Crystal Kelehear (University of Sydney)
Ecologists and evolutionary biologists often make the simplifying assumption that the systems they study are in spatial equilibrium, but this assumption is regularly violated in the natural world, as populations often expand and contract in time and space. For instance, species invasions are generally coupled with range expansions or contractions, which in turn, drive rapid evolutionary change. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are currently expanding their invasive Australian range with increasing rapidity – facilitated by evolved increases in dispersal ability. Whilst there is growing evidence that range advance can induce rapid evolutionary change in vertebrates, there is limited evidence that similar changes are taking place in the parasites of these expanding vertebrates, yet similar evolutionary forces should be at work. I studied a parasitic lung nematode native to South America that was introduced to Australia with the founder cane toads. I collected parasites from across a gradient of cane toad invasion history from the range-edge to the population core and exposed them to toads in a common garden to identify life‐history traits that facilitate parasite range expansion.
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