What does it take to change a species? New research details how people putting out birdfeeders may have influenced the evolution of a species of songbirds. Writing in the journal Current Biology, researchers describe how one species of European songbird, the blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), has been split into two reproductively isolated groups in fewer than 30 generations. One group migrates to the southwest, the other to the northwest, overwintering in either Spain or the United Kingdom. The researchers found that the northwestern-migrating birds, which take advantage of birdfeeders in the UK, had developed rounder wings and longer, narrower bills than the southwestern birds. Science, technology, environment and health news and discussion from the makers of the NPR public radio program Science Friday with host Ira Flatow. Dec 4th 2009
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Scientific American Editor in Chief John Rennie discusses the special January issue of the magazine, which focuses on evolution—2009 being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. Subjects in the issue include the importance of natural selection, the sources of genetic variability, human evolution’s past and future, pop evolutionary psychology, everyday applications of evolutionary theory, the science of the game Spore, and the ongoing threat to science education posed by creationist activists. Plus, we’ll test your knowledge about some recent science in the news.
February 12 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, certainly the most important biologist in history and one of the great figures in science. Darwin, of course, spent his life developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, which has become the foundation for the understanding of biology. In the 1960’s evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," and that’s a statement with which few biologists would argue.
To honour Darwin’s birthday, we’re devoting our program to a discussion of the life and work of Charles Darwin, and to a discussion of his impact on modern science, with three special guests.