Exploring possible human influences on the evolution of darwin's finches
Fernando De Leon, Luis × Raeymaekers, Joost Bermingham, Eldredge Podos, Jeffrey Herrel, Anthony Hendry, Andrew P #
Evolution vol:65 issue:8 pages:2258-2272
Humans are an increasingly common influence on the evolution of natural populations. Potential arenas of influence include altered evolutionary trajectories within populations and modifications of the process of divergence among populations. We consider this second arena in the medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis) on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Our study compared the G. fortis population at a relatively undisturbed site, El Garrapatero, to the population at a severely disturbed site, Academy Bay, which is immediately adjacent to the town of Puerto Ayora. The El Garrapatero population currently shows beak size bimodality that is tied to assortative mating and disruptive selection, whereas the Academy Bay population was historically bimodal but has lost this property in conjunction with a dramatic increase in local human population density. We here evaluate potential ecological-adaptive drivers of the differences in modality by quantifying relationships between morphology (beak and head dimensions), functional performance (bite force), and environmental characteristics (diet). Our main finding is that associations among these variables are generally weaker at Academy Bay than at El Garrapatero, possibly because novel foods are used at the former site irrespective of individual morphology and performance. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the rugged adaptive landscapes promoting and maintaining diversification in nature can be smoothed by human activities, thus hindering ongoing adaptive radiation.