field work carried out over the last four decades by B Rosemary and Peter Grant, two scientists from the Princeton University in the United States, on the small island of Daphne Major. "He was so different from the other birds that we knew he did not hatch from an egg on Daphne Major", said Peter Grant, an emeritus professor of zoology along with ecology and evolutionary biology.

Interbreeding between the two different species of finches produced fertile offspring of a new species.

On a remote island called Daphne Major in the Galapagos chain, back in 1981, a team of researchers noticed a unusual bird that didn't look like anything typically found on the island.

The original breeding pair's offspring were unable to persuade other species to mate with them so bred between themselves.

This gave rise to a population of finches, about 30 of them.

Recently, a team from Uppsala University analysed DNA taken from the parent birds and their offspring, finding that the newcomer was actually a large cactus finch from the island of Española - which lies more than 60 miles to the southeast of the archipelago.

Professor Leif Andersson, of Uppsala University, added: "A naturalist who came to Daphne Major without knowing that this lineage arose very recently would have recognized this lineage as one of the four species on the island".

Ironically, the discovery was published on the eve of the anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's magnum opus titled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", which was released in 1859 and largely inspired by his time on the Galapagos Islands.

"We have no indication about the long-term survival of the Big Bird lineage, but it has the potential to become a success, and it provides a attractive example of one way in which speciation occurs", said Leif Andersson, a professor at Uppsala University.

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