unScientific American and Science News are reporting in (this) story that “darwinian debt”s are being generated by over-fishing and the result is that
Fast-growing fish therefore get penalized evolutionarily because they quickly become large enough to get caught…
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this nothing more than an exagerated example of dog-breeding (except with fish, of course)?
In the present case of these Atlantic silversides, isn’t Dr. Conover merely controlling the reproductive environment in order to diminish the size, growth rate, and sexual appetite of the resulting breed by taking advantage of the existing gene pool? By removing the largest 90% of fish periodically, isn’t that the same as only allowing dogs with big floppy ears to procreate thus increasing the chances of getting a floppy-eared dog? Variation within kind based on an existing genome without any mutation-driven change can hardly be called evolution.
But there is important value to this experiment. As an avid fisherman I recall a time 20 years ago when I was fishing the upper end of Yellowstone Lake. Back then regulations required that I throw back any fish larger than 12 inches. It seemed silly at the time because conventional wisdom dictated it was best to release the small ones so they could grow up and breed at least once. When I asked a ranger at the park about it, he explained that they had surmised that it would be better to let the older, larger fish live so they could reproduce over a number of years – since as they grew larger they also produced more eggs and offspring, etc.
So it seems this study is just reiterating old news (by at least 20 years).
That’s all well and good, but why does this report presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science try to draw Darwinian evolution into a place it clearly does not belong? My guess is that the authors know the power and influence of the word “Darwinian” when it comes to getting published. They would have been better off dropping the Darwinian Red Herring and presenting this paper to organizations who can actually use the information to help preserve fish species. I assume they (the authors) didn’t do that because, well… it’s old news.
My question is: if the authors had not included mention of Darwin, would they have been published by the AAAS?