Adaptive invasions

From Conservation magazine’s Journal Watch Online

Revved-up evolution allows invasive species to rampage through new habitat, a study published in Molecular Ecology shows. The seeming ease with which chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha colonized New Zealand in the early part of the twentieth century was a complex combination of ecology and evolution, according to University of Maine biologist Michael Kinnison and colleagues.

Studies of biological invasions have often considered ecology — freedom from predators and/or parasites, lack of competition and so on — but evolution on a short timescale has seldom been seen as a major factor. Kinnison’s neat experimental approach, which involved releasing captive-bred salmon to several NZ river systems, showed that substantial and rapid evolutionary change has taken place among populations with differing local ecological conditions. The ever-worsening threat that invasive species pose to global biodiversity suggests the need to take evolvability very seriously, and these findings raise many questions about how we tackle the problem.

Source: Kinnison MT, Unwin MJ & Quinn TP (2007) Eco-evolutionary vs. habitat contributions to invasion in salmon: experimental evaluation in the wild. Molecular Ecology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03495.x

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