- Letters to Editor
By BRIANNA WHITE
A special presentation on evolution gave students the opportunity to examine evolution through the prism of the Galapagos Islands.
Kenneth Petren, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Cincinnati, talked about the “Unconventional Evolution in the Adaptive Landscape of the Galapagos” in the Moore Building on Friday morning.
Petren’s presentation was based on Charles Darwin’s analysis of the variation of species on the Galapagos Islands. Petren introduced conventional wisdoms the public commonly accepts as true, such as divergence is gradual, genetic change is rare, and speciation occurs in isolation. Using the genetic lineage of the island finches, he discussed the relevance of the conventional wisdoms to reality.
In his remarks, Petren brought up interesting points on thinking about conventional wisdoms. He said a majority of the population might accept conventional wisdoms, but that doesn’t necessarily make them true. He encouraged the audience to do their own observation and analysis.
“Arguments of diversity … will cause you to ask your own questions,” Petren said. “You have to think of new questions and think of topics differently.”
Petren presented an example of how trusting conventional wisdom could be detrimental, using one of Darwin’s mistakes as an example. Petren noted that Darwin made an embarrassing error by not labeling birds coming from the islands, which skewed his results.
Recent research from Petren includes analysis of ancient DNA from historical museum specimens to reconstruct recent revolutionary changes in the Galapagos finches. This revealed potential for rapid evolution of invasive species as they spread across fragmented human landscapes.
Samantha Sea, 20, a wildlife management sophomore from Lebanon, also enjoyed the presentation and is looking forward to learning more.
“I’ll be looking up some things I didn’t understand or want more information on,” Sea said.