divergent: a brief explanation of speciation

divergent: a brief explanation of speciation

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning.

Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

The general public – especially the portion that has religious affiliations – has severely misunderstood the concept of evolution. For years, I also subscribed to this (deliberate) misunderstanding, often taking bits and pieces of what I (mis)understood, and turning them against the theory.

Like, “If we evolved from apes, then why aren’t we better equipped, physiologically? Why are they covered in hair and we’re not?” And so on.

In reality, that’s not evolution at all. The idea of “straight-line evolution” – most accurately illustrated by the classic ape gradually standing through the ages and turning into a man – is inaccurate, and ignores the intricacies of actual microevolution.

The Darwinian definition of evolution is simply “descent with modification.” It’s just change over time. This determinant change is the continuously fluctuating frequency of alleles (variant forms of a given gene) in a given population through the generations.

Basic Information on Evolutionary Science

The figure in the photo below is a cladogram. It is a graphic representation of life, and the connections between all living organisms. Each clade (branch) is distinguished by specific characteristics, physical features that separate them from the clades before.

These traits take years, decades, centuries, millennia, to develop. Heritable mutations will arise, and if the individual hosting the mutation has good survivorship and fitness (relative reproductive success), that trait is then allowed to persist throughout future generations of a species.

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Genetic variation that is not heritable, however, will not persist into the genotype (genes) of the offspring, and so, is not qualified as evolution. For example, if I were to get hit in the face and earn a scar for it, that change is unique to me, and so will not be passed on to my children. Such a change that is specific to me as an individual, or confined to my generation, is not evolutionary change.

That brings us to natural selection – the thing that makes evolution work. It’s the “consequence of individual differences in fitness” (in the words of my college Prof. Sam Sweet). The “survival of the fittest,” or whatever you want to call it, cannot work unless these three stars are aligned:

  1. Variation
  2. Heritability
  3. Affects fitness

So, as we’ve just established, if a variation is not heritable, it cannot be passed on. Genetically, it will have no value to future generations. So even if it was a cool variation, only that individual (or that handful of individuals) will be cool for the rest of its life, and no one else gets to experience that particular amazingness.

On the other hand, if that variation is heritable, it can be passed on – so, example: A bear that has a mutation for a blue coat has the potential to pass on his blueness to his offspring.

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How Speciation Works

The first two stars have aligned. Now, does the blue coat affect his fitness? If the ladies dig it, he will achieve relatively high reproductive success, and if the trait is ultimately able to become fixed (permanent) in the population, then these bears will have evolved to have blue coats.

[Whether that affects survivorship or not, as a result of decreased hunting success or any sort of genetic sampling error (GSE; unpredictable genetic changes in a finite population) takes us down a whole other rabbit hole.]

This population of bears are now Divergent. What do I mean by this?

The concepts described above are the mechanics of “speciation.” This, essentially, is the process that creates all the branches on the cladogram.

When enough traits, or, rather, when the right traits come together, a given population of animals can wind up so differentiated from another that they can no longer mate and create viable (able to survive and/or reproduce) offspring. This is known as species divergence.

In the case of the blue bears, the trait that distinguished them from other bears was their blue coat. A physical trait.

Female brown bears ceased to recognize the blue males as potential mates, and, given that there is a subset of females that do appreciate the blueness, if this occurrence were coupled with behavioral changes or environmental barriers, the blue group would branch off, or diverge, from the original population, and become a new species.

We live in a world full of Divergents (it’s not just a fictional, post-apocalyptic teen drama!).

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