Human Impact on Altered Behavior and Evolution of Species

Contributed by Brad Richardson

A common misconception about evolution is that it is only a theory; however, it is a fact. A fact is a truth known by actual experience or observation. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection on the other hand is a theory much like the theory of relativity or gravity; it is a broad explanation of a particular phenomena that is proposed based on multiple observations and can be used to make predictions.

Many believe the theory is not testable or observable and that if it is true, it only happens over a very long period of time. However, human intervention via our technological advances such as city building and industrialization has led to an altered environment that is changing at an extreme rate. Although this can have either negative or positive consequences for varying species, one positive consequence for the human species is that it is allowing us to get a much better understanding of the scope and specificity of how evolutionary mechanism works.

Because of this accelerated rate of technological advance by humans, others species are having to adapt and evolve at an equally fast rate. This allows us to get a unique glimpse of evolution happening before our eyes. One of the biggest culprits is of course the effect climate change is having on all species, including our own. Various animals are breeding earlier in the spring, becoming smaller to keep their body temperatures in balance, and even completely moving their ranges away from the equator to avoid the heat!

Many changes are also occurring at the microscopic level due to technological advances in medicine. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have evolved to increase their chances of survival. The bacteria evolve and reproduce at such a fast scale that “superbugs” even exist which evolve resistance to the antibiotics that are usually given as an alternative to regular antibiotics.

Changes are happening all around us, which makes the Theory of Evolution such an interesting topic to study because every day species are changing and adapting and providing “natural” observable data that further bolsters the legitimacy of the theory.

Take a look below at some examples of observable evolution!

For more information check out:

Candolin U, Nieminen A, Nyman J. 2014. Indirect effects of human-induced environmental change on offspring production mediated by behavioral responses. Oecologia. 174: 87-97.

Janssens L, Khuong DV, Debecker S, Bervoets L, Stoks R. 2014. Local adaptation and the potential effects of a contaminant on predator avoidance and antipredator responses under global warming: a space-for-time substitution approach. Evolutionary Applications. 7: 421-430.

Sol D, Lapiedra O, Ganzalez-Lagos C. 2013. Behavioural adjustments for a life in the city. Animal Behaviour. 85: 1101-1112.

Nemeth Z, Bonier F, MacDougall-Shackleton SA. 2013. Coping with uncertainty: integrating physiology, behavior, and evolutionary ecology in a changing world. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 53: 960-964.

Martin J, Lopez P. 2013. Effects of global warming on sensory ecology of rock lizards increased temperatures alter the efficacy of sexual chemical signals. Functional Ecology. 27: 1332-1340.

Miranda AC, Schielzeth H, Sonntag T, Partecke J. 2013. Urbanization and its effects   on personality traits: a result of microevolution or phenotypic plasticity?. Global Change Biology. 19: 2634-2644.