Why is this a new finding?

Mountains play a bigger role in evolution and creating new species than climate change, a study from the University of Cambridge has found.

Scientists pooled three million years of data looking at the rise and fall of Earth’s mountains and found that as the surface rises, the rate of speciation increases.

They discovered that the fluctuating landscape was responsible for the creation of more new species of birds and mammals than historical climate change, recent elevation changes and soaring temperatures in the modern world.

Thought that was the generally accepted view? Or has it changed again?

A most unscientific explanation being that you need to have geographic separation of a population for speciation to occur? That is, if they all carry on shagging each other then it doesn’t, but when they shag in separate groups over time it does?

Big mountains doing that separation…..

19 thoughts on “Why is this a new finding?”

  1. For soaring temperatures to have any effect would require the presence of soaring temperatures obviously. Since these soaring temperatures exist nowhere except inside computer simulations the rest is just a statement of the bleeding obvious.

  2. Not so much “soaring” temperatures more like gently undulating over a considerable period of time. I can’t say I’ve noticed much soaring in the NW of England recently.

  3. It was certainly the taught common wisdom back in the ’80s when I did this stuff at school and uni. But then we were also being warned we would have to change our evil ways to avoid an ice age.

  4. Also flat land is generally a single ecosystem (ok maybe a few when you add in rivers).
    Mountains on the other hand have many very distinctive ecosystems based on height, prevailing wind, gradient etc

    More ecosystems means more potential niches to be filled and more variation of ‘optimal’ strategies.
    E.g. on flat land rabbits are probably best being brown. In the mountains you may end up with two populations, one up in the snow line which is white, the other in the valleys which are brown. Both of which may be at a disadvantage in the others territory.

  5. Soaring temperatures? Small fractions of one degree? And I’m criticised for my desire to carpet bomb Oxbridge? Fucking seats of lunacy.

  6. On a technical point, it’s the climate change due to land elevation that causes the speciation. There’s very few mountain ranges result in physical separation of species at all. Even the Himalayas or the Andes. But, of course, di9scovering Oxbridge graduates haven’t a clue what they’re talking about is hardly a revelation. Carpet bombing. It’s the only sure remedy.

  7. Wonder if it happens in humans too – highlanders versus lowlanders.
    Some South American countries have differences striking enough for locals to tell them apart.

  8. Actually… The biggest driving force for human speciation other than sheer distance and large bodies of water was….. farming.
    We can go pretty much anywhere we please, but you cannot leave a farm untended. Until you run into a surplus of young men with no chance of inheriting and no chance of starting somewhere else, of course….

  9. Incidentally, before any of the Oxbridge graduats show up to sing the praise of their alta mata, maybe you should have done something about the nutters, terminally misguided & ignorant infested them while you were there*, instead of preening about your association with a medieval theme park.
    Applies to the other universities just as much, since they all try to model themselves on the big bad two. Yes they may still manage to do one or two things passably well. (Although there’s little evidence the same couldn’t be achieved in another setting.) But it doesn’t excuse the barking madness comes out of them.

    *Sorry, I should have said up, shouldn’t I? To comply with the snobishness.

  10. Highlanders have better oxygen transport in the blood. This is the case for East Africans, Andean, Himalayan. The ones who get chronic altitude sickness don’t reproduce.

  11. This non Oxbridge graduate’s been pondering on this for a while & has reached a learned conclusion.
    Let’s say you have an area of land populated by a variety of singles species. These species don’t speciate because there’s enough gene sharing across the species populations, evolution happens a whole, not divergently. Now a mountain range starts to arise across the area, dividing it. The populations will still continue to mingle & to do that they have to traverse the incipient mountain range. The tracks created by the animals will erode any difficult geographical formations faster than they can form. Animal pathways erode at century & millennium timescales. Mountains take millions of years. It’s because the climate changes as whole areas are elevated that the mountains eventually become impassable. So you can have a polar type climate separating two tropical areas. If it wasn’t for that, there’s be an easily traversed path through the mountains.
    Where’s my fucking doctorate, then?

  12. @tractor gent They have, but most of that is well within the realm of human adaptability. Anything up to 2-3km up we can adapt to within a week or two, with noticeable effects within days, even.

    Viz. the hordes of aprés-ski idiots polluting the snowy slopes in areas notable for rather excessive vertical geography every winter. And I may be mistaken, but they hump as much as the sunburnt sloshed masses at sea level in summer. Quite a fair segment of those being the same people, even.

    Quite a lot of endurance sports use the principle as Natural Blood Doping if peeps can afford it….

  13. @BiS You take that doctorate. I’ll take the one involving volcanic ranges and ummm.. the resultant change in basic substrate causing change in vegetation and thus habitat. I’ll take the herbaceous species and the Eiffel, someone else can take any other of those places, or do the trees, or …

    Shame most, if not all of it has been done so many times the annotations have refutations on the annotated corrections of the original research done in the …oh wait.. late 19th/early 20thC.

    Incidentally, the erosion of the animal tracks would stop well before there’d be anything like we’d consider serious differences in elevation.
    Between changing courses of waterways and a general dropping of the ground water table, the vegetation and habitat would change far faster than, so far undisturbed and rather settled/specialised, species would like. So it would either stop crossing the area, or move around it ( if possible because of territorial pissings and all that..) so the putative erosion of animal tracks would stop far sooner than that there’s be any visible change in elevation.
    ( Actual research (1950’s) based on the BooBoo us dutch made with the first IJsselmeerpolders, and why that bit has canals around it nowadays. And all the others are set up as islands. And that difference in “elevation” was less than 10 meters… )

  14. Not sure if your idea of water-tables really works, Grikath. Generally the land rises the water table rises with it, as does the rest of the catchment. The run-off paths may move a bit. You can have a water table up in a valley in the Alps. It doesn’t move down to Italy of France. Rivers do much the same as animals. The bed cuts down faster than the land rises. The river ends up as the run-off for the new mountain range, cutting deep gorges
    What really does it is altitude changing temperature & rain shadows. Which is climate
    Ice can make a lot of changes. But that’s climate again

  15. @BiS It depends on where and how the nearest “impermeable” subsurface layer runs and how deep the permeable top layer is. Bedrock is easy, layered substrates… not so much.
    Rivers are easy, that’s actually just runoff. It’s the underground movement of water that’s important to the Green Stuff, which is the basis for most of everything else.

    I mentioned the polders because that one nearly ruined more arable land than it created… Another one is why a large sandbar in the Waddenzee (Texel) has potable water welling up. (answer: squeeze from an entire nation tilting, putting pressure on stuff half a mile down. )

    And honestly.. Stuff like rainshadows and climate is highskool, if not primary skool level. That stuff is so obvious a bright 10 yr. old can grok it. Hardly worth a doctorate… 😛

  16. Three words… no, wait, four! (five sir)*

    Guns, Germs, and Steel

    * – MP holy hand grenade reference 😉


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