Some claim we are causing life forms to evolve in new and unusual ways and attempt to predict a future:
Humans have shaped the bodies of other creatures at least since dogs were domesticated around 30,000 years ago. But the combination of industrialised farming, introduced species, urbanisation, pollution, and climate change are creating unprecedented selective pressures. We have become the world’s greatest evolutionary force.
Evolutionary time – at least for larger, more complex organisms – can be slow. This leaves many animals unable to adapt fast enough to cope with a human-dominated planet, with extinction currently up to 1,000 times greater than the rate at which species might be expected to disappear without human interference.
But rapid change is also possible, via an inbuilt genomic plasticity that allows individual animals to draw on a range of body plans and behaviours best suited to new opportunities and pressures. So-called microevolutions can transpire in the time of just a handful of generations.David Farrier, “Why we are living in an era of unnatural selection” at BBC Future (January 25, 2022)
Farrier offers some examples, including these:
Today, worker bees in industrial beehives – transported from farm to farm across the United States in convoys of trucks – are one-third larger than their wild cousins, and more docile. In the past 100 years, North American songbirds have modified the shape of their wings to cope with habitats fragmented by deforestation. Under pressure from poaching, Zambian elephants are born without tusks. Since the introduction of cane toads to Australia in 1935, originally to deal with beetle infestations in sugar plantations, the mouths of black snakes have shrunk as succeeding generations learned to avoid toad-sized prey, while the toads themselves have become cannibals, victims of their own success as predators.David Farrier, “Why we are living in an era of unnatural selection” at BBC Future (January 25, 2022)
In a human-dominated world, things happen faster, for better or worse. Should we still call it “evolution” if we did it?