Insects a Prime Driver in Plant Evolution and Diversity
Take a good look around on your next nature hike. Not only are you experiencing the wonders of the outdoors – you’re probably also witnessing evolution in action. New research from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) on the effect of insects on plant populations has shown that evolution can happen more quickly than was previously assumed, even over a single generation. The study was published in a recent issue of Science.
UTM assistant professor Marc Johnson said the findings also show that evolution might be an important mechanism that causes changes in whole ecosystems. “As these plant populations evolve, their traits change and influence their interactions with insects and other plant species, which in turn may evolve adaptations to cope with those changes,” Johnson said. “The abundance and competitiveness of the plant populations is changing. Evolution can change the ecology and the function of organisms and entire ecosystems.”