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  1. Abstract

    In today’s rapidly changing world, it is critical to examine how animal populations will respond to severe environmental change. Following events such as pollution or deforestation that cause populations to decline, extinction will occur unless populations can adapt in response to natural selection, a process called evolutionary rescue. Theory predicts that immigration can delay extinction and provide novel genetic material that can prevent inbreeding depression and facilitate adaptation. However, when potential source populations have not experienced the new environment before (i.e., are naive), immigration can counteract selection and constrain adaptation. This study evaluated the effects of immigration of naive individuals on evolutionary rescue using the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, as a model system. Small populations were exposed to a challenging environment, and 3 immigration rates (0, 1, or 5 migrants per generation) were implemented with migrants from a benign environment. Following an initial decline in population size across all treatments, populations receiving no immigration gained a higher growth rate one generation earlier than those with immigration, illustrating the constraining effects of immigration on adaptation. After 7 generations, a reciprocal transplant experiment found evidence for adaptation regardless of immigration rate. Thus, while the immigration of naive individuals briefly delayed adaptation, it did not increase extinction risk or prevent adaptation following environmental change.

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  2. Following severe environmental change that reduces mean population fitness below replacement, populations must adapt to avoid eventual extinction, a process called evolutionary rescue. Models of evolutionary rescue demonstrate that initial size, genetic variation and degree of maladaptation influence population fates. However, many models feature populations that grow without negative density dependence or with constant genetic diversity despite precipitous population decline, assumptions likely to be violated in conservation settings. We examined the simultaneous influences of density-dependent growth and erosion of genetic diversity on populations adapting to novel environmental change using stochastic, individual-based simulations. Density dependence decreased the probability of rescue and increased the probability of extinction, especially in large and initially well-adapted populations that previously have been predicted to be at low risk. Increased extinction occurred shortly following environmental change, as populations under density dependence experienced more rapid decline and reached smaller sizes. Populations that experienced evolutionary rescue lost genetic diversity through drift and adaptation, particularly under density dependence. Populations that declined to extinction entered an extinction vortex, where small size increased drift, loss of genetic diversity and the fixation of maladaptive alleles, hindered adaptation and kept populations at small densities where they were vulnerable to extinction via demographic stochasticity.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Rapid environmental change presents a significant challenge to the persistence of natural populations. Rapid adaptation that increases population growth, enabling populations that declined following severe environmental change to grow and avoid extinction, is called evolutionary rescue. Numerous studies have shown that evolutionary rescue can indeed prevent extinction. Here, we extend those results by considering the demographic history of populations. To evaluate how demographic history influences evolutionary rescue, we created 80 populations of red flour beetle,Tribolium castaneum, with three classes of demographic history: diverse populations that did not experience a bottleneck, and populations that experienced either an intermediate or a strong bottleneck. We subjected these populations to a new and challenging environment for six discrete generations and tracked extinction and population size. Populations that did not experience a bottleneck in their demographic history avoided extinction entirely, while more than 20% of populations that experienced an intermediate or strong bottleneck went extinct. Similarly, among the extant populations at the end of the experiment, adaptation increased the growth rate in the novel environment the most for populations that had not experienced a bottleneck in their history. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of considering the demographic history of populations to make useful and effective conservation decisions and management strategies for populations experiencing environmental change that pushes them toward extinction.

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  4. Abstract

    Climate change can affect the length and timing of seasons, which in turn can alter the time available for insects to complete their life cycles and successfully reproduce. Intraspecific hybridization between individuals from genetically distinct populations, or admixture, can boost fitness in populations experiencing environmental challenges. Admixture can particularly benefit small and isolated populations that may have high genetic load by masking deleterious alleles, thereby immediately increasing fitness, and also by increasing the genetic variation available for adaptive evolution. To evaluate the effects of admixture on populations exposed to a novel life cycle constraint, we used the red flour beetle,Tribolium castaneum, as a model system. Distinct laboratory lineages were kept isolated or mixed together to create populations containing 1–4 lineages. We then compared the fitness of admixed populations to 1‐lineage populations while subjecting them to a shortened generation time for three generations. Admixture did not influence fitness after two generations. In contrast, in the third generation, admixed populations had significantly greater fitness compared with 1‐lineage populations. The timing of the increase in fitness for the admixed populations suggests that adaptation to the novel environmental constraint occurred in the experimental populations. Our study highlights the importance of admixture for facilitating rapid adaptation to changes in seasonality, and more broadly to environmental change.

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