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The Lie: Evolution



Evolving Bug Caught on Tape    11/18/2003

Jamaican click beetles are evolving by Darwinian natural selection, concludes a team of scientists writing in the PNAS Nov. 17 online preprints.*  The color of one species’ ventral bioluminescent organ seems to be shifting from green to orange.  They believe they have (1) discounted the neutral evolution hypothesis, (2) connected a genetic change to a specific change in appearance (phenotype), and (3) determined that the population with orange light is growing.  This, they feel, represents an example of natural selection, a “possible ongoing adaptive color transition in progress.”  Their enthusiasm is evident in the mixed metaphors of their concluding sentence: “We can only speculate on what might have been if the voyage of a young English naturalist with an amusing fondness for beetles had visited Jamaica.”

*(source) Stolz et al., “Darwinian natural selection for orange bioluminescent color in a Jamaican click beetle,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2432563100, Published online before print November 17, 2003. Pdf:

They admit in their conclusion that this is not a complete story of natural selection, because they have not established a connection between the orange light and the fitness of the beetle.  They offer some speculations:

Possible explanations for the adaptive significance of more orange ventral light include: (i) sexual selection, (ii) predation from a nocturnal visual predator such as bats or birds, and (iii) character displacement caused by spectral competition from fireflies or another, now extinct, congeneric beetle.

In addition to resolving click beetle ecology, several other pertinent questions also remain concerning whether and how natural selection has affected the dorsal polymorphism, the vYG allele, and interspecific color differences among Pyrophorus species.  Studies are also called for to quantify the visual acuity of beetles for different wavelengths of light to test for evidence of coevolution with bioluminescent color.  In conclusion, with the development of ever-more powerful genetic tools, we envision verification of selection at the molecular level as becoming a logical step in testing the adaptive hypothesis for a trait

Then comes their cute Charlie line (more on that later).  Did you catch what this concluding paragraph says?  All they found was a little bitty variation from greenish-orange to orangy-green, on the bellies of bugs that already exist, and perhaps the specific genetic mutation(s) that code for the color difference.  They don’t know if it has any adaptive significance.  They don’t know if the female likes it.  They don’t know if she can even detect the difference.  They don’t know if it makes the beetles more fit.  They don’t know if natural selection has affected the other varieties of click beetles.  They don’t claim to have established a complete case of natural selection.  They admit that molecular testing of the “adaptive hypothesis” (i.e., natural selection) has not been done.  They started and ended with Jamaican click beetles.  Where is the evolution?

If you don’t think Charlie is the evolutionists’ idol, consider their punch line.  The “young English naturalist” is clearly an allusion to Charlie Darling in his starring role on the Beagle, but the phrase “amusing fondness for beetles” recalls Haldane’s jab at God (for refutation, see 04/26/02 headline).  The association hardly seems coincidental.

Also see:


Creation Safaris

Helping Evolutionists Get It Right

Let’s Squash Natural Selection