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REVIEW: EVOLUTION Humans as the World’s Greatest Evolutionary Force Stephen R. Palumbi In addition to altering global ecology, technology and human population growth also affect evolutionary trajectories, dramatically accelerating evolutionary change in other species, especially in commercially important, pest, and disease organisms. Such changes are apparent in antibiotic and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) resis- tance to drugs, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, rapid changes in invasive species, life-history change in commercial fisheries, and pest adaptation to biological engineering products. This accelerated evolution costs at least $33 billion to $50 billion a year in the United States. Slowing and controlling arms races in disease and pest management have been successful in diverse ecological and economic systems, illustrating how applied evolutionary principles can help reduce the impact of human- kind on evolution. H uman impact on the global biosphere now controls many major facets of eco- system function. Currently, a large frac- tion of the world’s available fresh water, arable land, fisheries production, nitrogen budget, CO 2 balance, and biotic turnover are dominated by human effects ( 1 ). Human ecological impact has enormous evolutionary consequences as well and can greatly accelerate evolutionary change in the species around us, especially disease organisms, agricultural pests, commen- sals, and species hunted commercially. For ex- ample, some forms of bacterial infection are insensitive to all but the most powerful antibi- otics, yet these infections are increasingly com- mon in hospitals ( 2 ). Some insects are tolerant of so many different insecticides that chemical control is useless ( 3 ). Such examples illustrate the pervasive intersection of biological evolu- tion with human life, effects that generate sub- stantial daily impacts and produce increasing economic burden. Accelerated evolutionary changes are easy to understand—they derive from strong natural selection exerted by human technolo- gy. However, technological impact has in- creased so markedly over the past few de- cades that humans may be the world’s dom- inant evolutionary force. The importance of human-induced evolutionary change can be measured economically, in some cases, and is frequently seen in the exposure of societies to uncontrollable disease or pest outbreaks. At- tempts to slow these evolutionary changes are widespread but uncoordinated. How well do they work to slow evolution? Can successes from one field be generalized to others? The Pace of Human-Induced Evolution Paul Mu ¨ller’s 1939 discovery that DDT killed insects won him the 1948 Nobel Prize, but before the Nobel ceremony occurred, evolution of resistance had already been reported in house flies ( 3, 4 ). By the 1960s, mosquitoes resistant to DDT effectively prevented the worldwide eradication of malaria ( 5 ), and by 1990, over 500 species had evolved resistance to at least
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This note was uploaded on 05/12/2008 for the course AAP 1101 taught by Professor Aapfaculty during the Fall '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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