What Is Despeciation?

The Common Raven is thought to be undergoing despeciation.
The Common Raven is thought to be undergoing despeciation.

Despeciation refers to an evolutionary process whereby a given animal species is lost due to the combination of another species. Therefore, despeciation is the opposite of speciation which entails the emergence of a new kind of species. The process is uncommon and is almost the same as extinction because of the loss of given species. Thus, in a population, a unique species is absorbed by another one hence the end of its lineage occurs.

Despeciation in Ravens

A study has revealed that two raven species may soon merge into one. As a result, the research contradicted earlier studies which showed splitting of a given species into two due to speciation. The analysis, courtesy of Washington, suggested that the hybridization of two divergent raven species may be interbred giving rise to a single species.

Initially, the Common Ravens were treated as one. However, in the year 2000, it was discovered that the ravens consisted of two main lineages. These lineages are “California,” which is found mostly to the southwestern regions of the United States, and the “Holarctic,” found in other regions such as Alaska, Maine (both in the United States), Russia, and Norway, among other areas. Thus, the report unmasked the multiple raven species which had appeared as one over many years.

Extensive research on the raven DNA was conducted in the lab in Omland. The results showed that despite the ravens consisting of two lineages, both are widely mingled. As per the research, the two raven lineages diverged from a common ancestor millions of years ago. Because of the two lineages coming together, cases of hybridization between them have taken place over recent decades. Subsequently, there is an emergence of a unique species which is a combination of the two.

Therefore, despeciation has led to the speciation reversal. In this case of ravens, two lineages are traced back to one common origin, but evolution has led to each lineage developing new characteristics. When they later come together and interbreed, they act as if they are going back to their initial state of sharing the common ancestor. Hence, the term, “speciation reversal” because the lineages are in a converging.

Merits and Demerits of Despeciation

The merging of two lineages of a given species may have a significant impact on the population of the organism. The species is being reversed back into its old characteristics. Therefore, there might be adverse effects which may have made their ancestors diverge to cope with the ever-changing environmental conditions. Subsequently, the species may be subjected to extinction just like their predecessors.

Other Animals That Have Undergone Despeciation

Apart from ravens, some other species also exhibit despeciation. For example, human beings are considered to have undergone despeciation due to the genomes associated with early human remains like the Denisovans and Neanderthals, among others. Also, studies carried out by Tylor et al. about the three-spined sticklebacks in the southwestern region of the British Columbia gave exciting results about despeciation. The research found out that the species had merged into one as opposed to the two lineages recorded during the previous experiment.


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