If human activities can lead to the premature extinction of species, they can also cause the appearance of new ones. While this might sound awesome, a team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen explain that this is not actually a good news. Their paper is published in Proceedings of Royal Society B.
New species can emerge as a consequence of a range of occurrences: from animal and plant domestication to hunting and transformed ecosystems. Could this be filling in the gaps left by extinct organisms? Could this be nature’s way to compensate for the losses such that a balance is found? This would be an ideal conclusion given our current situation whereby human activities are adversely affecting biodiversity. However, newly-evolving species cannot actually take the place of extinct ones. That new species are emerging does not mean that extinction is no more a problem. Rather, this in itself might constitute a problem on its own.
Lead author, Joseph Bull, explains that the calamity of losing ‘natural’ species cannot be counterbalanced by ‘artificially’-evolving ones. According to him, “an artificially biodiverse world is just as daunting as an artificially impoverished one”.
The study mentions the example of the common house mosquito that has evolved in order to fit into the changing environment in London such that it is now considered to be a new species as it can no more mate with other mosquitoes of its original type. Another fitting example is a group of agricultural crops that have made the transition to becoming a new species following domestication. Hunting can also cause animals to evolve through unnatural selection. Furthermore, new species can come to be with intentional or unintentional relocation of organisms. The overall impact of this is deemed to be potentially weighty.
New species might be growing in numbers, but they do not promise to replace the lost ones. Just because the trend is an increasing one, it does not mean that a balance is being reached.