Charles Darwin might be wrong about a major theory — just not evolution.
The famous researcher theorized that coral atolls, like one he saw near Tahiti, were created as they stretched toward sunlight while islands below sank into the sea. This view was controversial at the time and went against the established theory that atolls were actually a thin veneer of coral, not thousands of feet thick as Darwin claimed.
Though drilling would eventually prove Charles Darwin right about the thickness of coral atolls, his ideas about their origins are now being questioned. The May 9 issue of the journal Geology found that cycles in sea level connected to glacial cycles are the main force causing the coral patterns.
“Darwin actually got it mostly right, which is pretty amazing,” said Taylor Perron, the study’s co-author and a geologist at MIT.
Perron added that where Charles Darwin got it wrong was in thinking that the sun and sinking islands were responsible for atolls rather than sea-level cycles.
Researchers already found that Darwin may have been wrong about the means of evolution. They found in 2009 that he likely miscalculated exactly how species evolved over time.
Darwin described evolution as a “tree of life” in which species change like branches on the imaginary tree. Modern genetics show that the tree may not be the best analogy, that it was not nearly as linear or as simple as Darwin made it appear.
Instead, the origins of species looks like an “impenetrable thicket,” with much more crossbreeding between different species than Darwin originally thought. This means a more tangled “web of life” than Darwin sketched out with his tree analogy.
“We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality,” Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, told New Scientist magazine.
To further prove Charles Darwin wrong, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found a piece of DNA included in the genetic makeup of eight animals, including the mouse, rat, and African clawed frog.