A classic in devolution, actually. In Mozambique, it is estimated that 90% of the elephants have been slaughtered for ivory to finance a civil war that ended in 1992. But tuskless elephants seem more likely to survive:
Hunting gave elephants that didn’t grow tusks a biological advantage in Gorongosa. Recent figures suggest that about a third of younger females—the generation born after the war ended in 1992—never developed tusks. Normally, tusklessness would occur only in about 2 to 4 percent of female African elephants.
Decades ago, some 4,000 elephants lived in Gorongosa, says Joyce Poole—an elephant behavior expert and National Geographic Explorer who studies the park’s pachyderms. But those numbers dwindled to triple digits following the civil war. New, as yet unpublished, research she’s compiled indicates that of the 200 known adult females, 51 percent of those that survived the war—animals 25 years or older—are tuskless. And 32 percent of the female elephants born since the war are tuskless.Dina Fine Maron, “Under poaching pressure, elephants are evolving to lose their tusks” at National Geographic
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.
In other news, this has certainly been “Devolution Week” at Uncommon Descent, if we go by some of the other stories, linked below. Everything seems to be devolving except our numbers of readers, which spiked recently. Yay, readers! Keep coming back!
Seriously, devolution is a bit like extinction; it’s under-considered as a source of evolution, probably because it doesn’t fit the expected and sought-after pattern. One problem is, we then don’t get a clear picture of what is happening. News
What if simplification is a common way life forms evolve? Would we want to know that or not?
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See also: John Sanford on claims about brand new nylonase genes
John Sanford gives lecture at NIH on mutations and human health
A peek at Mike Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves We’re told that the basic thesis is, The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution: Break or blunt any functional gene whose loss would increase the number of offspring.
Huge study shows yeasts evolve by reducing their complexity If losing complex traits is a reliable and successful form of evolution, how did successful life forms acquire great complexity in the past, when there was less time to evolve?
Devolution: Getting back to the simple life (an overview)