Studying the Evolution of the Big Apple

Evolutionary biologists are known to do their work in the most exotic places, such as the Amazon forest, the deserts of the Sahara, or the deep blue waters of the Pacific. Dr. Munshi-South of New York City however doesn’t get to go on those exiting trips, as his research subjects are only a few Metro stops away. He is studying the evolution of the mice in New York City parks. I for one have never even stopped to think of their environment (which is also somewhat our environment) and how it’s affecting their evolution – and I’m certain it’s not a topic that many people will think of when they think evolutionary biology.

The changes that researchers see occurring in the cities wildlife also closely reflect that of the hospitals. That’s another place we don’t immediately think of being the host of a whole lot of evolution. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a bacterium that can be found in many hospitals. It can cause pneumonia and other terminal infections. Doctors usually treat Klebsiella pneumoniae with an antibiotic known as carbapenem. Dr. John Quale, a physician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center discovered four hospitals with an evolved strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae that is resistant to carbapenem and watched it spread from those hospitals to hospitals in 33 other states. Doctors have done a better job of fighting the bacterium but half of the people who are infected with it are still prone to death.

New York is a huge city, with many crowded places and just as many isolated areas. Scientists are finding it increasingly fascinating to study it’s evolution, as there is so much going on all over.

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Written by Eden Ketema

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