In a first spectacle ever discovered by scientists, new bird species belonging to the 'Big Bird' lineage in the Galapagos Islands have evolved into a new species in just two generations, according to a study.
As per the pervious assumptions it was believed that formation of a new species took a very long time, but it is alltogether a new discovery in the case of 'Big Bird' lineage, which today consists of roughly 30 individuals.
A group of Darwin’s finches on the Daphne Major island in the Galapagos Island chain, were observed during field work carried out over the last four decades, developed closed breeding.
The observation was made by B Rosemary and Peter Grant, two scientists from the Princeton University in the US.
Scientists note that in 1981, a male large cactus finch that is believed to have come from the nearby island of Espanola, mated with a native finch on Daphne Major and produced offspring.
"We didn't see him fly in from over the sea, but we noticed him shortly after he arrived. He was so different from the other birds that we knew he did not hatch from an egg on Daphne Major", Peter Grant told Phys.org.
Researchers took a blood sample and released the bird, which later bred with a resident medium ground finch of the species Geospiz fortis, initiating a new lineage.
This gave rise to a population of finches, about 30 of them. Professors Rosemary and Peter Grant of Princeton University collaborated with Prof Leif Andersson of Sweden's Uppsala University to genetically analyze the mixed-species population, and the findings were published in journal 'Science'.
"The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild," said B Rosemary Grant.
"Through our work on Daphne Major, we were able to observe the pairing up of two birds from different species and then follow what happened to see how speciation occurred," she said.
The various groups of finches in the Galapagos had been aptly named ‘Darwin’s finches’ to commemorate Charles Darwin, the famous scientist who developed his theory of evolution by way of natural selection after spending time on the islands, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world.
And what makes this discovery even more interesting is that it was published on the eve of the anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s magnum opus titled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", which was released in 1859 and largely inspired by his time on the Galapagos Islands.