May 25, 2004
The Downward (Evolutionary) Spiral

Christian Science Monitor is carrying this report detailing new developments in the study of evolutionary biology:

Mounting evidence suggests that by harvesting only the biggest fish - or biggest mammals, for that matter - mankind is unwittingly forcing many species to evolve rapidly. This process, called "contemporary evolution," isn't taking place over centuries. It's on a fast track that can happen within a few decades.

They cite such diverse examples as cod and sheep. Further, unlike simple overfishing or over-hunting, this sort of thing has much longer-term effects. You don't just grow populations back if their genes have altered how they grow.

The findings suggest new, alternative ways of wildlife management, such as making efforts to more naturally mimic "regular" predation. While this is comparatively simple to do with land animals (and seems to be working in Europe already), fisheries face more challenges to reach a balance.

Posted by scott at May 25, 2004 02:33 PM

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hmm, i never even thought of that..animals evolving to be smaller? hope that doesn't happen to the blue whales =/ though i hear all the 100ft'ers are gone now. no more large great whites either, i forget how big they got, maybe 20ft or more.

Posted by: samkit on May 25, 2004 10:42 PM

Well, couple of rules of science. First, a correllation doesn't imply cause and affect. There could be outside factors (though they do try to remove the most obvious ones). The principle of selection appears to be in effect here and it could be the cause, however, there could be other causes. See, if these animals are reproducing, then they are passing their genes to the next generation. However, they aren't reproducing as often as possible.

One last point - this is in the Christian Scientist Monitor. That leads me to have some initial distrust of the article and the scientist in it right off the bat...

Posted by: ron on May 26, 2004 09:31 AM

CSM actually has a reputation as a level-headed "standard" newspaper, with its own writing staff. No, really!

Posted by: scott on May 26, 2004 09:39 AM

Ron, you make a great point about cause and effect. I wish more journalists realized that when they announces new research breakthroughs to the press.

Posted by: Sherri on May 26, 2004 12:38 PM

never would've thought that about a religious publication. hmmm.....

too bad there isn't a pagan scientist weekly out there...

Posted by: ron on May 28, 2004 09:36 AM
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