Human-driven Evolution

Raincoast’s Chris Darimont speaks to NPR

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Ira Flatow, host of NPR’s Science Friday, interviews Raincoast’s Dr. Chris Darimont on the impacts of human predation on the evolution of hunted species.

click here for the interview

Can humans angling for the prize-winning fish shift the course of evolution? Research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that predation by humans through hunting, fishing, and gathering has had significant influences on the rate of evolutionary change in a wide variety of species. Traits such as body size and first reproductive age shift significantly in species that are ‘harvested,’ the authors say.

“Fishing regulations often prescribe the taking of larger fish, and the same often applies to hunting regulations,” said Chris Darimont, one of the authors of the study. “Hunters are instructed not to take smaller animals or those with smaller horns. This is counter to patterns of natural predation, and now we’re seeing the consequences of this management.” Darimont and colleagues found that human predation accelerated the rate of observable trait changes in a species by 300 percent above the pace observed within purely natural systems, and 50 percent above that of systems subject to other human influences, such as pollution,. We’ll talk with Darimont about the team’s findings

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