A key example of a species that has come about due to infrastructural changes within cityscapes is the “London Underground mosquito.” This used to be the common house mosquito not many generations ago, but a few snuck into the London subway network and bred there. Now, there is a sizable subterranean population so genetically distinct from its surface-dwelling counterparts that the two groups of mosquitos can no longer interbreed.
Another example focuses on the damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus, a resident of the forests of Central America. Thanks to overzealous deforestation, the species has been divided into several separate population groups, split by the new geography. Now, it’s highly likely that it has fragmented into multiple species within a remarkably short space of time.
Climate change is infamously eradicating much of the Arctic’s sea ice – the very same polar bears like to live on. This has forced them to move further inland, where they are encountering grizzly bears and cross-breeding with them. Consequently, polar-grizzly hybrids are now wandering the North American continent.
The researchers state that it’s impossible to quantify how many man-made speciation events have occurred, but they consider the impact to be quite considerable. In fact, they point out that since the last glacial maximum 11,500 years ago, 255 mammals and 523 bird species have died out, 900 species have been forcefully migrated, we’ve domesticated 470 animals, and now six of the world’s 40 most important crops are entirely new species.
This is nothing short of pandemonium on a global scale.
Image in text: Megaloprepus caerulatus, which is now almost certainly multiple species. Steven G. Johnson/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0