UCSC researcher's paper named No. 30 of top 100 science stories for 2009

Chris Darimont, post doctoral researcher in environmental studies.

Discover Magazine has named a UC Santa Cruz evolutionary biologist's study of human predation and species evolution No. 30 among the top 100 science stories for 2009.

The study by Chris Darimont, a postdoctoral researcher in environmental studies, and his co-authors found a dramatic acceleration in trait changes among species heavily hunted or fished by humans. In its January/February 2010 issue, Discover selected the paper, "Human Predators Outpace Other Agents of Trait Change in the Wild," for its top 100 list.

The paper drew worldwide attention when it was published a year ago in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Darimont and co-authors reviewed 34 previously published studies that measured how fast such traits as body size and age at reproduction had changed in 29 species that people hunt. The species were mostly fish but also included bighorn sheep, caribou, marine invertebrates, even ginseng.

The team found that harvested populations change 300 percent faster than those undergoing natural environmental change and 50 percent faster than those changing due to other causes, like pollution. Hunted prey are also on average 20 percent smaller in body size than previous generations, and their age of first reproduction is on average 25 percent earlier.

Darimont said the team is "pleased about the attention the study garnered and is hopeful that changes to fishing and hunting regulations that shift the focus away from targeting the largest individuals within populations will soon follow."

Darimont's coauthors are Stephanie M. Carlson, assistant professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley; Michael T. Kinnison, associate professor of biology and ecology at the University of Maine; Paul C. Paquet, adjunct professor of environmental design at the University of Calgary; Thomas E. Reimchen, adjunct professor of biology at the University of Victoria; and Christopher C. Wilmers, assistant professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz.