7 Animals That Are Evolving Right Before Our Eyes

People who doubt evolution tend to have one main argument: "If evolution is true, why do we still see monkeys running around today, all chimp-like? Where are all the monkey-men I was promised?"

Well, if you or someone you know refuses to believe that organisms change over time without proof on a monkey-man level, here are a buttload of animals in the middle of getting their evolve on. Well, seven anyway.

#7. Elephants are Evolving to Lose Their Tusks (and Avoid Poachers)

Here's a joke: What did the elephant say to the poacher?
Answer: Dear God in heaven, please don't kill me for my ivory.

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"Stop! Ha ha! You're killing me!"

Sorry about that. Sometimes we get "joke" mixed up with "tragic imagined dialogue that could be happening at this very second if elephants had the power of speech." When the international ban on the trade of ivory took effect in 1989, there were about a million elephants in Africa and about 7.5 percent of those were getting poached to death every year. Today, less than half of them are left, and we're still losing about 8 percent of elephants to ivory poachers. Pretty much everything we've done to protect our wild pachyderm friends has failed.

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And ever since animal rights got involved, unemployment has shot up 300 percent. Oh wait, we're being depressing again.

So elephants have decided to take matters into their own hands ... or trunks or weirdly rounded three-toed feet or whatever. To make themselves less appealing to their greatest enemies (poachers), elephants all over the world have begun selecting against having tusks at all. For example, it used to be that only 2 to 5 percent of Asian male elephants were born without tusks, and you can believe those few were the belittled Dumbos of the group.


"GROW SOME TUSKS, ASSHOLE"

By 2005, it was estimated that the tuskless population had risen to between 5 and 10 percent. And it's not just happening in Asia, either. One African national park estimated their number of elephants born without tusks was as high as 38 percent. It's natural selection in action: either lady elephants are deliberately choosing tuskless mates, or the only boy elephants surviving into breeding time are the ones born without tusks. Either way, that tusklessness is getting passed on.

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Just like your debilitating lisp after reading that out loud

Which is incredible, because it's not like tusks are the elephant version of wisdom teeth. They're weapons and tools, and they're needed to dig for water and roots and to battle for the love of a lady. Which means nature decided poachers are a greater threat to the elephant's existence than its diminished ability to forage or to score.

#6. Russian Dogs are Evolving to Learn the Subways

Maybe you think you've got a smart dog. Maybe you've given him a monocle, named him Dr. Tesla Sagan and taught him how to roll over every time someone recites pi. But while you and Brain the Dog were perfecting parlor tricks, the stray dogs of Moscow have evolved to master the city's subway system.

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You may have a degree, smart dog, but has it got real world applications? No? You're an asshole, dog.

Today, there are around 35,000 strays roaming Moscow, as dog catching fell behind when the Soviet Union collapsed. Over several generations of breeding, those dogs have gotten very, very smart. If Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure taught us anything, besides some sweet-ass songs, it's that street dogs have to rely on their wits to get vittles. And since only 3 percent of Moscow's strays survive long enough to breed, only the toughest and more importantly, the smartest, end up procreating.

Among these Einstein strays, hundreds have taken up residence in the underground metro stations and have freaking learned how to travel their territories via subway train. They'll stand and wait for the train, just like everyone else, then sneak on, go to sleep, and get off at their stops. Day after day. Scientists figure they use smell and the recorded names of stations to navigate.

Via popsci
"Late as usual, am I right? Oh, I mean woof."

And that's not all they've figured out. Roving gangs of begging dogs have learned how to send out the smallest and cutest among them to do their begging. And big dogs have learned the bark and grab: jumping and barking at on a person eating a snack, making them drop it, then pouncing on the dropped food.

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"I have this human well trained."

You know what this means, guys? We are one Billy Joel song away from a real world Oliver and Company on the streets and subways of Moscow.

#5. Hudson River Fish are Becoming Immune to Toxic Waste

From 1947 to 1976, the Hudson River was on the business end of some of the country's most egregious water polluting. Specifically, General Electric's 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, which single-handedly turned the river into one of the country's worst Superfund sites.


And that's not even counting any of the surprise dead bodies.

So you'd think that the animals living in the Hudson would have either completely died off or mutated into hilarious pizza-loving crime fighters -- and you'd be mostly right. But only because no one told you about the Atlantic tomcod. Over the past 20 to 50 generations, the tomcod has done something that would usually take thousands of years or a comic book origin story to pull off: They've evolved immunity from the poison in their water.

Via National Geographic
"We haven't evolved immunity from air though, idiot. Put me back."

Most fish have a receptor gene that contains a protein which regulates the effects of toxins. The tomcods have that gene, but over the past few years, their version has dropped six base pairs, the part of the DNA that toxic molecules stick to. Think of those base pairs like an innocent woman's boobs, and the toxins in the water as Andy Dick's molesting hands. The toxins seek out and grope the crap out of DNA that have them, which triggers a chain reaction of mutations. Without those base pairs, the toxins slide off the gene like hot lard on a Slip-n-Slide.

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What must have started as a freak mutation eventually became the only thing keeping the fish alive. And the best part? Eating the tomcod renders humans immune to all industrial toxins. (Just kidding. They'll definitely give you super cancer.)

#4. Lizards are Evolving to be Dancers

The interesting thing about lizards is how readily they submitted their allegiance to an upstart rock singer with way more interest in whiskey and mysticism than policy and governance. The other interesting thing about lizards is how adaptable they are.

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There's really only two interesting things about lizards. This dull bastard hasn't moved for four hours now.

Take the southeast fence lizard, for example. When fire ants were accidentally introduced to the States about 70 years ago, the fence lizard found itself defenceless against them. The ants had no natural enemies, and it only took 12 of them to take a lizard down in about a minute. Seventy years later, the lizards that live closest to the port where the ants were first introduced have evolved an unlikely strategy for dealing with their antagonists. How unlikely? Well, there's a dance involved, which makes these animals the first on record to employ the West Side Story method of self-defense.

Check it:

While other lizards respond to ant attacks by "sitting still, just hoping the ants would go away," these smooth operators developed an ant-shaking shimmy that they've passed on to their kids. And those kids have longer legs for quicker get-aways. Just so we're clear: Nature, not weird daddy issues, has created leggy lizards that thwart attackers through shaking what their mommas gave them.

But maybe a lizard defense developed over a few generations isn't impressive to you. If that's the case, you should meet the lerista skink. Because, while the fence lizard was getting better at dancing, these skinks were watching their dancing careers end right before their eyes. That is, their legs are going away.

Via MSNBC

Which is why some of these skinks have little T-Rex nubbin arms, and others don't, like snakes.

Via biomedcentral

Apparently, slithering through the Australian sand is easier than walking through it, and these limb-shedders have adjusted. Of course, by that logic, you'd think humans would have evolved roller skate feet and Go Go Gadget arms by now, but we'll leave that conundrum for Darwin.

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