Rapid evolution may help species adapt to climate change and competition – EurekAlert

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IMAGE: Invasive and naturalized fruit fly species on a peach tree inside the experiment. view more 

Credit: Washington State University

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Loss of biodiversity in the face of climate change is a growing worldwide concern. Another major factor driving the loss of biodiversity is the establishment of invasive species, which often displace native species. A new study shows that species can adapt rapidly to an invader and that this evolutionary change can affect how they deal with a stressful climate.

“Our results demonstrate that interactions with competitors, including invasive species, can shape a species’ evolution in response to climatic change,” said co-author Seth Rudman, a WSU Vancouver adjunct professor who will join the faculty as an assistant professor of biological sciences in the fall.

Results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Competitive history shapes rapid evolution in a seasonal climate.”

Scientists have increasingly recognized that evolution is not necessarily slow and often occurs quickly enough to be observed in real time. These rapid evolutionary changes can have major consequences for things like species’ persistence and responses to climatic change. The investigators chose to examine this topic in fruit flies, which reproduce quickly, allowing change to be observed over several generations
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