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Effects of Environmental Changes on Eco-Evolution in Animals
Coulson T., MacNulty, D.R., Stahler, D.R., vonHoldt, B., Wayne, R.K. and Smith, D.W. 2011. Modeling effects of environmental change on wolf population dynamics, trait evolution, and life history. Science 334: 1275-1278.

The authors write that "environmental change has been observed to generate simultaneous responses in population dynamics, life history, gene frequencies, and morphology in a number of species." But they wonder "how common are such eco-evolutionary responses to environmental change likely to be?" ... asking "are they inevitable [and] do they require a specific type of change?"

What was done
Coulson et al. addressed the above questions using theory and data obtained from a study of wolves in Yellowstone Park, which is located mostly in the U.S. state of Wyoming, but which also reaches into smaller parts of Montana and Idaho. More specifically, they say they "used survival and reproductive success data, body weights, and genotype at the K locus (CBD103, a β-defensin gene that has two alleles and determines coat color), which were collected from 280 radio-collared wolves living in the park between 1998 and 2009," noting that "body weight and genotype at the K locus vary across U.S. wolf populations" and that both traits influence fitness, citing the studies of Schmitz and Kolenosky (1985), Anderson et al. (2009) and MacNulty et al. (2009).

What was learned
The four researchers say their results "do reveal that, for Yellowstone wolves, (i) environmental change will inevitably generate eco-evolutionary responses; (ii) change in the mean environment will have more profound population consequences than changes in the environmental variance; and (iii) environmental change affecting different functions can generate contrasting eco-evolutionary dynamics," which suggests, as they describe it, that "accurate prediction of the consequences of environmental change will probably prove elusive."

What it means
The general principles that Coulson et al. found to apply to Yellowstone wolves should clearly apply to all other animals as well, which suggests that the "climate envelope" approach used by the world's climate alarmists to predict shifts in the ranges of earth's many animal species - and sometimes their extinction - in response to IPCC-predicted global warming fails to accurately describe the way real animals respond to climate change in the real world.

Anderson, T.M., vonHoldt, B.M., Candille, S.I., Musiani, M., Greco, C., Stahler, D.R., Smith, D.W., Padhukasahasram, B., Randi, E., Leonard, J.A., Bustamante, C.D., Ostrander, E.A., Tang, H., Wayne, R.K and Barsh, G.S. 2009. Molecular and evolutionary history of melanism in North American gray wolves. Science 323: 1339-1343.

MacNulty, D.R., Smith, D.W., Mech, L.D. and Eberly, L.E. 2009. Body size and predatory performance in wolves: is bigger better? Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 532-539.

Schmitz, O.J. and Kolenosky, G.B. 1985. Wolves and coyotes in Ontario: morphological relationships and origins. Canadian Journal of Zoology 63: 1130-1137.

Reviewed 21 March 2012