Evolution Is Happening Faster Than We Thought
In the extremity of the urban environment, natural selection is transforming species in unexpected ways.
By Menno Schilthuizen

The Op-Ed piece is telling us that evolution of some species, particularly those who live in cities, is happening much quicker than assumed. The animals are adapting to metals in the soil and crap in the air, and birds are changing their pitch to higher tones so they can be heard above the noise and are no longer migrating from their city homes. (Why should they? We humans provide plenty of good, whether intentionally or not.)


For many of these differences, genes are responsible. The birds’ DNA, after 200 years or less of adaptation, has diverged from that of their rural ancestors.

For a long time, biologists thought evolution was a very, very slow process, too tardy to be observed in a human lifetime. But recently, we have come to understand that evolution can happen very quickly, as long as natural selection — the relative benefit that a particular characteristic bestows on its bearer — is strong.

The glass frogs (or glassfrogs) are frogs of the amphibian family Centrolenidae (order Anura). While the general background coloration of most glass frogs is primarily lime green, the abdominal skin of some members of this family is translucent. The internal viscera, including the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal tract, are visible through the skin, hence the common name. [x],[x]

Elephants in Africa are actually evolving to lose their tusks in order to evade poachers. There were about a million elephants in 1989 when the international ban on ivory poaching was instituted - of that number, about 7.5% of them were being poached each year. Fast forward to today, and fewer than half of them remain. 

The elephants responded to this existential threat by evolving to be born without tusks. Queen Elizabeth National Park researchers in Uganda discovered that 15% of female elephants and 9% of male elephants are now being born without tusks. Experts have theorized that this adaption will make them a less attractive target to poachers, helping them to survive. Unfortunately, elephant tusks are important tools, used for things like digging for roots and to help male elephants fight one another for mates during rutting season. This means that mother nature decided that poachers are a greater threat to elephant survival than tusks being used to find foot or mates.