A population of finches on the Galapagos has been discovered in the process of becoming a new species.
This is the first example of speciation that scientists have been able to observe directly in the field.
Researchers followed the entire population of finches on a tiny Galapagos island called Daphne Major, for many years, and so they were able to watch the speciation in progress.
The research was published in the journal Science.
The group of finch species to which the Big Bird population belongs are collectively known as Darwin’s finches and helped Charles Darwin to uncover the process of evolution by natural selection.
In 1981, the researchers noticed the arrival of a male of a non-native species, the large cactus finch.
Professors Rosemary and Peter Grant noticed that this male proceeded to mate with a female of one of the local species, a medium ground finch, producing fertile young.
Almost 40 years later, …