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.

Related Articles


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 March 6, 2015 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 March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Giant Panda Goes Walkabout in Southwest China

Giant Panda Goes Walkabout in Southwest China

AFP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A giant panda goes walkabout alone at night in southwest China. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nesting Bald Eagle Covered in Snow Up to Its Neck

Nesting Bald Eagle Covered in Snow Up to Its Neck

Buzz60 (Mar. 6, 2015) — The Pennsylvania State Game Commission captured amazing shots of a nesting bald eagle who stayed on its nest during a snowstorm, even when the snow piled all the way up to its neck. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

AP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A shortage of snow has forced Alaska&apos;s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to move 300 miles north to Fairbanks. The ceremonial start through downtown Anchorage will take place this weekend, using snow stockpiled earlier this winter. (March 6) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) — Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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