New publication: Rapid adaptive phenotypic change following colonization of a newly restored habitat

By Camilla Lo Cascio Sætre*, Charles Coleiro, Martin Austad, Mark Gauci, Glenn-Peter Sætre*, Kjetil Lysne Voje*, and Fabrice Eroukhmanoff* in Nature Communications. Open access.


Real-time observation of adaptive evolution in the wild is rare and limited to cases of marked, often anthropogenic, environmental change. Here we present the case of a small population of reed warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) over a period of 19 years (1996–2014) after colonizing a restored wetland habitat in Malta. Our data show a population decrease in body mass, following a trajectory consistent with a population ascending an adaptive peak, a so-called Ornstein–Uhlenbeck process. We corroborate these findings with genetic and ecological data, revealing that individual survival is correlated with body mass, and more than half of the variation in mean population fitness is explained by variation in body mass. Despite a small effective population size, an adaptive response has taken place within a decade. A founder event from a large, genetically variable source population to the southern range margin of the reed warbler distribution likely facilitated this process.

Published 20 Jan 2017
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14159
Publication webpage.

*Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, UiO. See the publication webpage for full author information.

Tags: Nature Communications;
Published Jan. 24, 2017 11:36 AM - Last modified Jan. 24, 2017 2:30 PM