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Evolutionary rescue can be impeded by temporary environmental amelioration

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Publication details

JournalEcology Letters
DatePublished - 25 Jun 2015
Issue number9
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)892-898
Original languageEnglish


Rapid evolutionary adaptation has the potential to rescue from extinction populations experiencing environmental changes. Little is known, however, about the impact of short-term environmental fluctuations during long-term environmental deterioration, an intrinsic property of realistic environmental changes. Temporary environmental amelioration arising from such fluctuations could either facilitate evolutionary rescue by allowing population recovery (a positive demographic effect) or impede it by relaxing selection for beneficial mutations required for future survival (a negative population genetic effect). We address this uncertainty in an experiment with populations of a bacteriophage virus that evolved under deteriorating conditions (gradually increasing temperature). Periodic environmental amelioration (short periods of reduced temperature) caused demographic recovery during the early phase of the experiment, but ultimately reduced the frequency of evolutionary rescue. These experimental results suggest that environmental fluctuations could reduce the potential of evolutionary rescue.

    Research areas

  • Adaptation, Demographic recovery, Environmental change, Evolutionary rescue, Experimental evolution, Microcosm, Virus, Warming

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