Disappointment rippled across the world of taxonomy today as it was revealed that the first organism to emerge in thousands of years with the potential to be a new hominid failed to meet the criteria required to be classified as a separate species. The results of the analysis, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology early on Friday morning, showed that at least 55% of the geographically distinct subspecies Homo sapiens scotia were still capable of mating with the closely related subspecies known as ‘the British’, thus failing to reach the benchmark required to be reclassified.
Allopatric speciation, the process by which geographical isolation can cause a species to diverge down two separate evolutionary paths, is often seen in nature, with clear examples being observed in Darwin’s finches. However, it is a rare process to observe in humans due to extensive interbreeding between populations. Taxonomists have long believed that Scotland may hold the key to proving that the process is possible in humans given the extreme differences observed between its inhabitants and other residents of the British Isles, in particular in culture, morphological appearance and language. Hadrian’s Wall forms a natural barrier preventing interbreeding between populations.
The Scots’ current status as a subspecies is unquestioned, given that they are incapable of producing offspring with certain British subpopulations. Professor Tamara Mayhew of the University of Bristol argues that this observation is primarily due to cultural, not biological, differences. These can include characteristic Scottish mating rituals, such as aggressive displays between males or heroin and alcohol abuse on a Saturday night in Glasgow: “Scots seem to be capable of producing fertile offspring with English who share some of their customs, often collectively known as ‘Northerners’, who in turn can breed with those from southern England. But the idea of Scots breeding with, say, Londoners is simply laughable.”
Prior to the results of the analysis being available, many in the scientific community were predicting that this could cause a knock-on effect encouraging other similar speciation events. Dr. Marc Cable of University College London disagrees, claiming that only Scotland had the opportunity. “The Welsh, for example, rely too much on surrounding populations to break away as their own species. Given their lack of natural resources, they must intermingle with other Brits significantly, allowing access to oil, gas, exotic foodstuffs and vowels.”
Dr. Cable further states that the possibility of the Scots becoming a species in their own right still exists, but the question of whether they would thrive remains. “Sure they have oil reserves, but they also have a taste for deep-fried goods. Could they use that oil responsibly and sustainably?”
“As for currency, they’ve been reliant on foreign coinage for centuries,” Cable continued. “Speciation would leave them with no established currency, ultimately requiring trade in common local commodities, such as Irn Bru, Susan Boyle’s voice and disappointing job prospects.”
Some in England were looking forward getting away Scot-free due to the increased life expectancy and drop in binge drinking that the departure of Scots would have resulted in, although many are celebrating the continued existence of the unified species. However, anxiety remains over British prospects in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest where an extra 12 points could have made all the difference.