Evolutionary suicide

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Evolutionary suicide is not a standard term in evolutionary biology. It is not used in any standard textbook on evolution.[1]

It is the incorrect idea that the adaptation of an individual animal works in such a way that an entire species dies out. The idea is that evolution makes plants and animals pass on their genes to the next generation more efficiently, but it does not guarantee the survival of the population or the species.[2] Obviously, that is true, and extinction occurs often. Evolution cannot foresee the future. This is, however, nothing at all to do with suicide.

A candidate for a future evolutionary suicide might be cod. Cod is caught as fish by humans. The fish do not weigh as much as they used to, mostly because they do not survive long enough. They do, however, mature earlier.[3][4] Although this means the number of eggs per female fish is reduced, its effect depends rather on the extent of overfishing.[5] Data suggests that when fishing is controlled, cod numbers return to their former level. This was the lesson of World War II, when cod fishing in many areas was greatly reduced, and pre-war cod numbers recovered.[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. It is not in Barton N.H. et al 2007. Evolution. New York: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. ISBN 978-0-879-69684-9; nor in Futuyma D.J. 1998. Evolutionary biology. 3rd ed, Sinauer. ISBN 0-87893-189-9; nor in Freeman, Scott & Herron, Jon 2007. Evolutionary analysis. Cummings ISBN 0-13-227584-8; nor in Ridley, Mark 2003. Evolution. 3rd ed, Wiley ISBN 978-1-4051-0345-9
  2. D.J. Rankin et al.: Species-level selection reduces selfishness through competitive exclusion. In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20, 2007, pp 1459–1468. PMID 17584239
  3. E.M. Olsen et al.: Maturation trends indicative of rapid evolution preceded the collapse of northern cod. In: Nature (journal). 428, 2004, pp. 932–935. PMID 15118724
  4. D.O. Conover & S.B. Munch: Sustaining fisheries yields over evolutionary time scales. In: Science. 297, 2002, pp. 94–96. PMID 12098697
  5. Courchamp, Franck; Berec, Ludek; Gascoigne, Joanna (2008). Allee Effects in Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-19-857030-1.
  6. North-east Arctic cod biomass[permanent dead link]