Wait! I thought Animals Were Fixed In Stone and Couldn’t Change or Adapt?
Sprawling cities are forcing animals to evolve at ‘unprecedented speeds’ in an effort to survive their urban environments
- Comments were made by Professor Menno Schilthuizen at Leiden University
- ‘I think Darwin underestimated the speed [that evolution] can happen,’ he said
- Cities have forced great tits to learn to open caps off milk bottles and lizards have developed stickier feet to climb up buildings
Our cities are ‘powerhouses of evolution’ where animals are adapting to their environment at ‘unprecedented speeds’.
That’s according to evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen who claims that, far from being desolate wastelands, cities are helping create new species.
Professor Schilthuizen, who is author of ‘Darwin Comes to Town’, claims humans are helping speed up this process, with some surprising results.
Our cities are ‘powerhouses of evolution’ where animals are adapting to their environment at ‘unprecedented speeds’. For instance, bobcats in Hollywood have evolved to be genetically different from those living north of the 101 freeway
In an in-depth interview with National Geographic’s Simon Worrall, Processor Schilthuizen explains how cities are creating a new breed of ‘London Underground Mosquito’.
Despite its name, the London Underground Mosquito can be found all over the world living in underground environments such as basements and subway systems.
The London Underground mosquito can no longer interbreed with its above ground counterpart and is effectively thought to be a new species.
‘I think Darwin underestimated the speed [that evolution] can happen, particularly with species that have numerous generations in a short space of time,’ Professor Schilthuizen, who is also a professor in biodiversity at Leiden University in The Netherlands, told National Geographic.
‘Generation time is the evolutionary clock speed, so if you have multiple generations per year you can accumulate evolutionary changes much more quickly than humans can, for example, which have one generation every 20 years.’
In another example, Professor Schilthuizen highlights the fact that bobcats in Hollywood are now different from those living north of the 101 freeway.
‘Fragmentation in cities is a common theme. In urban ecology humans create all kinds of barriers, like roads and highways,’ said Professor Schilthuizen.
The London Underground mosquito can no longer interbreed with its above ground counterpart and is effectively thought to be a new species
‘North of Los Angeles, the bobcat population is divided by two very large highways, which bisect the area where they live.
‘These barriers cause something similar to what happens to mosquitoes in the London subway lines, whereby evolution is restricted to the areas cut off from other populations.’