Is Shark Hybridization “Evolution in Action”?

Scientists are excited about finding hybrid sharks off the coast of Australia. Lead researcher, Jess Morgan, said of the discovery,“This is evolution in action.” You can read the article (here) but here's the gist of the story:

The Australian black-tip shark can live only in tropical waters. The common black-tip shark (described as the Australian black-tip's “cousin”) can live in more temperate water. Scientist have found about 57 specimens of hybrids (the offspring of a mating between different species) of the Australian black-tip and common black-tip. The hybrids can live in the cooler waters. One spin that article suggested is that hybridization is helping the Australian black-tip adapt to “climate change.” That's fodder for another post.

Anyway, is this an example of “evolution in action”? If by “evolution” one simply means “change,” then this is certainly an example of change. However, there is no “evolution” of the type that could change a bird into dinosaur. The article is very interesting and there's a lot we can learn here. But for the sake of the creation-evolution debate, this article demonstrates a few things in particular.

First, it's another good example of the equivocal use of the word “evolution.” Any “change” identified in nature is touted as “evolution in action” which serves to embolden evolutionists. When I say I don't believe in “evolution” (the descent of all species from a common ancestor), I'm chided for denying something they claim has been observed.

Second, this highlights the subjective meaning of the term “species.” Species is typically defined as “a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.1 This definition is, at best, ambiguous. At worst, it's useless. The Australian black-tip and the common black-tip can obviously interbreed (as evidenced by this finding). Why are they different species? Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) can hybridize (and have done so in the wild) yet they are different species. The gray wolf (Canis lupus) can hybridize with the coyote (Canis latrans). Hybridization is so common among flora and fauna that I really don't see how this definition of species endures. Evolutionists often demand that creationists provide a rigorous definition of the term “kind.” This is rather hypocritical of them since they cannot present a rigorous definition of the term “species.” Also, evolutionists sometimes define “macro-evolution” as “change that occurs at or above the level of species.”2 That term too is rather useless since evolutionists can't seem to pin down what a species is. In other words, how can we know that change has occurred “at or above the level of species” if we don't even know what a species is?

Thirdly, this finding is a better example of the creationist model. Both the common black-tip and Australian black-tip belong to the same “kind.” Each species merely possess different combinations of traits that were already present in the ancestral population. It's obvious that the common ancestor of both species was more robust and could likely tolerate a wider range of temperatures. Natural selection is a process that tends to eliminate traits which aren't suited to a particular environment and the modern species of Australian black-tip have become specialized and adapted to more tropical waters.

I wrote about this very subject in my post “Were there Fish on the Ark?” All the things discussed in this recent article are consistent with the post I had written nearly a year ago. In that post, where I focused on the adaptation of modern fish species to their environments, I also mentioned the Biblical concept of “kind” and the creationist explanation of speciation. It all comes into play in this new finding. I'm even tempted to say, “This is creation in action!”

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Comment by Lou Hamby on January 6, 2012 at 3:30pm

This is a prime example of hybridization.  The falt tailed horned lizard and the desert honred lizards ranges intergrade in the Southern California desert and there is an area where the two species have bred (hybridized) and the result is a new specie, but it is first and formost a horned lizard.  It is not the lung fish to a tuna expectation of evolutionary teaching and expectation.  Rarely in nature does hybridization happen, but it does....  This is not evolution, this is a well written article supporting Darwinian thought and frankly twisting the  knowledge behind this to give evolution a leg up.  It not!!!!!

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