Unnatural selection is probably a more accurate term in this case, but I’m always in awe of how nature attempts to dodge and weave around the impact of humanity.
It’s a strategy that was developed long ago, so simple, yet so effective. Whatever mutation or anomaly that allows an animal or plant to better survive a threat, becomes a desirable characteristic, then becomes dominant in the species.
A good example is the poor old elephant. While the evolution of species is usually measured over thousands of years for even the smallest changes to become dominant, the elephant has needed to fast track changes in order to survive.
In the last century and a half, the world’s elephant population has wound up with much smaller tusks – up to 50% smaller. Zoologists from Oxford University believe that ivory poachers who have been targeting the bull elephants with the largest tusks have given the smaller tusked males a better shot at breeding. The characteristics of these smaller elephants are then passed on to offspring. Simplicity. Genius.
Unfortunately, this blazingly fast adaption won’t be enough – at some stage as ivory becomes even more valuable due to increased scarcity on the black market the smaller tusks will do for the poachers.
Everything can only stretch, bend and flex so much before it breaks.
While on the subject of this amazing animal, an organization called “Save the Elephants” has started using Google Earth to assist with elephant tracking in Kenya, Africa.
Real-time data for the last two weeks is visible in Google Earth for all elephants being currently tracked. If you’d like to take a peek at what “Lewis” the elephant is up to; you’ll need to install Google Earth (free) and also download this file (right mouse button click and select “save as”).
Once downloaded, double click on the file and Google Earth will initialize and display the elephant tracking data.