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Evolution can happen at shorter timescales, a fruit fly study shows

  • Published
    4th Apr, 2022

Recently, a study on direct observation of adaptive tracking on ecological time scales in Drosophila was published.


Evolution process:

  • The study has vastly changed our understanding of evolution and questioned the old notion of evolution being a slow process occurring over a longer period of time.
  • We now have evidence that the change is actually happening faster than we ever thought and that not all evolution happens due to habitat destruction, invasion or pollution.
  • It establishes that evolutionary changes happen quickly and researchers can track these in real time — within a single seasonal turn in a year.

About the study:

  • Ecosystems can experience rapid environmental change but whether populations can continuously adapt to those changes is unknown.
  • Combining a field experiment with laboratory common garden experiments, the study observed changes in six phenotypes related to reproductive output or stress tolerance underlain by rapid, genome-wide evolution.
  • The direction of trait and genomic shifts changed over months, in accordance with environmental changes.
  • This study demonstrates the potential for rapid, continuous evolution to changing environmental conditions and highlights the importance of collecting data with a high temporal resolution for observing the effects of fluctuating selection.
  • The experiment focused on three key elements to study adaptive tracking in response to ongoing environmental change:
    • generating highly accurate measurements of phenotypic and genomic evolution,
    • taking these measurements on a time scale similar to that of natural environmental change, and
    • collecting measurements from independent replicate populations experiencing similar environmental conditions

Outcomes of the study:

  • In understanding the field life of fruit flies a little more which will have a large impact on our basic understanding of evolution. 
  • Biologists could better predict the future of species experiencing rapid changes in climatic variables.
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