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

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

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

Trade-offs are important for promoting diversity, even for microbes

Background In 2005, Science Magazine published a special issue exploring 125 big unanswered questions in science in celebration of their 125th anniversary. One of the questions that I keep thinking about (as many biologists do, I’m sure), is this question of, “what determines species diversity?“. I know: This is an overwhelmingly big and important question in biology. So I decided to focus on just one hypothesis addressing this question. That … Continue reading

Can Invaders Become Darwinian Demons?

There are two things I think are really cool and drive most of what I think about (well, I’ll pretend there are only two). The first is trade-offs. They’re pervasive in ecological and evolutionary thinking. The basic idea is that everybody is good at doing something, but also bad at doing something else. This comes into play in ecology because each species has its own little niche in the world, … Continue reading

Do invasive species shift their niche to invade?

Invasive species are able to take over and vastly change the ecosystems where they invade. On par with climate change and habitat destruction, they are one of the top threats to biodiversity. A recent example in the news, Asian carp, threatens to invade the Great Lakes and decimate fish populations – this species alone could cause a $7 billion fishing industry to collapse, so we can see why it is … Continue reading