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Age of Man

There's the Paleozoic Era, the Mesozoic Era, the Cenozoic Era - and now, the Anthropozoic Era.

Homo sapiens has been wreaking havoc within Terra since his birth, and it gets worse with every new age of history. The worst of it began with the Industrial Age. Now, we have very clear evidence of the evolutionary effects of human actions on Terra.

Yes, you heard that right. Evolutionary. We're beyond Chernobyl making mutants now. We're talking large-scale, long-term changes in the direction of Terra's development and the evolution of species.

The basis of evolution is natural selection, where changes in the environment put pressure on the best-adapted individuals to survive and pass on their genes. These days, however, such environmental changes have taken on a completely unnatural form - urbanization. Cities are taking over Terra's natural ecosystems, and species are forced to cope via evolution.

The evidence comes from a sampling of white clover plants across 160 cities and 26 countries. Results from studies of these samples reveal that throughout the world, the species' physiology is changing in response to urbanization and in very similar ways. Some of these changes include less production of a certain chemical that keeps away predators and protects against water stress, both of which are less of a problem in cities.

Left: White Clover (Trifolium repens) flower. Right: Trifolium repens leaf. A normal leaf will have 3 cloves.

Moreover, because of the similarities in the genetic changes of the species, plants from Tokyo are much more similar to their cousins in, say, Paris, than their cousins in the forests just outside of Tokyo. This has huge implications for biodiversity.

In fact, this study has huge implications in general, both for Terra and society. Exactly what implications, though, needs more research, which shouldn't be a problem thanks to the massive data set of clover genomes sequenced in the study. Hopefully, with more studies like this, we can gain a better understanding of humanity's impact on Terra and how we can flourish as a civilization yet live in harmony with Terra. Check out the full article by James S. Santangelo, et. al., from Science magazine, here:

Credit: University of Toronto. (17 March 2022). New, clearest evidence yet that humans are a dominant force driving evolution.

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