In 1972, a pet shop owner in Hawaii released three dozen Jackson’s chameleons, native to Kenya, into his backyard. They escaped and established a population. With few predators, the little lizards did well. But in just a few decades, have they “evolved” brighter colors?
A study comparing the original Kenyan chameleons with the Hawaiian populations found the island dwellers were 30% brighter than their African counterparts. Researchers believe this is because the Hawaiian chameleons don’t need the camouflage because of the lack of predators.
The lead author of the study claims,
“That’s how natural selection works – if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
This evolution has occurred in just 50 to 65 generations, which is “pretty quick”, says Whiting. “But it is becoming increasingly apparent that evolution can occur over much shorter time periods than we previously thought.”
What he’s observing in this chameleon population is a great example of natural selection.
But is what he’s observing really evolution? No! He misidentifies natural selection (it is not “use it or lose it”; genetic diversity isn’t lost if a population of creatures aren’t “using” it, but it can be lost as the entire population becomes adapted to a specific environment) and then calls that evolution. But, despite that misstep in defining natural selection, what he’s observing in this chameleon population is a great example of natural selection. It’s just change as would be expected because of the genetic diversity present.
As we’ve pointed out over and over, natural selection is not evolution. You see, evolution requires the addition of brand-new genetic information to turn one kind of creature into another. But that’s not what is happening here—chameleons remain chameleons, and the information for a wide variety of coloration was likely already present in their DNA. It’s likely part of original created genetic diversity—it has nothing to do with evolution!
This “bait-and-switch” of presenting an observable example of natural selection and then calling it evolultion is common, but it’s simply not accurate. Small changes within a kind is not evolution, and no number of small changes within populations will ever turn one creature into another kind of creature because there’s no known naturalistic process that can create brand-new genetic information for new forms and features. What these researchers are observing are small changes that are the result of the genetic diversity God created in the chameleon kind.
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This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.