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A snapshot of pupfish evolution in action
Date:1/10/2013

of the fish back to San Salvador.

"It was the craziest thing I've done," Martin said. "I was leaning on the stack of them in the middle of Miami airport."

Martin released the young fish into enclosures in the lakes of their grandparents. Three months later, he returned to check on the survivors and plotted them out on the adaptive landscape.

Most of the surviving fish were on an isolated peak adapted to a general style of feeding, with another peak representing fish adapted for eating hard-shelled prey. Competition between the fish had eliminated the fish whose jaws put them in the valleys between those peaks. The scale-eating fish did not survive.

The results explain why most pupfish species in America have pretty much the same diets, Martin said. The generalists are essentially stranded on their peak -- variants that get too far out fall into the valley and die out before they can make it to another peak.

"It's stabilizing selection," he said. An early burst of variation when fish entered a new environment with little competition could have allowed the shell-eaters and scale-eaters to evolve on San Salvador.


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Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis
Source:Eurekalert  

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