Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Not a one-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes

Date:
May 22, 2012
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Environmental change is the selective force that preserves adaptive traits in organisms and is a primary driver of evolution. However, it is less well known that evolutionary change in organisms also trigger fundamental changes in the environment. Researchers found a prime example of this evolutionary feedback loop in a few lakes in Connecticut, where dams built 300 years ago in Colonial times trapped a fish called the alewife.

Evolutionary change in the alewife also drove changes in the ecology of some Connecticut lakes, particularly in water flea (d.ambigua) and zooplankton (bosminia).
Credit: Image courtesy of Yale University

Environmental change is the selective force that preserves adaptive traits in organisms and is a primary driver of evolution. However, it is less well known that evolutionary change in organisms also trigger fundamental changes in the environment.

Yale University researchers found a prime example of this evolutionary feedback loop in a few lakes in Connecticut, where dams built 300 years ago in Colonial times trapped a fish called the alewife.

In a study published May 23 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, the Yale team describes how this event fundamentally changed the structure of the alewife and, with it, the water flea that the alewife feeds upon and the food chain that supports them both.

"People have long accepted that ecology shapes evolution, but it has been less clear how evolution can shape our ecology, and do so in a relatively short time frame," said David Post, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author the paper. "In this case, we see a cascade of evolution that was propagated throughout the food web within the last three centuries."

And evidence can be seen in relative clarity of the state's lakes during the spring.

Up and down the Atlantic coast, alewife swim to fresh water lakes to spawn every spring before returning to the ocean in the fall. They voraciously feed upon large plankton and the water fleas Daphnia, which are also main consumers of small plankton and algae. In these lakes, there is intense predation by alewives for Daphnia, which reproduce quickly and in huge numbers. These water fleas quickly consume the algae, which leave the waters of these lakes clear in the spring.

However, in lakes created by the dams of Colonial settlers, the water is much less clear in the spring. The Yale study explains why: Since the alewife cannot migrate, it must eat plankton year round, year after year. Evolution favored fish with smaller mouths and a different gill structure, which make it easier for them to feed upon small plankton common in lakes. These evolutionary changes in the alewife also caused evolution in Daphnia, which no longer need to reproduce quickly in massive numbers. As a result, these lakes are more cloudy because water fleas eat less algae.

Here, evolutionary interactions between a predator and prey determine the ecology of these lakes, note the researchers.

"Natural selection favored survival of fish with smaller mouths and gills with filters more closely spaced that helped them harvest the smaller plankton," said Matthew R. Walsh, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and lead author of the paper. "This, in turn, drove genetic changes in the rates of population growth of Daphnia, and these two changes then determine amount of algae present in lakes."

Post estimates these evolutionary changes in alewife probably happened within 50 to 100 years of the damming of the Connecticut lakes.

Other Yale affiliated authors are John DeLong and Torrance Hanley.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew R. Walsh, John P. DeLong, Torrance C. Hanley, and David M. Post. A cascade of evolutionary change alters consumer-resource dynamics and ecosystem function. Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, May 23, 2012 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0496

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Not a one-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522200833.htm>.
Yale University. (2012, May 22). Not a one-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522200833.htm
Yale University. "Not a one-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522200833.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins