Restyling Man’s Best Friend
290 – February 2017
By Amy Fernandez
Street level knowledge of genetics expands by the minute thanks to the ongoing tsunami of discoveries that qualify as mainstream news. Ironically, basic concepts about evolutionary biology really haven’t changed much since Darwin put it out there back in 1859. Many, but not all, of his conjectures now qual- ify as facts, although that apparently has minimized any incentive to check back for updates. Let that be a lesson about the pitfalls of procrastination because… jeeezzz, stuff has been going on that no one imagined.
While the world has been preoccupied with the horrifying thought that urban encroachment represents the death knell for countless beloved wild species, it seems that plenty of them had other plans. As the saying goes, “stay in the truck, it’s all under control”.
Those pristine habitats like South American rainforests and Eu- ropean woodlands are shrinking, but all the reclusive species they harbor haven’t necessarily been going along for that fateful ride. As Darwin theorized way back when, selective adaptations occur in response to environmental pressures. Species either adapt or they die out. Natural habitats have been disappearing at a fairly rapid pace for at least 200 years. Based on Darwinian concepts of evo- lution, that doesn’t seem like enough time for any species to revise its game plan. Surprise! Some truly revolutionary evolutionary de- velopment has been humming along right here on the doorstep of the urban jungle.
Countless species have been performing genetic acrobatics and rewriting their strategies for survival at a rate that shatters any preconceptions about the glacial pace of evolution.
Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands led to another crucial el- ement of evolutionary theory that you may recall. Genetic blue- prints can change radically when a species is cut off from its mainland population. That principal also applies to tiny subpopu- lations of animals that find themselves isolated on a traffic island beneath a crosscurrent of highways. The inadequate space, inces- sant noise, carbon monoxide, dirty water, mountains of tossed trash, and endless lethal traffic whizzing by doesn’t seem like a promising new homestead for most. It still qualifies as an ecosystem. And all the unsavory conditions associated with it may represent the most drastic environmental challenge that any species could confront.
Along with developing tolerance for a multitude of physical and immunological assaults, many species are successfully transition- ing from their normal fare of wild foods and cultivating a gour- mand’s appreciation for dumpster diving. In other words, species throughout the animal kingdom are not only developing resistance to seemingly intolerable conditions, the ordeal is arming them with unforeseen evolutionary advantages.Click here to read the complete article
290 – February 2017
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