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Are humans driving new burst of evolution? Evidence cited is unclear

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human cell vacuole where Q Fever bacterium is growing/NIAID

Including our own? From Darren Curnoe at the Conversation:

It’s well known among biologists that commercial fishing has had a profound impact on wild fish species. By targeting large animals, as commercial fisheries have typically done, some species have become smaller and an increasing proportion have reached maturity at a younger age and smaller size.

In urban areas, where human impact is most obvious, many studies have shown that plants and animals, native and introduced, are evolving in response to human transformation of the environment.

A famous example is so-called ‘industrial melanism’. It led to a dramatic drop in the numbers of light-coloured peppered moths in England during the 1800s when industrialisation led to pollution covering tree trunks, camouflaging dark-coloured individuals from bird predators. But when the pollution was finally cleaned up in the 1970s the situation reversed and dark-coloured moths began to be preyed upon in ever increasing numbers shifting the population accordingly. More.

But wait. The moths changed back again when the air cleared. How do we know the same sort of reverses would not occur if people ate more chicken or changed their urban gardening practices? Has it been decided that fluctuating, reversible changes are

Has it been decided that fluctuating, reversible changes are evolution in action? Then what do we call non-fluctuating, irreversible changes?

But antibiotic resistance stands as one of the clearest examples we have of evolution in action among contemporary species. It’s clearly also bad news for human health and our attempts to control infectious disease, with the race to discover new kinds of antibiotics to combat widespread microbial resistance faltering.

Wait, wait. We humans would be so much worse off without antibiotics. And the biota seem – from Curnoe’s telling – to get on okay anyway. Isn’t this all just an ongoing species war, with humans using intelligence as our weapon and bacteria using rapid numbers and stealth? Better a Cold War than a Hot War, if you ask me (O’Leary for News).

<em>Coffee</em> Tins All that said, humans definitely do influence evolution, at least in in minor ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, we present to you, Bank, the sea turtle who is recovering from having swallowed 915 coins:

In Thailand, there is a superstition that throwing loose change onto a turtle can bring a person longevity and good fortune. The swallowed coins formed an 11-pound (5 kilograms) mass in the sea turtle’s stomach, and the weight of the coin ball eventually cracked Bank’s ventral (underside) shell, leading to infection, the AP reported.

Bank, sorry. The woolly mammoth never did that to you. On the other hand, the woolly mammoth never invented surgery for reptiles either.

File under: Superstitions are dumb.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips: Human evolution


Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds (how they adapt)

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