The Real Jurassic Park–A Millennium of Evolution Captured by a Pontoon Boat

It is the stuff of action movies—researchers have resurrected killer Daphnia from our past. Okay so the Daphnia are only killer in the “killer” = synonym for “awesome” sense (unless you’re a phytoplankton anyway). But this study is still amazing. For the first time, we have a series of snapshots showing evolutionary change over a 1600-year period leading up to a century of rapid human population growth. In 1860, the … Continue reading

I want your skulls – for Science.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would name them, and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. -Genesis 2:19   By naming something, we imply that we know something about its true nature, and we claim ownership of it. For many, this is … Continue reading

Climate change – who can keep up?

Evolution has no forethought. An artic fox turns white at a particular time in winter due to the selection pressures experienced by its ancestors. This adaptation helped foxes in the past blend into the snowy background and more easily disguise themselves from prey. But what if timing of first snowfall starts to move later and later into the year or becomes more unpredictable? This is a question of phenology, the … Continue reading

How to “train” good cleaners

How are mutualisms maintained when there is so much incentive for partners to cheat?? Do species interactions shift from cooperative to antagonistic or vise versa? If so, how? I’m very fascinated by these questions, as many ecologists are. In my previous post, I wrote about crayfish-worm symbiosis and how their interactions could shift from mutualism to parasitism, depending on the worm abundance. Today, I’ll talk about the work by Gingins … Continue reading

The upside of invasion

Most people will agree that invasive species are, generally, not good things. Especially people who have ever sat down in a patch of star thistle, or been slapped in the face by an Asian carp. However, invaders are quite fascinating (terrible yet fascinating, like your drunk uncle’s dance moves at a wedding), and can be used to address fundamental issues in ecology and evolution.  One of my personal favorites is … Continue reading

Did you see a plant there? Me neither.

At a seminar on sexual selection in frogs I attended recently, an evolutionary ecologist (who studies plants), joked that compared to things like frogs that make noise and move, plants are really pretty dull. I can think of many reasons why plants are in fact the awesomest (being in the plant biology department makes me a little biased), and one particular example that came to mind was from an Am … Continue reading

A trip along the diversity effects highway: a new and exciting fork in the road

The dynamic dune ecosystem along Lake Michigan was where I first came to appreciate nature as a young child (granted, I was in the water most of the time). Blissfully unaware of the pioneering work of Cowles (1899), it was my time wandering forward and backward through successional time as I matured into a young man that put me on the road to studying ecology. So, when I came across … Continue reading

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Aphids

In our lab, we throw around the terms “eco-evolutionary dynamics” or “eco-evolutionary feedbacks” pretty loosely to describe any interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes (two more terms that are defined pretty abstractly). But we can do a better job of defining eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and a recent paper by Martin Turcotte, Dave Reznick, and Daniel Hare reminded me of that. This is another paper from the Eco-Evo special feature in The … Continue reading

Are invaders bigger and better in their introduced ranges?

It is hypothesized that invasive species are doing something fundamentally different in their introduced ranges – they seem to grow faster and larger, spread more aggressively, and outcompete native species, lowering biodiversity. However, these assumptions have surprisingly little evidence to back them up. In my last post, I wrote about Powell et al. 2013’s article, that found invaders may not be as bad for native biodiversity as we think. In … Continue reading

Evolution isn’t so simple

To steal a line from the paper that I’m about to talk about: “Herbivores have fed on plants for more than 400 million years”. I thought this was a pretty striking way to start a paper; it suggests that these interactions might play a really important role in how plants and herbivores evolve. And indeed countless papers have discussed the effects of herbivores in driving the evolution of plant defenses … Continue reading