Why does evolution sometimes repeat itself? Spider-eating spiders may hold the answer

Science | AAAS | 3/8/2018 | Staff
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Discovering something for the second time might sound like a letdown. Not for ecologists in Hawaii, who have found that spider-eating spiders on four islands there independently evolved the same colors: gold, black, and white. This rare example of parallel evolution, which has also been seen in one other Hawaiian spider, could help clarify one of biology’s biggest mysteries: how and when evolution repeats itself.

“It’s one of the coolest hidden [examples] of animals evolving new species,” says Robert Fleischer, a conservation genomicist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., who was not involved with the work.

Hawaii - Place - Evolution - Animal - Flies

Hawaii is a great place to study evolution. Any animal that washes up or flies there may be separated from its kin by thousands of kilometers, a great opportunity for the formation of new species. And every island within the archipelago is yet another opportunity to diversify as new arrivals move into habitats not yet taken over by other organisms.

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So it is with a genus of spiders known as Ariamnes. The up-to-2-centimeter-size forest dwellers, which can camouflage themselves to look like sticks, probably arrived in Hawaii within the past 5 million years. Since then, they have differentiated into numerous species spread out over four islands.

Sense - Species - Rosemary - Gillespie - Ecologist

To get a better sense of how these species evolved, Rosemary Gillespie, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues obtained DNA from individuals of each species. All four islands—Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii—are home to shiny gold and dark species of the spider, and two have an additional dull white version. Gillespie’s team identified four entirely new species, making 15...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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