Christopher Raxworthy: Over the recent last 30,40, 50 years, geographic isolation has been the dominant recognized way that you get new species. You isolate populations and you run evolution long enough and they become different. But what I’m seeing is Madagascar is a process where different populations can adapt to different environmental gradients, and you can actually get speciation occurring with gene flow. And that’s actually still a relatively radical idea.
Christopher Raxworthy, a herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, works in a branch of zoology dealing with reptiles and amphibians. He’s searching for what he calls a ‘cryptic’ species of chameleons – those hard to distinguish from chameleons already known – that might help revolutionize our understanding of how evolution works.
For almost two decades, Raxworthy has studied chameleons on the island of Madagascar in East Africa – a country home to a large percentage of the world’s chameleons. He used satellite data – including data from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite – and genetic data in his work.
To read more about Dr. Raxworthy, see Uncovering Chameleons on the Earth Observatory.
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.