We often focus so much on our research, that we forget about opportunities to share our teaching experiences with the science community. While at Indiana University, I had the privilege of attending the Lively lab meeting. One afternoon, Mandy Gibson and Curt Lively asked everyone to play test a new lab they developed to have the students explore the topic of host-parasite coevolution using playing cards. I found this game so fascinating that I couldn’t help but get involved in the development. After two semesters of teaching using the game (once at Indiana University and once here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), we wrote up the idea.
This week, we published the full details of the game (Gibson et al 2015) and some of the learning opportunities in Evolution: Education and Outreach. This journal has a wealth of other labs. I used this board game called ACAGATATA in my evolution class this past semester as an in class active learning exercise (Eterovic and Santos 2013).
The game is very quick to learn and can be explained in about 10 minutes. The experimental game teaches the following concepts of coevolution:
- Coevolution is rapid
- That which is most fit now can soon become the least fit
- Rare advantage maintains genetic variation over time
We’ve also put a few of the game resources online over at Curt’s website here.
Gibson, AK, Drown DM, Lively CM. 2015. The Red Queen’s Race: An Experimental Card Game to Teach Coevolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach 8:10 doi:10.1186/s12052-015-0039-2
Mike Wade and I recently published a population genetics analysis of indirect genetic effects. We found that the coadaptive process between genes and heritable environments is much faster thangenetic adaptation to an abiotic environment. Most interestingly, the effects of increased inbreeding accelerate the adaptive process than equivalent amounts of linkage. We are currently extending this model to other kinds of genome interactions. Below is the abstract, be sure to check out the full paper online at Evolution. and you can find the data online at Dryad.
Populations evolve in response to the external environment, whether abiotic (e.g., climate) or biotic (e.g., other conspecifics). We investigated how adaptation to biotic, heritable environments differs from adaptation to abiotic, non-heritable environments. We found that, for the same selection coefficients, the coadaptive process between genes and heritable environments is much faster than genetic adaptation to an abiotic non-heritable environment. The increased rate of adaptation results from of the positive association generated by reciprocal selection between the heritable environment and the genes responding to it. These associations result in a runaway process of adaptive coevolution, even when the genes creating the heritable environment and genes responding to the heritable environment are unlinked. Although tightening the degree of linkage accelerates the coadaptive process, the acceleration caused by a comparable amount of inbreeding is greater, because inbreeding has a cumulative effect on reducing functional recombination over generations. Our results suggest that that adaptation to local abiotic environmental variation may result in the rapid diversification of populations and subsequent reproductive isolation not directly but rather via its effects on heritable environments and the genes responding to them.