When isolated populations of the green-eyed tree frog (gray and brown) met again 8,000 years ago, they found that each had changed in subtle ways. The calls of the male frogs were different, and more importantly, hybrid offspring were less viable. One population that was cut off from its southern kin (pink) found a way to ensure healthy young. Females, who choose mates based only on their call, began selecting mates with a the southern call type. Over thousands of years, this behavior exaggerated the pre-existing differences in call, lead to smaller body size in males of the "isolated southern population" and resulted in rapid speciation between the two populations of the southern lineage (pink and brown). (Nicolle Rager Fuller/National Science Foundation)
Picky female frogs in a tiny rainforest outpost of Australia have driven the evolution of a new species in 8,000 years or less, according to scientists from the University of Queensland, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
"That’s lightning-fast," said co-author Craig Moritz, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. "To find a recently evolved species like this is exceptional, at least in my experience."
The yet-to-be- named species arose after two isolated populations of the green-eyed tree frog reestablished contact less than 8,000 years ago and found that their hybrid offspring were less viable. To avoid hybridizing with the wrong frogs and ensure healthy offspring, one group of females preferentially chose mates from their own lineage. Over several thousand years, this behavior created a reproductively isolated population - essentially a new species - that is unable to mate with either of the original frog populations.
Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
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