Flu evolving in the human body ecosystem

The field of disease ecology is a fast-evolving one as ecologists realize more and more that the insides of animals and plants are really like small-scale ecosystems, encompassing the same rules as large-scale ecosystems, like species interactions, environmental variability and evolutionary change. Katia Koelle of Duke University gave a talk yesterday about evolution in the H3N2 virus — not to be confused with the H1N1 swine...

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A battle of the sexes: Hummingbird competition and evolution

The intersection of evolution and ecology has risen to become a prominent subfield in both disciplines in recent years, with scientists exploring more and more how interactions among organisms can shape evolution at the population and even species level.  In the May issue of the journal Ecology, Ethan Temeles of Amherst College explores a fascinating relationship between the males and females of one species of hummingbird.  The long,...

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Climate change, heat stress, and animal evolution

Climate change has the potential to not only increase average temperatures around the world, but also to increase the likelihood and severity of now-rare temperature events, like heat waves.  The fate of many animal populations, therefore, can hinge on their ability to tolerate (relative) extreme heat. In the April issue of Functional Ecology, scientists explore the possible responses of animal populations to a changing climate. Mike...

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Sunbathing: good for your bones (if you’re a lizard)

Cold-blooded animals don’t produce their own heat, and thus they must sunbathe, basking in the sun’s rays to raise their body temperatures so they have eonugh energy to  go about their business. But for some ectotherms, the sun isn’t just a source of heat.  A new study shows that in the panther chameleon, native to Madagascar, basking behavior also controls production of essential vitamin D. In reptiles, vitamin D3...

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Evolution and ecosystem engineers

Evolutionary biologists agree that the natural environment shapes the evolution of life. A study published in Nature today, however, finds that the evolution of a species can also have big impacts on the surrounding environment. Threespine stickleback are famous as an example of rapid, adaptive radiation. These small freshwater fish have evolved in the lakes of British Columbia to have very different lifestyles.  In large lakes, there...

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