Thursday, 5 October 2017

Are City Mice Evolving to Eat Pizza – Or Do News Outlets Use the E-word Misleadingly?

John Tenniel, 1871: Humpty Dumpty from Through the Looking Glass, public domain.

Joel Kontinen

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

A lot of water has flown in the world’s rivers since Lewis Carroll penned those words in 1872, but at least in some respects there is little if anything completely new under the sun.

Take the word evolution, for instance. A few weeks ago, New Scientist suggested that losing eyesight was 'regressive evolution'.

More recently, the magazine proposed that rats living in New York City might be evolving to eat pizza.

However, some animals are opportunistic: they eat what they can find. They are adapting to city life, but this doesn’t have anything to do with Darwinian (molecules-to-mice) evolution.


Baraniuk, Chris. 2017. New York City mice may be evolving to eat fast food like pizza. New Scientist (4 October).

Knowles, Elizabeth. (ed). 2004. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.