Urbanization is a ‘massive unplanned experiment’: How cities affect evolution

zimmer articlelarge v
Image credit: Michael Appleton/The New York Times
[C]ities are having profound effects on their animal and plant residents. Globally, about 0.5 percent of Earth’s land area is urbanized, including 1.2 percent of North America and 2.3 percent of Europe, according to one 2015 analysis of satellite maps of nighttime light. As researchers are realizing that evolution can, and regularly does, happen at a much faster pace than previously thought—on the order of decades and centuries rather than millennia and eras—they are beginning to observe the effects of this global urbanization on species’ genetic makeup. Biologists now know that cities not only influence factors driving nonadaptive change, via such evolutionary processes as genetic drift and gene flow, but present a suite of special selection pressures for species living there, promoting adaptation too.

Related article:  9 significant archaeological discoveries of the past decade, including a Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrid

The study of this so-called urban evolution “is an area that’s rapidly gaining momentum,” says Marc Johnson, an evolutionary ecologist.

He and a colleague reported in 2017 that the number of published studies on how species are evolving in the city had more than doubled in the preceding five years. Urban environments, he says, are seen by many as an exciting new playground for research into evolution in action. “From an evolutionary biologist’s point of view, this is a massive, unplanned experiment. . . . It became this idea of a very powerful way to study evolution across the globe, replicated thousands of times.”


Read full, original post: Cities Can Serve as Cauldrons of Evolution

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
GLP Podcasts
Infographic: Here’s where GM crops are grown around the world today

Infographic: Here’s where GM crops are grown around the world today

Do you know where biotech crops are grown in the world? This updated ISAAA infographics show where biotech crops were ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

* indicates required
Email Lists
Send this to a friend