5 Animals That Live In The Amazon And Their Adaptations How Human Roads And Highways Hurt Wildlife Habitats – Forcing Adaptation And Evolution

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How Human Roads And Highways Hurt Wildlife Habitats – Forcing Adaptation And Evolution

Evolution allows species to adapt to their environment so that species can fill a niche and live to reproduce and carry on. Those species that did not evolve fast enough and were unable to change their localized habitats are either no longer with us, or risk joining the endangered species list and then, perhaps, eventual extinction. Let’s discuss how humans are modifying not only our environment, but the environment we share with other species and how this affects their adaptations and evolutionary process.

Recently there was an interesting article in Science News online entitled; “Roads are driving rapid evolutionary change in our environment – Study explains why road ecology matters,” published on February 17, 2017 about a study from Dartmouth College that said: “Roads are driving rapid evolutionary change in populations wild plants and animals according to The study examines the evolutionary changes being caused by the way roads slice and dice our plane.”

Among the top four ways our roads are messing with wildlife are:

(1) Roadkill

(2) Toxic fumes from vehicles

(3) Invasive species

(4) Changes in sediment flow and water flow

But to this list I would like to add road noise, interfering with nature’s hunting and avoidance process and the urban heat island effect. Also, hunting by humans, easier access for animals that hang out next to roads for road kill, heat or water runoff – and poisoning by people who excrete poisons to prevent rodents and gophers from burrowing under roads or on control paths of nearby flooding and infrastructures. So let’s call these:

(5) Road noise – Harder to hear predators or prey

(6) Heating – The streets are hotter

(7) Manhunt approach

(8) Poisoning – Control of rodents in road gutters, pavements, road base

There are many studies on roadkill – one I like to cite often is by Sean Anderson of California State University Channel Islands in CA. One of his graduate students has an interesting thesis; “Roadkill Web-Based Reporting System” which was an incredibly in-depth project on how many animals are killed each year in rural California. Those animals that avoid the roads live to reproduce, those that aren’t often crushed, providing protein for the scavengers who take advantage of this new food supply – sometimes at their own peril.

Those animals that listen for cars, or watch carefully and react quickly, survive and thrive, reproduce and carry on. Nocturnal animals that don’t freeze in car headlights – well, they live and grow too, those that don’t get lost and become road pizza.

There have been many stories of Mountain Lions killed on Southern California freeways – trying to cross. You’d think a mountain lion would learn and be nimble enough to get out of the way—not so, since nothing they’ve encountered weighs 6,000 pounds. and follows them at 60+ miles per hour, so they’re not looking for cars. Although some of the tagged mountain lions have routinely crossed highways in CA, perhaps they are learning and adapting, by teaching their young, perhaps in the 20th generation, adaptations will begin to emerge as they evolve to this threat of young?

A recent statistical study showed that the average point in the US is less than 1/2 mile from a paved road. Our wildlife must adapt or die to cope with these changes in their environment. You can just imagine how these and other issues are changing their evolutionary fit. Pigeons have adapted to living in the city, in parks, along with other species – completely changing the dynamics of their normal evolutionary process, simply because everything we do affects something else. BTW – I am not an environmentalist or a wildlife advocate, but no one can deny that what I have said here today is not true.

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