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The lottery of life


The implications of Lake Victoria on the process of speciation
Jan Klein Scientist
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Now if that's so, that sheds a completely different light on the process of speciation. It indicates that the speciation is not a short-term event that consists of real separation and immediate divergence of the species, but rather is a recurrent event that species... that the forms... the populations might diverge but come together and interbreed for a while, diverge again and it might be going on for say 10,000 years. I think a similar process is also occurring, or it is indicated that it is occurring, in the Darwin finches on the Galapagos Islands where especially the groups of so-called ground finches cannot really be differentiated molecularly and it's very hard to diverge... distinguish morphologically by just looking at them and there is perhaps only one or two persons who can do that. And it has been observed that the traits by which they are distinguished, say the shape of the beak, vary within the same species... assumed to be the same species, depending on the climate in the particular season and according to what seeds grow in that particular period. Now if that's so, is it right to call them a different species? But this could be all semantic questions. The real question is how does the divergence of the species occur and the indications from our studies are that it's not a one shot event but something that continues for perhaps even a very long time, and that by chance or by some larger event eventually the going back and forth of the interbreeding or not interbreeding between populations is so drastically changed that then you get a real divergence and eventually you get reproductive isolation.

So I think this indicates a direction in which the further research in this area can go, and perhaps a reinterpretation of the real situation in... on the Galapagos Islands and in the Lake Victoria and probably many other models that have been studied over the years for the speciation.

Born in 1936, Jan Klein is a Czech-American immunologist who co-founded the modern science of immunogenetics – key to understanding illness and disease. He is the author or co-author of over 560 scientific publications and of seven books including 'Where Do We Come From?' which examines the molecular evolution of humans. He graduated from the Charles University at Prague in 1955, and received his MS in Botany from the same school in 1958. From 1977 to his retirement in 2004, he was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology at Tübingen, Germany.

Listeners: Colm O'hUigin

Colm O'hUigin is a senior staff scientist at the US National Cancer Institute. He received his BA, MSc and PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College, Dublin where he later returned as a lecturer. He has held appointments at the Center for Population and Demographic Genetics, UT Houston, and at the University of Cambridge. As an EMBO fellow, he moved in 1990 to the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Germany to work with Jan Klein and lead a research group studying the evolutionary origins of immune molecules, of teeth, trypanosomes and of species.

Tags: Galapagos Islands, Lake Victoria, Darwin's finches, Charles Robert Darwin

Duration: 3 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008