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Evidence for Evolution of Guppies in a Semi-Natural Environment

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

In Burgers' Zoo (Arnhem, the Netherlands) a large enclosure was build to mimic a tropical rain forest. In this so called 'Bush' several ponds exist in which guppies (Poecilia reticulata) can be found. One of these ponds contains caymen and is therefore in a secluded area of the Bush were other animals can not enter. Among these other animals are snakebirds (Anhinga melanogaster) which in the rest of the Bush predate on guppies devouring up to a 1000 guppies a day. After several years it became noticeable that the guppies which were initially from the same stock, differed between the Cayman pond (without predation) and the Seacow pond (with predation). The two populations showed marked differences in length and colouration. Young from both stock were then raised under identical conditions and were still found to differ. This leads to the conclusion that some of the differences are genetical and therefore the result of evolution within this semi-natural environment. The speed of these changes are compatible to what has been published about wild guppies. Also differences in behaviour between the two populations were ascertained.

Affiliations: 1: Ethology & Socio-ecology Group, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80086, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands


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