Novel ecological and climatic conditions drive rapid adaptation in invasive Florida Burmese pythons

Molecular Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Invasive species provide powerful in situ experimental systems for studying evolution in response to selective pressures in novel habitats. While research has shown that phenotypic evolution can occur rapidly in nature, few examples exist of genome‐wide adaptation on short ‘ecological’ timescales. Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) have become a successful and impactful invasive species in Florida over the last 30 years despite major freeze events that caused high python mortality. We sampled Florida Burmese pythons before and after a major freeze event in 2010 and found evidence for directional selection in genomic regions enriched for genes associated with thermosensation, behavior, and physiology. Several of these genes are linked to regenerative organ growth, an adaptive response that modulates organ size and function with feeding and fasting in pythons. Independent histological and functional genomic datasets provide additional layers of support for a contemporary shift in invasive Burmese python physiology. In the Florida population, a shift towards maintaining an active digestive system may be driven by the fitness benefits of maintaining higher metabolic rates and body temperature during freeze events. Our results suggest that a synergistic interaction between ecological and climatic selection pressures have driven adaptation in Florida Burmese pythons, demonstrating the often‐overlooked potential of rapid adaptation to influence the success of invasive species.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Novel ecological and climatic conditions drive rapid adaptation in invasive Florida Burmese pythons
Series title Molecular Ecology
DOI 10.1111/mec.14885
Edition Online First
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Country United States
State Florida