Roads are made to lead from place to place, but a new study has found that they sometimes lead to evolutionary changes in animals, too.
Researchers at North Carolina State University say that road construction in the Bahamas has had a hand in altering the appearance and behavior of a small species of native fish, giving rise to what could be, potentially, a new species of mosquito fish.
Mosquito fish have always been abundant in the tidal creeks that extend inland on the Bahaman islands. Up until relatively recently, these fish pretty much looked and acted the same. But that's begun to change, thanks to human activity. In the middle part of last century, many of these narrow waterways were split by road crossings, and as a result, some populations of mosquito fish suddenly lost access to the ocean and continued to evolve in isolation.
Over the decades that followed in these mostly predator-free habitats, the mating behavior of mosquitofish began to change and, as researchers discovered, so did their genitalia. The rigid, elongated male sex organs typically found on mosquitofish had become ones that were apparently a bit more pleasing to their mates, the scientists said.