One of the things evolutionists love to study as part of their attempts to demonstrate their dogma is speciation. Speciation has been heavily debated throughout the evolutionary community for decades, really since Darwin. New ideas have been proposed but many old ideas have lingered on, including some proposed by Darwin himself. One of those ideas is that of sexual selection, an idea Darwin proposed to explain how sex-linked traits could be passed down through a lineage. Darwin’s idea proposed to explain the tail of a male peacock, has been adapted and co-opted for the last century and a half, including the most recent adaptation from the University of Pittsburgh.
Before discussing sexual selection, I want to briefly highlight the comment made by one of the authors of this study. According to Science Daily, the researcher said “Speciation is a key process in biology that has led to the amazing diversity of species we see today. How that happens is a fundamental question in evolution and one we’ve been trying to answer since the time of Charles Darwin,” Did you catch that? Speciation produces species. I’m not sure I could think of a more redundant way to state that. Speciation is the process of adaptation in existing organisms that provides the basis for diversity but directly tying species and speciation together seems a bit careless.
Beyond the rather strange definition of speciation, sexual selection is a form of natural selection. The idea is that mates are chosen based on sex-linked traits and that members of the same sex compete against one another to earn mates. Darwin went even further, claiming that sexual selection would account for some of the strange, beautiful features of male and female animals around the world, including the peacocks tail. Darwin’s idea was that sexual selection could explain beauty, particularly beauty that seemed to serve no function other than to appeal to humanity. Unfortunately for Darwin, the peacock’s fancy tail has been shown not to be under sexual selection. However, the sexual selection concept has lived on and continues to be used.
This most recent study touches on the reproductive practices of a species of Central American frog, the strawberry poison frog. This frog lays eggs and, when the tadpoles hatch, the mother feeds them unfertilized eggs to nurture their development. Because of this interaction, the tadpoles grow up to be adult frogs which great favor mating with other frogs of the same color as their mother. Further, males tend to strongly dislike other males which have the same color. This is believed to lead to speciation over time. Interestingly, the mate choice appears to be built in based on visual cues. If eggs are fostered by a mother frog of a different color, the baby frogs will align themselves with the color of their mother, rather than their own color.
This study is very interesting. The possibility of speciation occurring in the wild is certainly no surprise to creationists. In fact, they would predict it. What intrigues me, even more, is the fact that frogs of one color reared by a different color mother respond to her color, rather than their own color. This indicates that mate choice is not genetically based. Instead, it appears to be based on a memory of the mother. Further, it seems not to be absolute. In other words, mates can be chosen which do not follow the same color rule.
This study is intriguing. It points to a potential mechanism of speciation which has been largely ignored. To borrow a term from Todd Elder, it is heritage mating. Basically what this means is that organisms are more likely to mate with those that are similar to them. This is the same principle that explains why we have ethnicities of humans, even today. People tend to marry people with similar cultural backgrounds, which keeps skin tones constant within ethnic groups. The same could be said for these frogs. Sexual selection seems a poor word for what is basically mediated by visual cues and has nothing to do specifically with the sex of the frog. The frogs are not selecting sexually, they are selecting based on color. Mating is only part of the equation. Thus whether you regard this as sexual selection or heritage mating, and there is overlap between the two, it is in no way an issue for a creationist view.