Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Invasive species use landmarks as ‘nature’s nightclubs’

March 16, 2015

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – @ParkstBrett

New research from the University of Waterloo has revealed that foreign species invading a new ecosystem use local landmarks as a beacon for mating, sort of like nature’s nightclub.

Published in the journal Theoretical Ecology, the new study could lead to new methods for controlling Asian carp and other invasive species currently threatening to destroy ecosystems around the world.

“We recently found that only ten Asian carp are needed to establish a population in the Great Lakes,” said study author Kim Cuddington, an ecology professor from the University of Waterloo. “But then we asked, if there are so few individuals initially, how do they find a mate and create an ecological disaster?”

Searching for nature’s bouncer
The phenomenon observed in the study is referred to as “landmarking” and to investigate how invasive species pair up, the researchers used a mathematical technique called combinatorics that essentially involved asking: What are the odds of a male and female finding each other at a fixed amount of locations? The more pronounced and unique the location is, the higher the chance a male will get together with a female.

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