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Keywords:

  • fishery;
  • invertebrates;
  • macroevolution;
  • microevolution;
  • size-selective harvesting;
  • terrestrial vertebrates

Abstract

Size-selective harvesting, where the large individuals of a particular species are preferentially taken, is common in both marine and terrestrial habitats. Preferential removal of larger individuals of a species has been shown to have a negative effect on its demography, life history and ecology, and empirical studies are increasingly documenting such impacts. But determining whether the observed changes represent evolutionary response or phenotypic plasticity remains a challenge. In addition, the problem is not recognized in most management plans for fish and marine invertebrates that still mandate a minimum size restriction. We use examples from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats to illustrate some of the biological consequences of size-selective harvesting and discuss possible future directions of research as well as changes in management policy needed to mitigate its negative biological impacts.