It’s the environment that determines evolutionary fitness

A new primrose species is already under threat from mining for electric car parts, Kew Gardens scientists have warned.

A variety of Cape primrose found last year in Katanga, in the Congo, grows on copper ores in the mining region of the country.

The plant’s name, Streptocarpus malachiticola, means “growing on malachite” – because it is found on the Congo’s rich malachite seams, from which copper can be extracted for use in electrical wiring.

But it is under threat from the growing demand for copper as electric car sales rise.

Being able to grow on malachite is a useful adaptation – most plants can’t do that. So, score one for a useful evolutionary adaptation. Except, of course, when someone decides to come along and dig up the malachite at which point the environmental niche isn’t so useful.

Myself I find it interesting – or this bit at least. Does the malachite – or Cu – content have to be high enough to be worth mining to create the environment in which this primrose thrives? Or could we reseed worked out mines with them?

7 thoughts on “It’s the environment that determines evolutionary fitness”

  1. The fact it is found only on areas of high Cu concentration implies that reseeding after is unlikely to be very successful.

    Alternatively, do we really need to lose sleep over the loss of such a plant? Keep a few in greenhouses for study, but it’s just a bloody plant FFS. We need to be driving electric cars to save the polar bears, or something. That means we may need to sacrifice some other species.

  2. Hang on, aren’t Extinction Rebellion and all the econoids banging on about a global mass extinction event? How is it even possible that new species are being discovered? Although they never reply to my request for a list of species that have become extinct in the last 50 years

  3. if they honestly replied I suspect that many of the “species” that went extinct were populations declared distinct solely for the purposes of blocking development.

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