Evolution Does Not Always Occur Slowly

Evolutionary biology is only about ten years short of a century. In this subfield of biology, researchers have been able to study the popular beliefs and observations that species evolved over time from very simple organisms. This information is available both in academic spaces and in mainstream society. Some information is simple to understand and has become common knowledge. For instance, the majority of people understand that humans – Homo sapiens were Homo habilis about two million years ago. The Homo habilis looked like the present-day ape. However, in about two million years, the species evolved to the present-day human form. This is arguably a very lengthy period of time, from which there is a consensus that the evolution of species in genus Homo has been very slow. A species usually undergoes changes both biologically and in relation to ecology over lengthy periods to result in a significant change. This is a misconception summed as evolution only occurs slowly and gradually. However, this is not true to say. Evolution can occur rapidly during a climate change, when interfered with by humans, and when gene variations favor the formation of more adaptive offspring.

Evolution can occur rapidly because of climatic changes. A recent study has found that within a few generations of a species, climatic changes can significantly alter hard-wired genetic traits (Cameron et al. 757). Cameron et al.’s experiment, which concerned soil mites, revealed that the species doubled the age at which they reach adulthood and body size by merely changing their environmental conditions and managing their populations (759). Another study has cited that changes in temperature, for instance, have the potential to rapidly alter the phenology –relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (Koch et al. 7). This study contends that through climate change, the existing interactions between species change through the food web, which necessitates immediate adaptation (Koch et al. 7).


It is imperative to note that in the evolutionary theory, adaptation is a significant biological mechanism through which species have survived changes in their environment, which includes climatic changes. Cameron et al. explain the significance of adaptation to the environment by insisting that adaptive phenotypic changes are in many species fast and visible both in a controlled environment and in populations with high standing genetic variation (755). This statement is in defense of their experiment, which was controlled, and supporting that adaptation due to changes such as climate is prone to rapid changes in the natural world. For instance, Dobson et al. found that with changes in Columbian climate (temperature ranges and the onset of seasons), squirrels have changed their pre-hibernation fattening within 21 years (5617). This claim does not disqualify the notion that evolution occurs slowly and gradually, but rather, it qualifies that evolution can also happen rapidly due to climate change.

Evolution can also occur rapidly due to human intervention. This happens both directly and indirectly. Regarding direct intervention, humans have carried experiments that interfere with a species, altering the speed of their otherwise slow evolution. An ideal example is a study by the University of Leeds, where researchers changed mice’s ecological conditions, causing changes in body average body size and maturation period (Cameron et al. 757). Another direct interference in genetic engineering, which has been referred to as arresting evolution (Bull and Barrick 910). Genetic engineering notes that some aspects of evolution are bad, while others are good for humans. Thus, using artificial selection, bad traits are arrested and eliminated from a species’ future genealogy, and the good ones are enhanced. This drastically reduces the evolutionary period it would take for a species to enhance the good traits and surpass the bad ones.

Indirect interference is Hendry et al.’s calls for human-induced contemptible evolution and rapid in many ecological niches (28). For instance, pollution is mainly caused by human activities. Chemicals, both solid and fluid released in the environment, change the natural ecological order. For instance, water changes temperature and taste, the air changes density and humidity, among other changes. When a factory is set up in an area, pollutants change the environment within a very short period. Similarly, species within that area evolve rapidly to survive the pollution. The National Geographic reports how fish in the Hudson River evolved within decades to develop “a gene that renders them immune to the toxic effects of PCBs” (Minard par.1). Therefore, evolution can be rapid when interfered with by humans, directly or indirectly.

Besides, evolution can naturally speed up to become rapid and exponential. Studies have shown that through the sharing of beneficial DNA sequences, generations change rapidly, leading to the formation of new (evolved) species (Loewe and Hill 1154). This works in that when good genes mix through reproduction, offspring become deter in adapting to the environments. They can thus change rapidly depending on evolution-contributing factors such as the change in environmental conditions. Another study explains that prey populations evolve rapidly in response to gene flow changes or standing genetic variations (Koch et al. 2). Bull and Barrick explain that genetic mutation can slow down or speed up evolution, depending on the genetic variations that occur (911). Also, Cameron et al. conclude that species change the trajectories that delay evolution through adaptive evolution and speed up those that favor benefits for a species in its ecosystem (756). Essentially, evolution proceeds such that through gene variations, species become better adapted to manage their environments and thus aggravate the factors such as environmental changes, which speed up evolution. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that evolution occurs only slowly and gradually.

To sum up, evolution can occur rapidly during climate change, when interfered with by humans, and when gene variations favor the formation of more adaptive offspring. The common knowledge is that evolution takes a very long period to manifest significant changes. However, studies have found that climate changes such as temperature causes changes in the rate of evolution. Human interference, such as in genetic engineering, speeds up evolution. Also, activities that change the ecosystem prompt rapid evolution. Lastly, through genetic variation, species acquire genes that are more adaptive in the environment. They thus evolve even faster to manage their ecosystem. Thus, it is incorrect to say that evolution only occurs slowly and gradually.

free essay typer



Works Cited

Bull, James J., and Jeffrey E. Barrick. “Arresting Evolution”. Trends In Genetics, vol 33, no. 12, 2017, pp. 910-920. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.tig.2017.09.008. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Cameron, Tom C. et al. “Eco‐Evolutionary Dynamics In Response To Selection On Life‐History”. Ecology Letters, vol 16, no. 6, 2013, pp. 754-763. Wiley, doi:10.1111/ele.12107. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Dobson, F. Stephen et al. “Fitness Implications Of Seasonal Climate Variation In Columbian Ground Squirrels”. Ecology And Evolution, vol 6, no. 16, 2016, pp. 5614-5622. Wiley, doi:10.1002/ece3.2279. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Hendry, Andrew P. et al. “Human Influences On Evolution, And The Ecological And Societal Consequences”. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 372, no. 1712, 2017, p. 20160028. The Royal Society, doi:10.1098/rstb.2016.0028. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Koch, Hanna et al. “Why Rapid, Adaptive Evolution Matters For Community Dynamics”. Frontiers In Ecology And Evolution, vol 2, 2014. Frontiers Media SA, doi:10.3389/fevo.2014.00017. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Loewe, Laurence, and William G. Hill. “The Population Genetics Of Mutations: Good, Bad And Indifferent”. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 365, no. 1544, 2010, pp. 1153-1167. The Royal Society, doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0317. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.

Minard, Anne. “Hudson River Fish Evolve Toxic PCB Immunity”. National Geographic, 2011, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/2/110217-hudson-river-pcb-fish-evolution-water/. Accessed 3 Dec 2020.