Question Daily Science

What is the likely future for Evolution on Earth?

What is the likely future for Evolution on Earth?

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Answer Internal Staff

Evolution is an observation that species of organisms adapt their physical traits to suit their environment over multiple generations. This occurs primarily through natural selection determining survival rates, and through selective reproduction.

As evolution occurs over long periods to the casual observer it might appear that evolution has halted – but there is no reason to believe this is the case. Future evolution for species is difficult to predict, but some relevant evolutionary pressures can be identified.

The human influence on this process must be recognised as significant, if human hegemony of the Earth continues then this may well play a factor in the evolution of many species. It can already be observed that some species are adapting behaviour to suit a human dominated landscape, such as foxes and pigeons in urban environments. Given enough time, these changes in behaviour could favour specific physical traits that could then become established in the species.

Another aspect is that humans have already altered the genetic makeup of some species through selective breeding, while this isn’t considered ‘natural’ evolution, the outcomes are still the same. This process is likely to continue, or even accelerate due to more advanced genetic manipulation methods.

Another influence is in climate and habitat change. Regardless of the origin of climatic change it can be seen to be taking effect in some regions. Over time this will force creatures to adapt to drastically changing conditions, as occurred during the last glacial period (the Ice Age; beginning ~110,000 BCE). Habitats can be changed by climatic conditions, but also through human activity such as deforestation and the creation of farmland.

So long as there are conditions that generate selective pressures consistently over long periods there will be some form of evolution occur. This direction this takes will depend on the most dominant pressures for each species.