It’s not every day that you get to see evolution happen before your eyes. Scratch that, until very recently, it wasn’t any day, since the process of speciation — in which one species splits into two distinct ones — takes place far too slowly to directly observe.
That’s now changed thanks to a groundbreaking piece of research in which scientists were able to observe speciation taking place in a laboratory setting, with one virus splitting into two new species over the course of a single month.
“Historically, this inability to directly observe the process [of speciation] has led some individuals to doubt the role of evolution in creating the many species that live today,” Justin Meyer, an assistant professor of biology at University of California, San Diego, told Digital Trends. “Not being able to show speciation in action is often a reason creationists cite for why Darwin’s theory is wrong and evolution does not occur. With this study, we have punched a major hole in their argument. Even more importantly, we have provided a novel experimental system where speciation can be observed in action and directly studied.”
The system Professor Meyer and his colleagues have created will be used to test many longstanding theories and move the study of speciation forward.
Of course, perhaps a better title would be "scientists witness new species evolving in lab."