Environmental change ‘triggers rapid evolution’


Changes to their surroundings can trigger "rapid evolution" in species as they adopt traits to help them survive in the new conditions, a study shows.

Studying soil mites in a laboratory, researchers found that the invertebrates' age of maturity almost doubled in just 20-or-so generations.

It had been assumed that evolutionary change only occurred over a much longer timescale.

The findings have been published in the journal Ecology Letters.

"What this study shows for the first time is that evolution and ecology go hand-in-hand," explained co-author Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, UK.

"The implicit assumption has always been, from Darwin onwards, that evolution works on long timescale and ecology works on short timescales.

"The thinking was that if you squash a population or you change the environment then nothing will happen from an evolutionary point-of-view for generations and generations, for centuries."

Written By: Mark Kinver
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk


    • In reply to #3 by Matt G:

      “What this study shows for the first time is that evolution and ecology go hand-in-hand.” The first time? Really?

      Erm, I guess this is different and more rigorous somehow, but it’s not really explained apart from it being in a lab rather than the wild. I think he’s considering how to apply the realisation that species can evolve quickly in specific practical ways: that does seem novel. However, I’m not sure what’s considered speculation, and what’s the focus of the research. There’s some result relating to the effect of altering age distribution in populations: clearly that’s relevant to planned culling. I don’t quite understand what the scientist meant by “squash a population”. Compress the range of ages, perhaps? Maybe I’m being a bit dense, but this article seemed incomplete to me.

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