martes, 11 de mayo de 2010

Cryptic Species

A new species of hermit crab has been discovered at our very own Hopkins Marine Station by a Stanford postdoc named Ryan Kelly. This discovery didn't come after the new crab caught Kelly's eye, however, as it was only discovered after genetic testing proved it was a different species from the other similar looking crabs also collected. The new species, dubbed Pagurus hopkinsiensis, is only found in the Monterey Bay, yet it so closely resembles a species of hairy hermit crab, P. hirsutiusculus, which is found along the coast from Alaska to Southern California, that is was only just now discovered after 122 years of studies at Hopkins. Despite is identical appearance, the testing showed that hopkinsiensis differs genetically enough so that it does not reproduce with its more common cousin. This type of species is known as cryptic species, visuallly identical but genetically distinct, and more are being discovered every year. Testing has shown that the African elephant is actually two separate species, the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant, which dont interbreed. There are many similar examples of species revealed to be separate cryptic species after genetic testing. The utility of genetic testing has added myriad evidence to the support of evolution. Although it makes no clear conclusions as to what differentiates two similar species nor does it clearly describe speciation, it does clear up the murkiness surrounding the process. The question must still be asked: how genetically different must two species be in order to be considered distinct species?


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