A few little foxes threaten one evolutionary dogma with extinction
We often hear that opposing the “scientific consensus” on this-or-that topic is benighted. Sometimes it can be that. But sometimes it isn’t—especially when scientific findings themselves contradict an established scientific consensus.
For at least a century, biologists have believed that the more “genetic diversity” there is within a species, the better able that species is to adapt to environmental change, and thus thrive over time instead of becoming extinct because of such change.
But Prof. Dan Graur, author of a new biology textbook called Molecular and Genome Evolution, explains why he believes this is untrue. He focuses on two impressive counter-examples. The first is a species of island foxes living off the coast of Southern California.
Graur discusses an article in last month’s New York Times , which noted that the pesky creatures continue to thrive despite being devoid of genetic diversity. Both the Times writer, Carl Zimmer, and the scientists who had made the discovery are puzzled. “How can the island foxes get away with it?” asked Dr. Oliver A. Ryder, the director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.
The scientific consensus implies that zero genetic diversity is a formula for extinction. But those adorable (if genetically dull) foxes have been around for thousands of years.
This article continues at [Intelectual Takeout] How These Cute Creatures Confound Evolutionary Theory