• Question: what is one of the best examples of evolution

    Asked by the more supreme leader to Zoe V, Sharron K, Richard B, Michael S, Michael C, Martin M, Liam H, Alexander DB on 27 Feb 2024.
    • Photo: Zoe Vance

      Zoe Vance answered on 27 Feb 2024:

      I think the clearest one is peppered moths as studied in Manchester around the industrial revolution. There are two types of moth, light and dark coloured. Before the industrial revolution the dark version was extremely rare (less than 1% of moths), because the light version blended in better with the tree bark and was less likely to be seen and eaten by predators so they had a strong advantage. But with increasing industry and pollution trees became darker in the area because they were covered in soot. Around the same time, the dark variant of moth shot up to 98% of the population.

      The environment shifted and changed which type of moth was ‘fitter’, that is, better able to survive and produce more of itself. It’s quite a clear and simple example of how selection in the environment causes populations of living things to change in response.

    • Photo: Alexander De Bruin

      Alexander De Bruin answered on 27 Feb 2024:

      I think one of my favourites (because it’s cute) is that domesticated dogs have evolved eyebrow movements to communicate with humans better – wolves can’t make those facial expressions!

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 28 Feb 2024:

      I think one of the most interesting evolutionary stories is that of hominid (human) evolution. Modern homo sapiens are relatively young as a species. Before them there was a species called homo neanderthalis that successfully populated Europe. They were successful but not as successful as homo sapiens and died out. Though we can still see traits from the neanderthals in our genetics today.

    • Photo: Liam Herringshaw

      Liam Herringshaw answered on 29 Feb 2024:

      One of my favourite books about evolution is Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin. In this book, Neil shows how fossil research has been combined with modern genetics to understand how we evolved from fish, and which parts of our bodies are still fish-like. Apparently humans and tadpoles get hiccups, and hernia problems in men are often linked to the arrangement of our internal organs still being shark-like!

    • Photo: Michael Schubert

      Michael Schubert answered on 29 Feb 2024:

      There are lots of great examples in these answers (and I’m really glad that someone mentioned “Your Inner Fish,” which is one of my all-time favourite books). I think the earliest land animals are a great example; when there was too much competition for the resources in the ocean, animals that could reach things on land (where nobody else was fighting for them) had the best chances of success, so more and more animals evolved to be able to get to those resources… and, eventually, we stayed on land full-time!

    • Photo: Michael C Macey

      Michael C Macey answered on 5 Mar 2024:

      I am biased as a microbiologist but I think plastic-degrading microbes are an amazing example – there are microbes that can degrade PET, a specific type of plastic that has only really been produced since the early seventies. That means these microbes evolved to be able to breakdown and get carbon from something in just a matter of decades and shows just how rapidly microbes can evolve! (Which we also see when microbes develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics…).

      The enzymes produced by these microbes are now being used to try and solve the crisis of worldwide plastic pollution!

    • Photo: Richard Birch

      Richard Birch answered on 7 Mar 2024:

      Fish. Because they lived in water, we have a very good fossil record and we can follow their evolution from the earliest examples.

    • Photo: Sharron Kenny

      Sharron Kenny answered on 4 Apr 2024:

      i like the example of the finches that have evolved selective bill sizes for the types of seeds that they eat.