Humans May Quickly Evolve on Mars, Biologist Claims

An evolutionary biologist has suggested that human colonists on Mars could go through rapid evolution, eventually becoming an entirely new human species.

Scott Solomon, an evolutionary biologist with Rice University and the author of “Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution,” wrote on Nautilus that humans on Mars would be subjected to the “founder effect,” a phenomenon in which species entering new environments adapt very rapidly.

The founder effect occurs as a result of a new population being very small, meaning that a genetic bottleneck forms and diversity is radically lowered. The phenomena is frequently observed on islands and other remote areas. “This happens routinely to animals and plants isolated on islands—think of Darwin’s famous finches. But while speciation on islands can take thousands of years, the accelerated mutation rate on Mars and the stark contrasts between conditions on Mars and Earth, would likely speed up the process,” Solomon wrote.

For instance, Mars’ weak gravity (.38 percent that of the Earth) could cause a rapid loss in bone density (50 percent bone mass decrease in two to three years, according to endocrinologist Michael Holick), which would lead to a greater rate of broken bones among human colonists. In response to this pressure, Solomon claims that “after many generations, Martian people could end up with naturally thicker bones than their forebears, lending them a more robust appearance.”