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  • Friday, February 25, 2022
  • 1:30 PM–2:20 PM
  • Science Building 010

Some of the most striking results in evolutionary biology involve the biological evolution of organismal traits in a short period of time— in extreme cases over just a few dozen generations. Humans are sometimes the instigators of such rapid evolution, whether intentionally or not, either by changing the environments the organisms face, or by controlling their survival and reproduction. These human impacts are especially interesting scientifically because they create opportunities for prediction in evolutionary biology: we can ask how we expect a certain species to evolve under certain novel conditions, and then go out and test our hypothesis. Three case studies exemplify the diversity of evolutionary change we have caused in birds and mammals, for instance: we relaxed selection on the village weaverbird by removing it from its natural enemies; we intensified sexual selection in the small Indian mongoose by introducing it to lush tropical islands where its populations exploded; and we selectively bred canaries that sing songs we prefer to hear. All of these interactions led to dramatic evolutionary changes in the animals. These results are in line with what we expect from evolutionary theory, but they also reveal plenty of surprises.

Presenter: David Lahti, Queens College, City University of New York

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