3
$\begingroup$

Evolution and speciation may take millions of years. This made me wonder if there is an animal that adapts itself relatively rapidly to its environment? I don't mean a simple adaptation like a change of a color by chameleons, but a real evolutionary change.

I've heard that some animals can adapt quickly to the environment like snakes (I am not sure they do). When they have a lot of water (e.g., a big river), they grow big, while the same species does not grow as big in a smaller water tank (small body of water). And when you take this animal to a bigger water it starts to grow quickly. I want to be sure it is a snake or there is some other animals that evolve change like this...

$\endgroup$

closed as too broad by kmm, Amory, fileunderwater, WYSIWYG Oct 5 '15 at 5:01

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean? All of them do. Every single one. $\endgroup$ – terdon Oct 3 '15 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ I've heard that some animals can adapt quickly to the environment like snakes (I am not sure). When they have a lot of water (big river ie) they grow big and the same species do not grow as big in smaller water tank (small body of water). And when you take this animal to a bigger water it stars to grow. I want to be sure it is a snake or there is some other animals that evolve change like this... $\endgroup$ – Arcadio Oct 3 '15 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ First of all, that also happens with all animals. If you have enough food, you grow big, if you don't you remain small. Please edit your question and clarify. $\endgroup$ – terdon Oct 3 '15 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Given your snake example, I think it is unclear whether you are interested in evolutionary change or phenotypic plasticity. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Oct 4 '15 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ If phenoptic plasticity means changing the size due to better environment and opposite: not growing or changing (evolving) due to bad ones - I am interested in that. Thanks $\endgroup$ – Arcadio Oct 4 '15 at 19:17
1
$\begingroup$

The snake example you provide is a single animal that adapts itself to its surroundings. Adaptation is similar, yet very different from evolution. Adaptation happens on a short timescale (as little as seconds, to perhaps years, but within a single life time, without substantial changes in DNA other than, perhaps, epigenetic ones), while evolution may occur over the course of millions of years or more, and likely involving gross changes in appearance and hereditary material. I am not entirely sure what you are exactly after.

A striking example of adaptation is the fish Tilapia, an invasive species of fish (Fig. 1) that is capable of sustaining fresh water as well as sea water environments. The transition from one medium to the other is mediated by gross changes in endocrinology. Your specific snake example on size adaptation seems, however, unsupported based on non-scientific websites at least.

Nile Tilapia
Fig. 1. Nile Tilapia. Source: Sea EX

If you are after examples of swift evolution -There is a nice example of the Waterlily Beetle, Galerucella nymphaeae (Fig. 2), that shows striking host-race formation, i.e., the same species of beetle shows clear adaptations (on an evolutional scale) dependent on which plant it has been found. It has been shown that these beetles extracted from different plants (Nymphaeaceae versus Polygonaceae) showed strong morphological and ecological differentiation to their different host plant families. Beetles from Nymphaeaceae were significantly larger and had disproportionally larger mandibles than beetles from Polygonaceae. It is argued that these differences are adaptations (on an evolutional scale) to the tougher leaves of the Nymphaeaceae, which has been linked to genetic differences. In addition, females showed a strong oviposition preference, and all beetles showed distinct feeding preferences for the host family from which they originated. Moreover, these host preferences resulted in clear differences in survival: survival was 2 to 11 times higher on the natal host family than on the alternative host family.

Waterlily Beetle
Fig. 2. Waterlily Beetle. Source: Wikipedia.

Exactly how fast these beetles have adapted I am unsure of, but the interesting thing is that these beetle races are not geographically separated by a natural barrier like a sea, a mountain range etc. Instead, they live side-by-side, but have adapted to a specific host plant.

Reference
- Pappers, Evolution in action: Host race formation in Galerucella nymphaeae. PhD thesis (2001), Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for that answer ! Do you know the name of that snake. Is it Anaconda? $\endgroup$ – Arcadio Oct 3 '15 at 15:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.