Nav: Home

Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhere

December 05, 2016

Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time - and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.

In a theme issue of the scientific journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, researchers from McGill University have helped pull together the latest research on this phenomenon. The theme issue shows how humans affect the evolution of other species, and how those evolutionary changes can influence human societies. In many cases, these effects play out over only a few years to decades -- more quickly than biologists traditionally thought possible.

"Evolution is occurring all around us all the time, and it is influencing our environment, our health, and our overall well-being" says Andrew Hendry, professor in the Redpath Museum and Department of Biology at McGill University, and one of the editors of the theme issue.

When humans are involved, selection pressures on a species often become very strong, leading to fast evolution.

Consider three examples:

Commercial fishing. When fishing pressure is high, the fish evolve to reproduce when they are younger and smaller, and thus tend to have fewer, smaller offspring. This evolutionary change can, in turn, reduce fisheries yields and the sustainability.

Invasive species. The movement of species to new places in the world instigates evolution in those invasive species, which increases their rate of spread and impact on native species. Those native species can then sometimes evolve in response, potentially arresting the invader's spread and mitigating its impact.

Urbanization. The development of cities dramatically changes many aspects of the environment and, hence, can instigate evolution in a variety of species. As examples, plants evolve decreased seed dispersal to compensate for the expansion of uninhabitable pavement, animals evolve resistance to industrial and residential chemicals, and bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics.

The collection of studies in the theme issue provides a rallying point for broader discussions of how human influences shape evolution and how that evolution, in turn, influences species traits, biodiversity, and "ecosystem services" - the benefits that nature provides to humans, such as food, water and clean air.

"Evolution will fundamentally alter how species and ecosystems respond to environmental change," Hendry says. "Evolution therefore needs to be an integral part of our assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services."
-end-
To read "Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences" by Kiyoko M. Gotanda, Andrew P. Hendry, and Erik Svensson in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: doi.org/10.17863/CAM.6418

The research was funded by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

McGill University

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Biodiversity is 3-D
The species-area relationship (SAC) is a long-time considered pattern in ecology and is discussed in most of academic Ecology books.
Thought Antarctica's biodiversity was doing well? Think again
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Antarctica's biodiversity is under threat
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
Temperature drives biodiversity
Why is the diversity of animals and plants so unevenly distributed on our planet?
Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research?
Biodiversity loss in forests will be pricey
A new global assessment of forests -- perhaps the largest terrestrial repositories of biodiversity -- suggests that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 2 to 3 percent loss in the productivity, including biomass, that forests can offer.
Biodiversity falls below 'safe levels' globally
Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.
Unravelling the costs of rubber agriculture on biodiversity
A striking decline in ant biodiversity found on land converted to a rubber plantation in China.
Nitrogen is a neglected threat to biodiversity
Nitrogen pollution is a recognized threat to sensitive species and ecosystems.

Related Biodiversity Reading:

Biodiversity: An Introduction
by Kevin J. Gaston (Author), John I. Spicer (Author)

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ARTWORK

This concise introductory text provides a complete overview of biodiversity - what it is, how it arose, its distribution, why it is important, human impact upon it, and what should be done to maintain it.

Timely overview of the serious attempts made to quantify and describe biodiversity in a scientific way Acts as an easy entry point into the primary literature Provides real-world examples of key issues, including illustrations of major temporal and spatial patterns in biodiversity Designed primarily with undergraduate... View Details


Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth (CitizenKid)
by Rochelle Strauss (Author), Margot Thompson (Illustrator)

If every known species on Earth were a leaf on a tree, that tree would have 1 750 000 leaves. Since humans count for just one leaf on the tree, we have a lot to learn about the millions of other forms of life with which we share the world. A dazzlingly illustrated and child-friendly introduction to biodiversity, Tree of Life shows how living things are classified into five kingdoms -- and how each has much to tell us about all aspects of life on our planet. Tree of Life is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global... View Details


Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
by Eric Chivian (Editor), Aaron Bernstein (Editor)

The Earth's biodiversity-the rich variety of life on our planet-is disappearing at an alarming rate. And while many books have focused on the expected ecological consequences, or on the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, or economic dimensions of this loss, Sustaining Life is the first book to examine the full range of potential threats that diminishing biodiversity poses to human health.

Edited and written by Harvard Medical School physicians Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, along with more than 100 leading scientists who contributed to writing and reviewing the book,... View Details


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists... View Details


Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society, Volume 1
by Robert G. Foottit (Editor), Peter H. Adler (Editor)

Volume One of the thoroughly revised and updated guide to the study of biodiversity in insects

The second edition of Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society brings together in one comprehensive text contributions from leading scientific experts to assess the influence insects have on humankind and the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Revised and updated, this new edition includes information on the number of substantial changes to entomology and the study of biodiversity. It includes current research on insect groups, classification, regional diversity, and a wide range... View Details


Biodiversity (Papers from the 1st National Forum on Biodiversity, September 1986, Washington, D.C.)
by Edward O. Wilson (Editor), Frances M. Peter (Editor)

This important book for scientists and nonscientists alike calls attention to a most urgent global problem: the rapidly accelerating loss of plant and animal species to increasing human population pressure and the demands of economic development. Based on a major conference sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution, Biodiversity creates a systematic framework for analyzing the problem and searching for possible solutions.

View Details


Complexity: The Evolution of Earth's Biodiversity and the Future of Humanity
by William C. Burger (Author)

This very readable overview of natural history explores the dynamics that have made our planet so rich in biodiversity over time and supported the rise and dominance of our own species.

Tracing the arc of evolutionary history, biologist William C. Burger shows that cooperation and symbiosis have played a critical role in the ever increasing complexity of life on earth. Life may have started from the evolution of cooperating organic molecules, which outpaced their noncooperating neighbors. A prime example of symbiosis was the early incorporation of mitochondria into the eukaryotic... View Details


The Diversity of Life: With a New Preface (Questions of Science)
by Edward O. Wilson (Author)

View a collection of videos on Professor Wilson entitled "On the Relation of Science and the Humanities"

"In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon. There in the perfect bowl of the night sky, untouched by light from any human source, a thunderstorm sends its premonitory signal and begins a slow journey to the observer, who thinks: the world is about to change." Watching from the edge of the Brazilian rain forest, witness to the sort of violence nature visits upon its creatures, Edward O. Wilson reflects on the crucible of... View Details


Global Biodiversity Assessment
by Vernon H. Heywood (Editor), Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Editor)

The survival of the Earth's biological resources is under threat from rapidly expanding human populations that are degrading the environment at an accelerating rate. Despite the increased awareness of the importance of biological diversity, the scientific foundations on which to plan conservation and development policies are still being developed. The Global Biodiversity Assessment represents an unparalleled attempt to provide an independent scientific analysis of the current issues. It assesses the present state of knowledge, identifies gaps in understanding and draws attention to those... View Details


Breakfast Of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction
by John Vandermeer (Author), Ivette Perfecto (Author), Vandana Shiva (Foreword)

In Breakfast of Biodiversity, John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto insightfully describe the ways in which such disparate factors as the international banking system, modern agricultural techniques, rain forest ecology, and the struggles of the poor interact to bring down the forest. They weave an alternative vision in which democracy, sustainable agriculture, and land security for the poor are at the center of the movement to save the tropical environment.

This new, fully updated edition of Breakfast of Biodiversity discusses important new developments in our understanding of rain... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."