Questionable Motives

February 25, 2010

What drives evolution? Physical environment or species interaction?

Filed under: Evolution,Science — tildeb @ 3:39 pm

The question is important to determine whether changes in the physical environment is primarily responsible for evolution or the interactions between species. What might we do to better inform these positions? Michael Brockhurst and Steve Patersonbile have come up with a really interesting experiment based on blocking adaptation to what happens:

It’s a question that has plagued biologists ever since Darwin first proposed his theory of natural selection in ‘On the Origin of Species’, and now researchers part-funded by the Wellcome Trust may have found some clues – from the bacterial kingdom and the viruses that infect them.

When pairs of species have opposing needs – for instance a host and its virus parasite – they can become locked in an arms race, where an adaptation that improves the chances of one’s survival is necessarily detrimental to the other. The other has to evolve a counter-attack just to keep up. And so forms the basis of the ‘Red Queen Hypothesis’, named after Lewis Carroll’s character from ‘Through the Looking-glass’ who explains to Alice: “here, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

This week in the journal ‘Nature’, a team led by Michael Brockhurst and Steve Paterson from the University of Liverpool provide the first experimental evidence that the Red Queen Hypothesis holds true. Using viruses known as phages that replicate by infecting and killing bacteria, they were able to observe hundreds of generations of evolution in action.

“Together, our findings suggest that it is the interactions between species that are the main drivers of evolution. And by causing rapid divergence, they could even lead to speciation itself.”

This is good science. Read the rest of the article over at WellcomeTrust.

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