Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Biologists generally accept that evolutionary change can take from decades to millennia, while ecological change can occur over mere days or seasons. However, a new Cornell study shows that evolution and ecology can operate on the same time scale.
When evolution occurs so quickly, the researchers conclude, it can change how populations of various species interact. Ecologists need to consider such evolutionary dynamics in their studies because evolution could affect populations being studied. This insight is critical to predicting the recovery time needed for threatened populations or for predicting disease dynamics, says Justin Meyer '04, who conducted the study as an undergraduate student with Cornell ecologists Stephen Ellner, Nelson Hairston and colleagues.
The study is published in the July 11 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Prey evolution on the time scale of predator- prey dynamics revealed by allele- specific quantitative PCR (Abstract available here)