How Does Evolution Work?
You’ve probably heard about "evolution" before, about how it has supposedly transformed a few single-celled microorganisms into the beautiful array of life on Earth which we see today.
However, how does it exactly work? What affects it? What is the "rate of evolution?"
In today’s post, we will be breaching the extremely complex topic of evolution, what affects it, some theories about it, and more!
Our video version of this post includes fascinating footage of viruses, micro-organisms, and other rare insects! Click HERE to watch it now.
You can also download the podcast by pressing the podcast widget above!
How Do We Evolve?
Before we can talk about some of the more fascinating theories & things that affect the rate of evolution, we must first answer: how does it even work?
Keep in mind that for the sake of simplicity we’ll be cutting some corners here; the science behind evolution is complicated, difficult, and still being researched and contended to this day!
It is believed that random variations & mutations of genetic code is what changes species over a very long period of time.
In the short-term, this is not notice-able (except in rare instances), however like compound interest, give it enough time and it really starts to show.
In assexual reproduction, when a single cell organism divides into two, it is believed that a random, by-chance variation of genetic code is what created evolution.
In sexual reproduction, involving 2 or more creatures, the variations of DNA can be more easily understood.
Most creatures in the world practice sexual reproduction, whereby two individual creatures of the species are required to reproduce.
In this case the genetic code of the offspring is mixed from both parents, which leads to more variations in the population.
Other Theories About Evolution
Sexual reproduction’s effect on evolution is easily understood and accepted, but there are other "hotly debated" theories regarding evolution, with varying degrees of evidence behind them.
One certain way DNA is altered is through radiation. In some radioactive zones such as the Chernobyl area, only mutants are capable of surviving, and the radiation causes an extremely high rate of mutation which can be observed within short periods of time.
It is believed that radiation could affect Earth in other ways (ie. radiation from the sun, or other solar events) which would cause mutations in creatures all around the world!
Some scientists have suggested that even viruses can affect mutations. Surprisingly there is solid evidence to support this theory.
Many viruses are not harmful. Some live in your cells but do not try to kill or override the cell, and do not obsessively replicate themselves.
While this may sound like a shock to you, "you" are actually not "completely human," if such a thing even exists.
For example, there are bacteria which live inside of your stomach, and help you digest food.
Some studies have suggested that as much as 80-90% of your brain’s serotonin, which regulates sleep & mood, come from microorganisms in your gut!
While we think that "we are we," simply human, the fact is that we live in "symbiotic" relationships with micro-organisms such as bacteria, which actually help us survive!
It is very well possible that there could be "beneficial viruses." Of course, there are also deadly viruses, as we are seeing in these current times…
Finally, some have suggested that there is a Will behind evolution, poking some holes in the theory of random mutations (this topic is becoming increasingly complex, so you may research on your own this theory if you are curious).
Evolution is NOT Equal
Did you know that the rate of evolution is NOT equal among all creatures? Some types of creatures, such as insects, evolve faster than us!
As we wrote earlier, subtle variations in genetic code are not notice-able short-term, but lead to long-term changes, eventually turning into completely new species.
Insects however can evolve so fast, that we’ve seen entirely new species of insects emerge from other species in a span of about 100-200 years!
There is a new type of mosquito species that lives inside of the London Underground Metro, and several other types of insects that have already evolved uniquely to live inside of our human infrastructure- more on this later.
The reason insects evolve faster is due to shorter life-spans and higher #’s of offspring.
More babies = more variations in genetic code, and shorter life-spans means that subtle mutations occur quicker, compared to other creatures like humans, which must wait over a decade before a human can even reach sexual maturity.
But.. Humans Still Evolve "Fast"
Still, in the grand scheme of time spanning millions of years, we humans can evolve pretty quickly.
Take skin color for example. Your skin color is a result of your family’s location.
If you are darker skinned, it’s because your ancestry came from a hot area with a lot of sunlight. If you are light skinned, your ancestry probably came from Northern Europe, where the intensity of sunlight is less, and in Winters little to no sunlight!
Some anthropologists suggest- and have reasonable evidence to prove- that within just 1,000 years a family’s skin color could change completely from light skin to dark (or vice versa) simply by moving geographical locations.
What this means is that if you were to take your family from Norway and move to Africa near the Equator, after "just" 1,000 years your great-great-great-etc. Grand-children will be dark-skinned, instead of light-skinned.
Within roughly 50 generations of humans, we have the capacity to change our skin color, simply because of evolution!
All kinds of unique adaptations have been observed in humans around the world. Some humans are more adapted for mountain living, others by the Ocean.
This can also be seen in "dieting." Some humans thrive on a meat-based diet, whereas others get sick from eating meat- this is because some of us humans have evolved for various diets,
and are unable to digest certain foods.
Changes in Humanity in the Coming Years
It would be fascinating to be alive to observe the changes in humanity in the next couple hundred years, as now human civilization is more international than ever before.
It used to be that we each lived in our own area, as it was for thousands of years, but now with transportation at an all-time low (and continuing to drop), we are seeing a great mixing!
As we continue to mix over hundreds/thousands of years, we will start to blend into each other more and more, in the sense that there will be less visibly segregated in terms of skin color (but also other important genetic features, such as location-specific immune systems).
Fight the Pests!
Pests can evolve rapidly, and with that they’re becoming more and more capable of infesting your home. Other wild creatures, such as the raccoon, have actually increased in intelligence, with urban raccoons capable of performing impressive feats which the wild raccoon cannot.
If you’ve got a wildlife or pest problem, we safely & ethically get rid of them (and when possible restore them to the wild), then undo any damage to your home, and finally set up your home to prevent future infestation.
Visit our website at www.wildlifexteam.com or call us at 855-WILDLIFE and we’ll be sure to help you out!
-Wildlife x Team International