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Evol Appl. 2014 Dec;7(10):1161-79. doi: 10.1111/eva.12221. Epub 2014 Oct 15.

Evolutionary rescue: linking theory for conservation and medicine.

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Institute for Integrative Biology, D-USYS, ETH Zürich Zürich, Switzerland.
Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, UMR 5554, Université Montpellier 2 - CNRS - IRD Montpellier Cedex, France.


Evolutionary responses that rescue populations from extinction when drastic environmental changes occur can be friend or foe. The field of conservation biology is concerned with the survival of species in deteriorating global habitats. In medicine, in contrast, infected patients are treated with chemotherapeutic interventions, but drug resistance can compromise eradication of pathogens. These contrasting biological systems and goals have created two quite separate research communities, despite addressing the same central question of whether populations will decline to extinction or be rescued through evolution. We argue that closer integration of the two fields, especially of theoretical understanding, would yield new insights and accelerate progress on these applied problems. Here, we overview and link mathematical modelling approaches in these fields, suggest specific areas with potential for fruitful exchange, and discuss common ideas and issues for empirical testing and prediction.


drug resistance; eco-evolutionary feedback; environmental change; experimental evolution; infectious disease; mathematical model; spatiotemporal heterogeneity; standing genetic variation

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