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Heather Scoville

Global Climate Change Speeds Up Evolution

By August 4, 2011

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Wow, two controversial science topics rolled into one!

Whether or not you believe that global climate change is being sped up by human interactions, there is no denying the planet as a whole is getting hotter. The polar ice caps are melting and animals and plants are having to adapt in order to survive. The rate of temperature increase is causing these adaptations to happen even faster in what scientists call "evolutionary rescue".

Time Magazine reports that researchers at McGill University did a study on yeast that simulated several different severe and quick environmental changes. The yeast quickly adapted, within a couple of months, to the conditions and the favorable adaptations were chosen during Natural Selection.

Of course, yeast has a generation period of about 12 hours, so this would be about a century in larger species, like human, years. Even though this accelerated evolution is happening in mammals and other complex organism populations, no one knows if it is happening fast enough to make a difference.

Photo by Mike Edwards

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