Speciation In Hawaiian Plant Hoppers Essay

1028 words - 5 pages

Scientists are continuously performing experiments testing the validity of hypotheses that derive from the core of evolutionary theory. Oliarus Polyphemus, the subterranean insect lineage that lives in lava tube caves on Hawaii Island, is ideal for studying the effects of natural selection and genetic drift. Known as Hawaiian cave planthoppers, these obligate cavernicoles live in the Hawaiian archipelago, which is subject to frequent volcanism and rapidly changing landscape dynamics. This leads to interconnected systems of lava tube caves and provides for a very unique environment. Hawaiian cave planthoppers are unique in that the different species in this lineage all live in extremely ...view middle of the document...

This experiment relies on the undisputed scientific basis of genetic drift and the concept that extrinsic factors, such as environmental changes, play a large role in influencing genetic evolution. However, controversy remains prevalent regarding the role of genetic drift in causing substantial differences between populations in reaction with various extrinsic forces. Thus, this experiment relies on the scientific landscape of the still-contentious founder-effect concept by Mayr. The scientific community has further developed this concept to include population structure and sexual selection. Carson’s founder-flush concept contradicts the founder-effect concept. The founder-flush concept claims a strong increase in species variability during the process of rapid population growth as the founding population grows to occupy a new habitat. According to this concept, the increased variability is a result of relaxed sexual selection deriving from a low availability of mating partners. After population growth, stronger sexual selection resumes, leading to population stabilization. According to this concept, the breakup of some co-adapted gene complexes, along with other random processes, can cause significant genetic differences in the new population. In addition, Templeton’s genetic-transilience theory also claims an increase in variation. Templeton’s theory is compatible with Carson’s founder -flush concept, but both are incompatible with Mayr’s founder-effect concept.
The experimental system used to address the question was manifold. The researchers utilized cave exploration, sampling, mapping, and age determination, morphology, acoustic recording and analyses, statistical analyses, molecular genetics and sequence analyses, phylogenetic analyses, and molecular clock analysis. 21 of the 30 caves known to include populations of O. polyphemus were systematically explored through the Hawaii Biological Survey. Individuals from 22 populations were studied for morphometric analysis, measuring nine parameters of the species. In addition, individuals were selected from 15 caves and brought to a laboratory that imitated their natural habitat. A male and female specimen from each population was placed together in order to record the vibrations of the mating calls, which were then assessed through ten time-pattern parameters. Statistical analysis was used to measure the confidence level of correlation between character variation and population age, amongst other parameters. Specimens from 18 caves were used for genetic comparison and analysis. Phylogenetic analysis and...

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