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Invasive Species Play A Role In Evolution

1306 words - 6 pages

Background and rationale: Evolution has been a long fought debate in regards to its very existence as well as the role it plays in other processes. Invasive species have long been a studied and often problematic occurrence. Problems such as the depletion of native species are abundant. The extent of these problems depends on how quickly and how far the invasive species spreads. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that ecological processes are affected by rapid evolution (Perkins et al. 2013). Range shift is also useful in determining how species are able to track climate change. Simulation models are a useful tool for predicting patterns in dispersal evolution.

Perkins et al. 2013: In 1935, the cane toad (Rhinella marina) was introduced in northeastern Australia. Since then it has spread throughout the continent and currently occupies 1.3 million km2. Both life-history evolution and dispersal evolution have played a part in the toad’s invasion and can be influenced by several factors. In general, it is the best dispersers that are found at the leading edge of the front, which can result in assortative mating by dispersal. Also, the individuals on the outermost edge of the invasion front will have a lower density than the areas behind it. These individuals may experience lower levels of conspecific competition, which would result in a higher absolute fitness. This in turn leads to offspring that have similar dispersal traits. Perkins et al. (2013) objective was to understand the effects of natural selection on life history versus spatial selection on dispersal as advancers of phenotypic change and spread acceleration on invasion fronts. The researchers created a model to examine the distance spread under distinctive evolutionary situations in the context of cane toads. They created these scenarios by setting the starting heritabilities to zero or to a realistic positive value. They used variables G, P, and E to represent genetic, phenotypic, and environmental variance respectively. The model they used allowed for changes in genetic variation due to selection and gene flow as well as differences between the genotype distributions and the average. The model does not, however, account for changes in genetic variation due to drift. Their analysis introduced a new mechanism called enhanced spatial selection, which stems from the increase in spread as a result of the interaction between life history and dispersal evolution. These results showed that spread models and ecological models must include the capacity for trait change more generally. This inclusion can have important impacts on the models’ predictions and therefore influence how we anticipate and manage the species that undergo range shifts during or in response to invasion or climate change. In the end, the researchers found that the acceleration of the cane toad spread in the model did not appear to be affected by any single trait or evolutionary process and that the distance spread...

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