SEO-Aranjuez (Local SEO Group / BirdLife): Darwin's Finches

Darwin discovered this small group of species on the occasion of his trip around the world aboard the HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836. However, Darwin was not at first aware of its importance. In fact, he considered that they formed a heterogeneous group of strange blackbirds, picogordos, chochines and finches. After his five-year journey around the world, Darwin placed the collected specimens at the disposal of the famous English ornithologist John Gould, who, after a few days of painstaking study, came to the conclusion that they were a series of such peculiar species which formed an entirely new group for science. It also seemed clear that they must be related to South American species.

These conclusions finally led Darwin to think definitively about the evolution of species from common predecessors. In fact in the second edition of his book "The Journey of the Beagle" he dropped some affirmations referring to these birds that anticipated his ideas on Evolution. Twenty years later he went much deeper into this question, in "The Origin of Species."

A team of Harvard researchers recently published a study that gave the molecular clues that could be responsible for the formation of all this variety of peaks. Calmodulin is a molecule that regulates the genes involved in the formation of Darwin's finches. This molecule activates and deactivates certain enzymes, which triggers a signal that can eventually enhance the expression of certain genes in the cells responsible for the formation of the peak during the embryonic stage. The researchers found that calmodulin levels were markedly higher in the embryos of those species with longer peaks.

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  • Adam Floyd