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Evolution At Work: Due to Humans Changing Landscape, Animal Brains Changing Too

Evolution At Work: Due to Humans Changing Landscape, Animal Brains Changing Too

Sep 2, 2013

Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat.  With the increase of our globe’s population, many more cities have sprouted to accommodate the larger numbers of bodies and as a result are taking away more natural landscapes.

In order for the local animal inhabitants to survive, species must adapt, as they have been doing so for millions of years (check out Evolution 101 to refresh your brain on how this works!).  A recent study done by biologist Emilie C. Snell-Rood at the University of Minnesota suggests that we may be altering the brains of animals by invading their spaces.  The brains found of both the white-footed mouse and the meadow vole (also known as a field mouse), were found to be 6% bigger than that of their rural cousins.  As the beautiful forests and pristine meadows gave way to large urban citiescapes, the local animals had to find a way to adapt themselves to this new, intense environment, an environment that their ancestors never encountered.

This is big news because this is the first report of altered brain sizes in animals outside of labs and is a large example of how evolution works, right in our own backyards.

Many more experiments are projected to take place to rule out any null hypothesis and scientists are certain that they will find similar findings in different parts of the world, where natural habitats have vastly changed due to an increase in urban populations.

For more info, check out:

The New York Times

Discovery News


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