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Evolution impacts environment, challenging traditionally held view, UC Riverside study finds
Date:2/1/2010

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Biologists have known for long that ecology, the interaction between organisms and their environment, plays a significant role in forming new species and in modifying living ones. The traditional view is that ecology shapes evolution. The environment defines a template and the process of evolution by natural selection shapes organisms to fit that template.

Some specialized theory, a few laboratory experiments and studies of natural populations suggest, however, that evolutionary processes reciprocate by influencing ecology in turn.

Now a team of biologists presents evidence that ecology and evolution are indeed reciprocally interacting processes, presenting a fundamental shift in our understanding of the relationship between evolution and ecology.

"Ecology for the most part ignores evolution because organisms are treated as constants," said David Reznick, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, who led the study. "This does not mean that ecologists don't believe in evolution. It means the general assumption is that ecological interactions happen on such a short time scale in comparison to evolution that evolution can be ignoredsimilar to the way physicists can often safely ignore relativity in the majority of their experiments.

"Our results represent a first significant step in showing that evolution cannot be ignored when studying ecological interactions. In earlier work, we had shown that guppies, our study organism, can evolve very rapidly. In this new study we quantify the ecological consequences of such rapid adaptation."

Study results appear this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reznick's team compared guppies
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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