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Introduced Predator Rapidly Evolves to New Conditions

By 07.17.12

Oh, this is good.

The tamarisk plant is native to China and Kazakhstan, but was introduced to the American Southeast about 200 years ago. Since then, it’s been spreading and driving out native species, like the jerk that it is. Adding to the problem is the fact that the tamarisk actually burns quite readily, even when it’s green, and that’s bad in areas like the Southeast, which are prone to fires.

So, since everything was up the creek anyway, scientists decided to make a bad problem possibly worse by introducing its natural predator, the tamarisk leaf beetle or Diorhabda carinulata, to the Southeast as well.

One problem: it got disoriented by the shorter day cycle and wound up hibernating when it should have been chowing down, and then dying once it woke up and found no food.

Oh well, back to the drawing board, right? Nope. The beetle has used a temperature cue to rapidly adjust to its new environment and now it’s just chowing down like crazy! Oh good, so introduced species can rapidly evolve. That’s great news for everybody. We can’t wait for one of those pack-hunting venomous tarantulas to hitch a ride in a crate to the US. It’ll be like Arachnophobia, only real!

The good news is that local birds are apparently finding said beetle very tasty. So once it breaks the bonds of nature and becomes a worse plague than the tamarisk, at least the birds will be well-fed.

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TAGSbiologyevolutionscienceuh-oh

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