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Evolution of Nonvisual Communication and Photoperiodic Perception in Speciation and Adaptation of Blind Subterranean Mole Rats

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The evolution of vocal and vibrational communications and photoperiod perception in the blind subterranean mole rat of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies, are reviewed in the context of adaptation and active speciation in the subterranean ecotype. Progressive evolution of the acoustic system and regressive evolution of the atrophied eye coupled with progressive evolution in photoperiodic perception and biorhythmicity systems, are discussed. Prospects are suggested for future research at the molecular, anatomical and organismal levels, in the twin evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation. Spalax appears to be a uniquely productive evolutionary model for the study of evolutionary structural reductions and hypertrophies as well as functional shifts in evolution. It provides particularly a rich observational and experimental material to critically evaluate the challenges recently levelled against the synthetic theory of evolution concerning gradualism in speciation, the "adaptationist programme", and the role of natural selection as a creative force in evolution.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31999, Israel


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