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  1. Abstract Background

    In introductory biology classrooms, cell and molecular concepts are often taught separate from those related to evolution and ecology, and usually in completely different courses. Furthermore, many examples used to teach introductory concepts are difficult for students to relate to. To address these issues, we developed curricular materials focused on the topic of breast cancer that: (1) aim to teach students how to integrate the various sub-disciplines of biology, with evolution as the unifying theme, and (2) aim to present course materials using relatable examples such as human health and disease. To assess the potential value of these materials, we asked students to complete a pre-unit and post-unit assessment before and after completing the interactive course unit on breast cancer.

    Results

    We found that after learning about breast cancer, students reported that learning about biology in the context of human health made their learning experience easier, more interesting, and more relatable. After the unit, students also rated evolutionary concepts as being more important for understanding human health and disease.

    Conclusions

    These results have important implications for developing introductory biology curricula that have more personal appeal to students and may thus translate to better learning outcomes, as well as help students better understand the process of evolution as it occurs in humans.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Adaptation to novel environments can result in unanticipated genomic responses to selection. Here, we illustrate how multifarious, correlational selection helps explain a counterintuitive pattern of genetic divergence between the recently derived apple‐ and ancestral hawthorn‐infesting host races ofRhagoletis pomonella(Diptera: Tephritidae). The apple host race terminates diapause and emerges as adults earlier in the season than the hawthorn host race, to coincide with the earlier fruiting phenology of their apple hosts. However, alleles at many loci associated with later emergence paradoxically occur at higher frequencies in sympatric populations of the apple compared to the hawthorn race. We present genomic evidence that historical selection over geographically varying environmental gradients across North America generated genetic correlations between two life history traits, diapause intensity and diapause termination, in the hawthorn host race. Moreover, the loci associated with these life history traits are concentrated in genomic regions in high linkage disequilibrium (LD). These genetic correlations are antagonistic to contemporary selection on local apple host race populations that favours increased initial diapause depth and earlier, not later, diapause termination. Thus, the paradox of apple flies appears due, in part, to pleiotropy or linkage of alleles associated with later adult emergence and increased initial diapause intensity, the latter trait strongly selected for by the earlier phenology of apples. Our results demonstrate how understanding of multivariate trait combinations and the correlative nature of selective forces acting on them can improve predictions concerning adaptive evolution and help explain seemingly counterintuitive patterns of genetic diversity in nature.

     
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  3. Abstract

    An important criterion for understanding speciation is the geographic context of population divergence. Three major modes of allopatric, parapatric, and sympatric speciation define the extent of spatial overlap and gene flow between diverging populations. However, mixed modes of speciation are also possible, whereby populations experience periods of allopatry, parapatry, and/or sympatry at different times as they diverge. Here, we report clinal patterns of variation for 21 nuclear‐encoded microsatellites and a wing spot phenotype for cherry‐infestingRhagoletis(Diptera: Tephritidae) across North America consistent with these flies having initially diverged in parapatry followed by a period of allopatric differentiation in the early Holocene. However, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) displays a different pattern; cherry flies at the ends of the clines in the eastern USA and Pacific Northwest share identical haplotypes, while centrally located populations in the southwestern USA and Mexico possess a different haplotype. We hypothesize that the mitochondrial difference could be due to lineage sorting but more likely reflects a selective sweep of a favorable mtDNA variant or the spread of an endosymbiont. The estimated divergence time for mtDNA suggests possible past allopatry, secondary contact, and subsequent isolation between USA and Mexican fly populations initiated before the Wisconsin glaciation. Thus, the current genetics of cherry flies may involve different mixed modes of divergence occurring in different portions of the fly's range. We discuss the need for additional DNA sequencing and quantification of prezygotic and postzygotic reproductive isolation to verify the multiple mixed‐mode hypothesis for cherry flies and draw parallels from other systems to assess the generality that speciation may commonly involve complex biogeographies of varying combinations of allopatric, parapatric, and sympatric divergence.

     
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