Anyone familiar with beavers will know that the big busy rodents can transform roads into ponds. They are making a comeback in Alaska:
Beavers may be infiltrating the region for the first time in recent history as climate change makes conditions more hospitable, says Ken Tape, an ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Or maybe the expansion is a rebound after trapping reduced beaver numbers to imperceptible levels in the early 1900s, he says. Nobody knows for sure.
And the full range of changes the rodents are generating in their new Arctic ecosystems hasn’t been studied in detail. But from what Tape and a few other researchers can tell so far, the effects could be profound, and most of them will probably be beneficial for other species.Sid Perkins, “Beavers are engineering a new Alaskan tundra” at Science News
The main thing beavers will do is add to the biodiversity by creating ponds as habitat for fish, amphibians, and waterfowl and also, one suspects, producing kits for wolves and coyotes to stalk.
No surprise if some of the changes beavers introduce get classified as evolution in the sense that various lifeforms may produce offspring adapted to the new conditions that then get classified as new “species.” No one is likely to wait around to see if the changes are easily reversible potentials in the whole group, manifested in some.
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See also: Biogeography: Life before ecology, when Canadian beavers overran Tierra del Fuego
Researcher: Human impact is reshaping the tree of life
Devolution: African elephants survive by shedding their tusks (no interest to poachers) The trait (no tusks or else have tiny tusks) was there all along but became an asset when the main foe was attracted to, rather than deterred by, tusks. The double whammy may have meant even more rapid change.
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Beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.