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Evolution Can Happen Quicker Than Previously Thought


Seawater male stickleback

Seawater male stickleback

Mark Currey/University of Oregon

Back in 1964, a massive earthquake hit Alaska. Along with the damage it wreaked on Anchorage and other towns, it also offered an opportunity for evolution to take place on an accelerated scale.

The earthquake caused certain islands off the coast of Alaska to lift up 10-30 feet in the air. That meant that certain ocean-dwelling fish suddenly found themselves living in freshwater lakes. Those fish — the tiny threespine stickleback — evolved quickly to survive in their new environment. They changed in color, bone structure, size, lifespan, and mating habits — all in a period of less than 50 years.

GUEST:

  • Bill Cresko: Biologist at the University of Oregon

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