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A new story of evolution

mgz24's picture

 This weekend I came across an article in the New York Times that introduces another interesting story of evolution.  The article, titled, "Nonfiction: Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution is Vindicated" talks about Vladamir Nabokov's (the author of Lolita and much more) work with butterflies and his theory of how the Polymmatus blues evolved.  He published his theory in a paper using "a few literary flourishes", proposing that millions of years ago the butterflies migrated to the New World from Asia in five different waves, and claiming that species that were thought to be closely related were in fact distantly related species.  At the time his theory was dismissed and his contemporaries said that "he could describe details...but did not produce scientifically important ideas".  He was recently vindicated by a study based on his previous idea that used gene sequencing to study how the species evolved, and it was found that the butterflies did indeed migrate from Asia millions of years ago in 5 distinct waves.  

Now the interesting part of this article for me was the different ways in which evolution appears.  In the middle of the 20th century Nabokov didn't have the level of science he really needed to prove his theory, but from only observation he was able to solve an evolutionary path.  This story also shows how science has evolved making the study of evolution a much more accessible.  There is also here another parallel between evolution and literature (although not extremely prevalent), but it begs to question whether Nabokov's knowledge of evolution in science had any influence in his writing.  All in all I think that the article shows a great example of a new story of evolution, that is a very new perspective of the field.



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