Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol:98 pages:6256-6260
Organisms producing resting stages provide unique opportunities for: reconstructing the genetic history of natural populations. Diapausing seeds and eggs often are preserved in large numbers, representing entire populations captured in an evolutionary inert state for decades and even centuries. Starting from a natural resting egg bank of the waterflea Daphnia, we compare the evolutionary rates of change in an adaptive quantitative trait with those in selectively neutral DNA markers, thus effectively testing whether the observed genetic changes in the quantitative trait are driven by natural selection. The population studied experienced variable and well documented levels of fish predation over the past 30 years and shows correlated genetic changes in phototactic behavior, a predator-avoidance trait that is related to diel vertical migration. The changes mainly involve an increased plasticity response upon exposure to predator kairomone, the direction of the changes being in agreement with the hypothesis of adaptive evolution. Genetic differentiation through time was an order of magnitude higher for the studied behavioral trait than for neutral markers (DNA microsatellites), providing strong evidence that natural selection was the driving force behind the observed, rapid, evolutionary changes.