• Open Access

PERSPECTIVE: The role of experiments in understanding fishery-induced evolution


David O. Conover, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, 11794-5000, NY, USA. Tel.: +1 631 632 8781; fax: +1 631 632 8915; e-mail: dconover@notes.cc.sunysb.edu


Evidence of fishery-induced evolution has been accumulating rapidly from various avenues of investigation. Here we review the knowledge gained from experimental approaches. The strength of experiments is in their ability to disentangle genetic from environmental differences. Common garden experiments have provided direct evidence of adaptive divergence in the wild and therefore the evolvability of various traits that influence production in numerous species. Most of these cases involve countergradient variation in physiological, life history, and behavioral traits. Selection experiments have provided examples of rapid life history evolution and, more importantly, that fishery-induced selection pressures cause simultaneous divergence of not one but a cluster of genetically and phenotypically correlated traits that include physiology, behavior, reproduction, and other life history characters. The drawbacks of experiments are uncertainties in the scale-up from small, simple environments to larger and more complex systems; the concern that taxons with short life cycles used for experimental research are atypical of those of harvested species; and the difficulty of adequately simulating selection due to fishing. Despite these limitations, experiments have contributed greatly to our understanding of fishery-induced evolution on both empirical and theoretical levels. Future advances will depend on integrating knowledge from experiments with those from modeling, field studies, and molecular genetic approaches.