Saturday, July 30, 2011

Co-evolution from another angle

As exemplified by this Economist cover article, the concept of the Anthropocene is getting lots of attention. While exemplifying the idea of co-evolution, that is that natural and social systems are engaged in a dance of mutual influence and shifting adaptive landscapes -- the primary focus is on how humans have altered the biosphere.

A recent NYTimes article takes a different approach, documenting various animal adaptations to the urban environment.
White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis. In short, the process of evolution is responding to New York and other cities the way it has responded to countless environmental changes over the past few billion years. Life adapts.

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