Big step in evolution observed claims an article in Nature vol. 428, p703 and p717, and BBC News 5 April 2004. According to Neil Shubin, a prominent palaeontologist, “some of the most significant novelties in the history of life are associated not with the evolution of new structures, but with the loss or reduction of primitive ones.” To see how this might happen, Michael Shapiro of Stanford University, California and colleagues studied genes that control the formation of bones in different species of sticklebacks, a type of fish. Ocean going sticklebacks have prominent spines on their backs and robust pelvic bones, but some freshwater sticklebacks have small spines and no pelvic bones. Shapiro’s team found that changes in expression of a bone growth gene named Pitx1, resulted in the variations in pelvic and spine formation seen in different varieties of sticklebacks. They claim their findings help explain how large evolutionary changes occurred in the skeletons of vertebrates.

Editorial Comment: The only change observed in this study is that one kind of fish, with pelvic bones and big spines, changed into the same kind of fish without pelvic bones and big spines. In other words, mutations of the bone regulating gene have resulted in decrease in complexity in the fish. This is the opposite of evolution. Being able to explain how structures are lost or diminished does not explain the evolution of new structures. Before Neil Shubin can really claim that big steps in evolution can be explained, he needs to be able to turn a worm which has never had pelvic bones, into a stickleback fish that does have pelvic bones. Genesis 1-3 is a much better explanation of where both degeneration and brilliant design come from. (Ref. sticklebacks, bones, fish)