Gordon and her colleagues studied guppies — small fresh-water fish biologists have studied for long — from the Yarra River, Trinidad. They introduced the guppies into the nearby Damier River, in a section above a barrier waterfall that excluded all predators. The guppies and their descendents also colonized the lower portion of the stream, below the barrier waterfall, that contained natural predators.
Eight years later (less than 30 guppy generations), the researchers found that the guppies in the low-predation environment above the barrier waterfall had adapted to their new environment by producing larger and fewer offspring with each reproductive cycle. No such adaptation was seen in the guppies that colonized the high-predation environment below the barrier waterfall.
“High-predation females invest more resources into current reproduction because a high rate of mortality, driven by predators, means these females may not get another chance to reproduce,” explained Gordon, who works in the lab of David Reznick, a professor of biology. “Low-predation females, on the other hand, produce larger embryos because the larger babies are more competitive in the resource-limited environments typical of low-predation sites. Moreover, low-predation females produce fewer embryos not only because they have larger embryos but also because they invest fewer resources in current reproduction.”
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Photo Credit: Paul Bentzen
Source: University of California Riverside