Natural selection and its limits: where ecology meets evolution

In R. Casagrandi P. Melia (ed.), Atti del XIII Congresso Nazionale della Societa` Italiana di Ecologia (2004)
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Natural selection [Darwin 1859] is perhaps the most important component of evolutionary theory, since it is the only known process that can bring about the adaptation of living organisms to their environments [Gould 2002]. And yet, its study is conceptually and methodologically complex, and much attention needs to be paid to a variety of phenomena that can limit the efficacy of selection [Antonovics 1976; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2000]. In this essay, I will use examples of recent work carried out in my laboratory to illustrate basic research on natural selection as conducted using a variety of approaches, including field work, laboratory experiments, and molecular genetics. I also discuss the application of this array of tools to questions pertinent to conservation biology, and in particular to the all-important problem of what makes invasive species so good at creating the sort of problems they are infamous for [Lee 2002].


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