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  1. One of the main drivers of evolution is natural selection, which is when organisms better adapted to their environment are more likely to survive and reproduce. A common metaphor to explain this process is a landscape covered in peaks and valleys: the peaks represent genetic combinations or traits with high evolutionary fitness, while the valleys represent those with low fitness. As a population evolves and its environment changes, it moves among these peaks taking small steps across the landscape. However, there is a limit to how far an organism can travel in one leap. So, what happens when they need to cross a valley of low fitness to get to the next peak? To address this question, Patton et al. studied three young species of pupfish that recently evolved from a common ancestor and co-habit the same environment in the Caribbean. Patton et al. sequenced whole genomes of each new species and used this to build a genotypic fitness landscape, a network linking neighboring genotypes which each have a unique fitness value that was measured during field experiments. This revealed that most of the paths connecting the different species passed through valleys of low fitness. But there were rare, narrowmore »ridges connecting each species. Next, Patton et al. found that new mutations as well as genetic variations that arose from mating with pupfish on other Caribbean islands altered genetic interactions and changed the shape of the fitness landscape. Ultimately, this significantly increased the accessibility of fitness peaks by both adding more ridges and decreasing the lengths of paths, expanding the realm of possible evolutionary outcomes. Understanding how fitness landscapes change during evolution could help to explain where new species come from. Other researchers could apply the same approach to estimate the genotypic fitness landscapes of other species, from bacteria to vertebrates. These networks could be used to visualize the complex fitness landscape that connects all lifeforms on Earth.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 26, 2023
  2. Ecologically divergent selection can lead to the evolution of reproductive isolation through the process of ecological speciation, but the balance of responsible evolutionary forces is often obscured by an inadequate assessment of demographic history and the genetics of traits under selection. Snake venoms have emerged as a system for studying the genetic basis of adaptation because of their genetic tractability and contributions to fitness, and speciation in venomous snakes can be associated with ecological diversification such as dietary shifts and corresponding venom changes. Here, we explored the neurotoxic (type A)–hemotoxic (type B) venom dichotomy and the potential for ecological speciation among Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) populations. Previous work identified the genetic basis of this phenotypic difference, enabling us to characterize the roles geography, history, ecology, selection, and chance play in determining when and why new species emerge or are absorbed. We identified significant genetic, proteomic, morphological, and ecological/environmental differences at smaller spatial scales, suggestive of incipient ecological speciation between type A and type B C. horridus. Range-wide analyses, however, rejected the reciprocal monophyly of venom type, indicative of varying intensities of introgression and a lack of reproductive isolation across the range. Given that we have now established the phenotypic distributionsmore »and ecological niche models of type A and B populations, genome-wide data are needed and capable of determining whether type A and type B C. horridus represent distinct, reproductively isolated lineages due to incipient ecological speciation or differentiated populations within a single species.« less
  3. Oceanic islands are known as test tubes of evolution. Isolated and colonized by relatively few species, islands are home to many of nature’s most renowned radiations from the finches of the Galápagos to the silverswords of the Hawaiian Islands. Despite the evolutionary exuberance of insular life, island occupation has long been thought to be irreversible. In particular, the presumed much tougher competitive and predatory milieu in continental settings prevents colonization, much less evolutionary diversification, from islands back to mainlands. To test these predictions, we examined the ecological and morphological diversity of neotropicalAnolislizards, which originated in South America, colonized and radiated on various islands in the Caribbean, and then returned and diversified on the mainland. We focus in particular on what happens when mainland and island evolutionary radiations collide. We show that extensive continental radiations can result from island ancestors and that the incumbent and invading mainland clades achieve their ecological and morphological disparity in very different ways. Moreover, we show that when a mainland radiation derived from island ancestors comes into contact with an incumbent mainland radiation the ensuing interactions favor the island-derived clade.

  4. Abstract Adaptive radiation plays a fundamental role in our understanding of the evolutionary process. However, the concept has provoked strong and differing opinions concerning its definition and nature among researchers studying a wide diversity of systems. Here, we take a broad view of what constitutes an adaptive radiation, and seek to find commonalities among disparate examples, ranging from plants to invertebrate and vertebrate animals, and remote islands to lakes and continents, to better understand processes shared across adaptive radiations. We surveyed many groups to evaluate factors considered important in a large variety of species radiations. In each of these studies, ecological opportunity of some form is identified as a prerequisite for adaptive radiation. However, evolvability, which can be enhanced by hybridization between distantly related species, may play a role in seeding entire radiations. Within radiations, the processes that lead to speciation depend largely on (1) whether the primary drivers of ecological shifts are (a) external to the membership of the radiation itself (mostly divergent or disruptive ecological selection) or (b) due to competition within the radiation membership (interactions among members) subsequent to reproductive isolation in similar environments, and (2) the extent and timing of admixture. These differences translate into differentmore »patterns of species accumulation and subsequent patterns of diversity across an adaptive radiation. Adaptive radiations occur in an extraordinary diversity of different ways, and continue to provide rich data for a better understanding of the diversification of life.« less