I love when we get to the topic of "co-evolution" in my biology class. Hitting that point in the semester means we're going to be leaving organ systems (which can definitely be fascinating -- who doesn't want to know how his or her digestive system or immune system work?) and moving into my favorite topic -- ecology! Co-evolution occurs when two species evolve together, in the same place and at the same time. Their interspecific interactions influence the direction of that evolution. Examples include predator/prey interactions that change the genetic make-up of each species. This video on the evolution of moths and bats is a great example of co-evolution:
Another example of co-evolution is the development of plants and their pollinators. In fact, there was a recent surprise in the world of evolutionary science, when researchers found evidence of an insect proboscis occurring long before the presence of the flowers hypothesized to force the evolution of this type of mouthpart.
So why do we care about co-evolution? Because the interspecific interactions that have evolved over hundreds, thousands, or millions of years are a very finely choreographed dance. When one species gets out of step, the entire ecosystem could be affected. A recent article in Science, reports results that many scientists have expected -- changes in our environment due to climate change will not affect species equally and could very well upset the balance between species that have co-evolved. Some of the species most hardest hit -- insects. The insects that pollinate our food supply. This is yet another reason to get involved in climate change policy at the national, state, and local level.
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