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Human Activity is Creating Whole New Species

It’s no secret that humans are driving a whole lot of changes, whether it be to our climate or contributing to the documented extinction of 784 animal species in less than 600 years. But human activity is also driving speciation–that is, the creation of whole new species–including the newly discovered “London Underground Mosquito.”

There is a number of ways that human activity drives the rapid emergence of new species; in the case of the British train tunnel-dwelling mosquito, it was simply a matter of the common household mosquito moving into man-made tunnels, and adapting to life down there. Some time has passed and now the London Underground mosquito is incapable of procreating with their above-ground counterparts. In short, they’ve become a whole new kind of mosquito.

The (unnatural) habitat of the London Underground mosquito

The (unnatural) habitat of the London Underground mosquito

But, as a new report from researchers at the Universities of Copehagen and Queensland, published in The Proceedings of Royal Society B, underground transit is just one of the ways we’re causing evolutionary quirks across the globe.

The Pyrenean Ibex, available only as an illustration since 2000.

The Pyrenean Ibex, available only as an illustration since 2000.

Unnatural selection as a result of hunting has also contributed to speciation in the animal world, and the relocation of species–whether deliberate or accidental–has led to the creation of new species in the plant world. Indeed, the report cites, more new plant species are documented to have appeared than gone extinct in Europe in the past 300 hundred years.

But it’s hardly a call for celebration–there’s no linear way to prop speciation figures up against extinction rates.

As Joseph Bull, lead author of the study explained:

The prospect of ‘artificially’ gaining novel species through human activities is unlikely to elicit the feeling that it can offset losses of ‘natural’ species. Indeed, many people might find the prospect of an artificially biodiverse world just as daunting as an artificially impoverished one.

No kidding.

London Underground image CC by 2.0 Generalising