Most people could probably identify the animals below:
Short stubby bodies, long powerful claws, regressed eyes, living underground: these are all moles. Aren’t they?
Counterintuitively, their DNA tells a different story. The mole at the top left is a true mole (Talpidae), a group of moles found in Eurasia and North America. Their DNA is not particularly similar to the other two moles. In fact, their DNA is much more similar to mammals like bats, whales and pandas.
The mole at the top right is a golden mole (Chrysochloridae), a group of mole-like mammals found exclusively in southern Africa. These “moles” are genetically more similar to a variety of mammals that hail from Africa, like tenrecs, aardvarks and elephants.
The “mole” at the bottom, munching on a centipede, is an Australian marsupial mole (Notoryctidae). Both species, like other marsupials, have a pouch in which they raise their young. You can probably tell where I’m going with this: they are more genetically similar to other marsupials than they are to the other “moles”.
So why is it that animals with striking physical similarities have such incredibly dissimilar DNA? Evolutionary theory predicts that unrelated species can appear very similar to one another if they adapt to very similar ways of life, a phenomenon called convergent evolution. If an animal becomes adapted for living underground, you can imagine that their eyes are likely to regress and their arms will become very good at digging. So even though their anatomy looks very mole-like, their DNA appears to tell the story of their ancestry.
Questions for Creationists
If God created all of these different types of moles, why is it that their DNA is so dissimilar? If DNA is the ‘blueprint’ to form an animal, and God created these ‘blueprints’ in all of these moles, shouldn’t their DNA be more similar to each other than to wildly different things like bats, elephants, and kangaroos?
1. Stanhope, M. J., Waddell, V. G., Madsen, O., De Jong, W., Hedges, S. B., Cleven, G. C., … & Springer, M. S. (1998). Molecular evidence for multiple origins of Insectivora and for a new order of endemic African insectivore mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(17), 9967-9972.