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Evol Appl. 2013 Jun;6(4):673-89. doi: 10.1111/eva.12054. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Feasting in fresh water: impacts of food concentration on freshwater tolerance and the evolution of food × salinity response during the expansion from saline into fresh water habitats.

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  • 1Center of Rapid Evolution (CORE), University of Wisconsin Madison, WI, USA.


Saline to freshwater invasions have become increasingly common in recent years. A key hypothesis is that rates of freshwater invasions have been amplified in recent years by increased food concentration, yet this hypothesis has remained unexplored. We examined whether elevated food concentration could enhance freshwater tolerance, and whether this effect evolves following saline to freshwater invasions. We examined physiological response to salinity and food concentration in a 2 × 2 factorial design, using ancestral brackish and freshwater invading populations of the copepod Eurytemora affinis. We found that high food concentration significantly increases low-salinity tolerance. This effect was reduced in the freshwater population, indicating evolution following the freshwater invasion. Thus, ample food could enable freshwater invasions, allowing subsequent evolution of low-salinity tolerance even under food-poor conditions. We also compared effects of food concentration on freshwater survival between two brackish populations from the native range. Impacts of food concentration on freshwater survival differed between the brackish populations, suggesting variation in functional properties affecting their propensity to invade freshwater habitats. The key implication is that high food concentration could profoundly extend range expansions of brackishwater species into freshwater habitats, potentially allowing for condition-specific competition between saline invaders and resident freshwater species.


freshwater colonization; natural selection; osmoregulation; phenotypic plasticity; range limits; reaction norm; starvation resistance

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