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Adapting to Humanity

Recently I read an article on Cracked.com (Thanks to Roger Ebert for the link) titled “7 Animals That Are Evolving Right Before Our Eyes”. It’s a fascinating list, ranging all over the animal kingdom. (And before you make a crack – sorry, bad pun – about scientific accuracy from a comedy site, every item on the list has multiple sources cited and links provided.)

As I read the list, I noticed something a bit disturbing: Almost every animal mentioned is evolving (apparently) in response to the effects of humans on their habitat. Tuskless elephants are being born with greater frequency (most likely due to poaching of tusked elephants); Peppered moths apparently changed color to better hide from predators amidst the pollution of the Industrial Revolution; and some of Moscow’s stray dog population appears to have learned to ride the subway.

The one item that most gave me pause was the discovery of the Grolar bear – that’s a hybrid between Grizzly and Polar bears. Amazingly, in April 2010 one bear was killed by a native Inuvialuit hunter, and DNA tests confirmed that not only was it a grizzly/polar hybrid, it was 2nd generation – meaning unlike some other hybrids (like the mule), grolar bears are fertile. This means that, as the polar bears’ habitat melts from global warming, there may be more and more meetings between polars and grizzlies, resulting in more hybrids, which could continue to reproduce – creating a large population of grolar bears (or Brolar bears, as polar bears can also successfully mate with brown bears).

As Cracked pointed out, polar bears are carnivorous, while 80-90% of the grizzlies’ diet is plants. So by nature, polar bears tend to be more aggressive. And this means that a hybrid grolar could be, in essence, a highly aggressive carnivorous beast that’s better suited to warmer climates than its grizzly parent or grandparent.

It occurred to me to wonder whether our damaging the environment has led to the creation of a predator that will intrude on our territory before long. And that got me thinking: what other crazy or unexpected animals might our influence on the planet jumpstart into existence?

So let’s hear your theories! What animal will evolve in the near future as a result of our effect on the world that we’ll come to regret? And please be realistic – no matter how entertaining it sounds in theory, there will never be a sharktopus.