What are some good examples of speciation in recent times that we have observed in higher animals?

So many interesting examples of new species which science has witnessed developing in modern times are bacteria and other "lower organisms" and so I was wondering about -- perhaps -- more "dramatic" examples of recent speciation which we have been able to observe (at least somewhat) in higher animals. Critics of evolution like to claim that evolution has never been witnessed in the laboratory but, obviously, time-scales often pose challenges for higher animals whereas quickly reproducing, many-generations-per-day bacteria do not. So I was just trying to think of interesting examples which might be more meaningful for a layperson audience to help them understand that "observation" of evolution is not necessarily as elusive as they might have presumed.

(I've intentionally put several of my terms in quotation marks because I'm using them in casual/non-technical ways that might merit special qualification. I'm certainly open to suggestions for more precise language even while trying to be understood by a scientifically-naive audience.)

6 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Evidence for evolution now includes the change in Croatian lizard diets. By introducing 5 pairs of a mainly insectivorous species to a new island habitat that offered alternate diets in unoccupied niches it was possible to test the hypothesis that species change the phenotypes of a population when exploiting new resources. The lizards in question (Podarcis sicula) shifted from being slightly vegetarian to being strongly vegetarian. The parent population included a mere 7% plant material in their diet but the daughter population consumes 34% to 64 % over the growing season. This change appeared in 40 generations.

    The first island has little plant cover compared to the second island so this second island offered a new diet for those lizards that could adapt to digest more greens. The lizards adapted to the diet with a distinctive change in their digestive tracts, reflecting a rapid genetic change that allowed them to survive on more foliage. These lizards now have a cecal valve. The cecal valve, typically found in ruminant species, slows the cellulose rich plant material’s passage through the foregut to allow bacterial fermentation.


    Genomic analysis shows these lizards have not hybridized with other near species to acquire this trait by cross breeding.

    National Geographic article reporting the shift in lizard behaviors & diet


    Lake Victoria/, a lake in Africa, is where Cichlid fish have speciated based on water clarity.



    Southeastern USA have native fence lizards evolving in response to the presence of fire-ants..


    The Bahamas with prey lizards showing sex specific adaptations to pressure from a predator


    Fully documented polyploid speciation in a plant

    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyP... - Polyploidy_in_plants

    Source(s): Great Britain has a study of gene flow along migration paths as birds select nest sites suited to their trait combinations. Thus phenotypically similar birds allocate themselves to pockets of forest microhabitat they can use most efficiently. This is the beginning of ecotype variation that can produce a speciation. http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2008... http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v433/n7021/ab... Resource partitioning can lead to niche differentiation in a population of plants. This can produce ecotype variants or sympatric speciation. http://www.kew.org/scihort/directory/projects/Symp... http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7090/fu... http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/science/21spec.h...
  • 3 years ago

    Examples Of Speciation

  • aragon
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Speciation Examples

  • 10 years ago

    The evolution of the jaguar is a good example of a relatively recent evolutionary event. When scientists looked at the DNA of the big cats, they find that some of them evolved from a small cat (e.g. the cougar and the cheetah) while others form a natural group. The big cats that form a natural group include the lion, tiger, leopard, snow leopard and jaguar. At the base of this group is the leopard. The snow leopard likely evolved from the leopard, and the tiger also evolved from the leopard. Ditto the African lion. So, the leopard has given rise to 3 distinct species without changing much itself. What about the jaguar, which looks so much like a leopard? Curiously, the closest relative of the jaguar is the African lion, not the leopard. Therefore it appears that the jaguar probably evolved from a lion. How? The jaguar lives in South and Central America, barely reaching the border of the United States at extreme southeastern Arizona, and the lion lives primarily in Africa, with a small isolated population in Asia.

    It turns out that the African lion has one of the widest distribution of any mammal besides humans. The lion in fact had reached North America about 11 million years before humans did. It was once widespread in Europe, Asia and North and South America before becoming extinct in the New World at the end of the last ice age. The American lion, a subspecies of the African lion, therefore is in a perfect position to have given rise to the jaguar. This is one of the more interesting cases of speciation, and it shows that evolution does not always take the shortest, most parsimonious, path. One would expect that the jaguar would be most closely related to the leopard if evolution is "parsimonius," but real world evolutionary history is far more complex and interesting than the straight lines we see in many of the inane cladograms that are published.

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  • 4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.


    What are some good examples of speciation in recent times that we have observed in higher animals?

    So many interesting examples of new species which science has witnessed developing in modern times are bacteria and other "lower organisms" and so I was wondering about -- perhaps -- more "dramatic" examples of recent speciation which we have been able to observe (at least...

    Source(s): good examples speciation times observed higher animals: https://tinyurl.im/46mwT
  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    The jaguar has been around since before people were in the New World, so we didn't actually observe that happening.

    My favorite is the mini-dachshund. It's not a gray wolf. They're endpoints of an artificial ring species. Kill the intermediates and no sane person would say they're the same.

    How about the Faroe Island house mouse?


    Too bad you're not interested in plants. For that, we have corn, and true-breeding triticale.

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