New publication: Hunting and evolution: theory, evidence, and unknowns

By Marco Festa-Bianchet§ and Atle Mysterud* in Journal of Mammalogy.


Intense selective harvest of large mammals who carry the largest weapons may lead to an evolutionary shrinkage of those weapons. Currently, evidence suggesting evolutionary effects of harvest is limited to a few species of Bovidae and only 1 study has obtained data indicating a genetic effect. To have an evolutionary impact, harvest must be intense, persistent over time, similar over a large area without an effective source of unselected immigrants, and remove large individuals before they have a chance to breed. Many current harvest schemes do not fulfill all of these requirements, and they are unlikely to cause evolution. Before changes in weapon size over time are attributed to evolution, potential environmental sources of change, mainly density and climate, must be considered. We suggest that the role of weapon size in determining reproductive success, especially in interaction with male age, will determine whether or not intensive selective harvests may have evolutionary consequences. Age at harvest is a very important variable to consider. Changes in age structure over time may reveal underlying changes in harvest pressure or selectivity. A lack of data hampers our ability to assess the potential evolutionary effects of selective hunting. We provide a list of research hypotheses required to advance our ability to assess the evolutionary sustainability of current management practices.

§ Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec J1K 2R1, Canada & Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian, Capital Territory 2601, Australia

* Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Journal of Mammalogy, 99(6):1281–1292, 2018
Published online November 9, 2018
Publication webpage.

Tags: Journal of Mammalogy;
Published Jan. 11, 2019 2:32 PM - Last modified Jan. 11, 2019 2:33 PM