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Hamiltonian patterns of age-dependent adaptation to novel environments.

  • Author(s): Rutledge, Grant A;
  • Cabral, Larry G;
  • Kuey, Brandon J;
  • Lee, Joshua D;
  • Mueller, Laurence D;
  • Rose, Michael R
  • et al.

Our intuitive understanding of adaptation by natural selection is dominated by the power of selection at early ages in large populations. Yet, as the forces of natural selection fall with adult age, we expect adaptation to be attenuated with age. Explicit simulations of age-dependent adaptation suggest that populations adapt to a novel environment quickly at early ages, but only slowly and incompletely at later adult ages. Experimental tests for age-dependent adaptation to a novel diet were performed on populations of Drosophila melanogaster. The results support the prediction that populations should perform better on an ancestral, long-abandoned diet, compared to an evolutionarily recent diet, only at later ages. D. melanogaster populations also perform poorly on a novel diet compared to an evolutionarily recent diet that has been sustained for hundreds of generations, particularly at earlier ages. Additional experiments demonstrate that the timing of the shift to better performance in our populations on the long-abandoned diet is dependent on when the forces of natural selection weaken in the evolutionary history of experimental populations. Taken together, these experimental findings suggest that the forces of natural selection scale the rate of adaptation to novel environments.

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