The evolution of speedy toads
March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Wired Science has an interesting post on the evolution of cane toads in Australia. The ecological history of Australia often reminds one of the childrens’ song “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly”, and these toads were introduced in an attempt to control beetle populations. According to the paper this post describes, the dramatic spread of cane toads through the Australian landscape seems to be less consistent with evolution to improve individual fitness than with a drive to maximize spatial dispersion. This may be because individuals with traits that encourage rapid spread get sorted out from the slower members of the population; at the fringes of expansion, the only mates available are the ones that ran just as fast as you did. This “spatial sorting” of genes would lead to the evolution of yet more rapidly spreading populations.
I’ve only read the post, not the paper, but this seems like quite an important idea. If you read the paper before I do, please tell me all about it in the comments.