Friday, February 10, 2012

Museum Blunders: North Carolina Museum Of Natural Sciences

Last month I went to the North Carolina Museum Of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh, NC. They had a beautiful hummingbird exhibit showing the diversity among hummingbirds and provided me with a little humor as well.

A random lady came to look at the exhibit and I told her: "Biodiversity happens because a species becomes extinct." and pointed to the plaque. She got a kick out of it and laughed quite well. The only reasoning I have that they would use to explain biodiversity by a species going extinct is if a new species develops and moves in to fill its ecological niche. This however does not add to biodiversity but rather replaces the traits from one species with those from another.

The other reasons provided also do not support the generation of biodiversity. A species interacting with each other simply means the rearrangement of genes and not the addition of new genes. A species becoming isolated from each other may generate a new species but reproductive isolation is the culprit along with genetic drift. These factors allow for speciation due to the fact that traits are removed from the gene pool. This results in less genetic diversity and can thus eliminate certain genes needed for the overall population to use to reproduce that only that population still recognizes.

Consequently, speciation would have occurred after the flood at a much higher rate that we see today because there would have been a greater genetic diversity in the parent population of each kind of animal than in the different daughter populations that have arisen through becoming isolated from one another as they spread across the earth.

The only one listed on there which implies biodiversity occurring is genetic mutation and that one has its own issues. One example are panthers. The Florida Panther is the name given to a population of Puma concolor which lives in the Southeastern United States. Through hunting and human population growth, they have become isolated to a few pockets of habitat in Florida. While they are the same species as other panthers such as cougars and mountain lions, as they are all different names for the same cat, they have slightly different traits. It is just like how a poodle and a dachshund are both dogs and the same species of dog at that.

Of course, with the population of the Florida Panther reduced to a handful of individuals, they were so inbred that they were having issues including an increase in genetic disease as a result of mutations. Therefore mutations tend to hinder diversity due to the greater frequency of harmful mutations than those that are indifferent, not to mention the extreme rarity of beneficial mutations. Needless to say, they had to introduce a few female Texas Cougars to interbreed with the Florida Panther because allowing mutations to create biodiversity to save the Florida Panther does not work. Allowing enough time for individual mutations to summate into an individual trait, as evolution claims to require, would have rendered the Florida Panther population of Puma concolor extinct.

Therefore the plaque shown in the above photograph is highly flawed. They should fire the person who derived it and hire me instead.

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