Abstracts for Darwin Day 2017
The evolution of interactions between plants and insects
Douglas J. Futuyma
Distinguished Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, U.S.
Abstract: Herbivorous insects and the plants they eat account for nearly half of the described species of organisms. Their immense diversity highlights questions about theevolutionary causes of biological diversity, including the evolution of new species and how they become specialized to use resources. Drawing in part on my laboratory’s contributions, I will pose some questions and tentative answers about ecological specialization, coevolution of interacting species, speciation, and rates of evolution.
Plant reproductive strategies: short-term and long-term evolution
Assistant Professor, College of biological sciences, University of Minnesota, Minnesota, Minneapolis, U.S.
Abstract: Plants have evolved a great variety of reproductive strategies to avoid or increase self-fertilization. Within populations, the evolution of these strategies is determined by both genetics and ecology. At the very large scale, across thousands of species, prevalence of the various strategies is also determined by their influence on speciation and extinction. I will discuss two widespread plant reproductive strategies: rejection of self pollen and separation of sexes. Although both have the immediate effect of reducing self-fertilization, their evolutionary dynamics over millions of years show marked differences.
Ecology and evolution hold hands in Galapagos
Professor, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Abstract: Evolution can proceed rapidly in response to ecological change and that evolution can then feedback to influence ecological change. I will describe a general framework for these eco-evolutionary dynamics and then populate this framework with data for Darwin's finches. I will show how Darwin's finches evolve in response to differences in seed distributions, and how the resulting variation in beak traits shapes seed and plant communities. These inferences stem from (1) a comparative analysis of 10 years of beak size and shape data for three sites in Galapagos, (2) new genomic data for finches that point toward several "keystone genes" shaping finch-plant interactions, (3) data from multi-year finch exclosures, and (4) spatial variation and measurements of selection on a key plant (Tribulus) with which finches interact. Although much work remains to be done, these results are beginning to build an integrated picture of historical and ongoing eco-evolutionary dynamics in Galapagos.
Why individual variation is important for ecology and evolution
Researcher, CEES, IBV, University of Oslo.
Abstract: Darwin realized that individual variation, "however slight", is paramount for natural selection, and consequently the formation of new species. Individual variation is a key focus in modern evolutionary biology, but has largely been ignored in modern ecology. I will explore different causes of individual variation within species, and using an empirical example of pike I will discuss how such variation can have large impacts on population dynamics, responses to environmental change, and individual interactions. These ecological processes may in turn lead to new evolutionary changes by altering the selection pressures. I will highlight how modern demographic approaches (models that link individual trait variation to population level processes) can provide a framework to study ecological and evolutionary dynamics at the same time. I suggest how we can use this framework to bridge temporal and organizational scales in biological systems.