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Human Hunters Genetically Shrink Their Prey

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Like a negative image of farmers breeding progressively larger chickens and cows, human hunters are making their prey become progressively smaller.

Animals hunted by humans are evolving faster than any other animals of their kind in the wild, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.

By killing big percentages of the largest, sexually mature big-horn sheep or cod, humans can apply a withering selective pressure on huge numbers of animals. But it's not just that overall harvested animal numbers are shrinking -- it's that the individuals themselves are shrinking, too, losing an average of 20 percent of their mass over mere decades.

"You've changed the very essence of what they are and what they can do reproductively," said ecologist Chris Darimont of the University of California, Santa Cruz, lead author of the paper.
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