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Bean beetles show signs of the “Olympic village effect”

Generations of beetles born on the leading edge of an invasion are far more able to push on than those born farther back, report scientists.

Graduate student Brad Ochocki and ecologist Tom Miller of Rice University used the bean beetle as their model, which could help predict and prepare for the spread of invasive species.

The researchers chose to work with common bean beetles for their relative ease of maintenance and their rapid reproduction, Miller says, who notes that the species spawns a new generation about once a month.

The researchers bred 10 generations of the insects in their lab and found that beetles at the leading edge of an invasion, where food is more plentiful and competition less fierce, produced more offspring with the right genetic traits to carry on in the same pioneering spirit.

Ochocki called this the “Olympic Village Effect,” known by scientists as the assumption that, were Olympians to reproduce during the games, their offspring would likely carry forward evolutionary advantages for strength and agility.

That notion has real-world relevance for those who track invasive plants and animals. “We want to understand this process of spread because it’s happening more and more through biological invasions, especially with climate change,” Miller says. “Ecologists are under pressure to predict something about this process.” | READ MORE


January 31, 2017
By Rice University

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