February 12th 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who would justifiably be called the father of modern Biology - Charles Darwin. Over this year I intend to make a series of short posts collecting links to news items, scientific reports and other posts which illuminate the history of Darwin and his thinking on Evolution and that show how his writings have been taken up and are central to much modern scientific discovery in Biology.
The Sydney Morning herald had a short article the other day about Darwin's connections with locations in Australia such as Sydney Harbour and the Blue Mountains. The article points out that although most of us think of Darwin as an older man with a distinguished white beard, he was in fact a fresh faced young man of 27 when he arrived in Australia. The idea that there was such a thing as Evolution was not new to the scientific world but Darwin was beginning to grapple with the work that would end with him showing the main mechanism that drove evolution.
The other story which has caught my eye is about the impact that Fishing is having on the evolution of fish stocks. When animals are subject to natural predation usually the weakest get preyed on. With Human fishing however our techniques, and preference, results in us tending to take the largest fish. There is evidence emerging that suggests that this selective pressure is causing an evolution in these species towards reducing size. This is a developing field of research and it is not yet entirely clear if the changes are reflected in measurable changes in the genetic make up of the species . However this is the direction that would be predicted if such selective pressure continues and if selection does indeed result in a shift in the traits in a species.
The problem is that if this is indeed going on then it suggests that even more major problems will occur in the future with fish species that are the most heavily fished for commercially. See story also at for example National Geographic and Fox News