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No. 54: Nov-Dec 1987

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Instances Of Observed Speciation

Creationists have long maintained that no one has ever observed the creation of a new species in nature. C.A. Callag han has sought to counter this attack on evolution with a paper bearing the above title. Her concluding paragraph is: "I have cited several instances of ob served speciation that can be used as illustrative examples in the classroom. They should also silence at least one common creationist argument against evolution."

The paper begins with the well-worn peppered-moth story; but Callaghan quickly dismisses this, as the creationists do, as merely an example of variation within a species. We now quote the lead sentences from her discussions of the next two candidates:

"An incipient neospecies of Drosophila may have developed in Theodosius Dobzhansky's laboratory sometime between 1958 and 1963 in a strain of D. paulistorum...."

"A probable instance of a naturally emerging plant species was discovered on both sides of Highway 205 at a single locality 25.5 miles south of Burns, Harney County, Oregon...."

We have inserted underlining beneath the two words that greatly weaken the paper. In short, the biologists are not really sure that speciation occurred in these two cases. The reasons for doubt are also presented.

The paper concludes with a discussion of allopolyploidy in plants, in which the chromosomes of a sterile hybrid are doubled, giving rise to a fertile variety. Allopolyploidy has been observed in primroses, tobacco, cotton, and other plants.

And that's it; two questionable examples and allopolyploidy. (Callaghan, Catherine A.; "Instances of Observed Speciation," American Biology Teacher, 49:34, January 1987.)

From Science Frontiers #54, NOV-DEC 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987