Ecological novelty and the emergence of evolutionary traps

Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Sep;28(9):552-60. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.04.004. Epub 2013 Jun 5.


Human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC; e.g., climate change or exotic species) has caused global species declines. Although behavioral plasticity has buffered some species against HIREC, maladaptive behavioral scenarios called 'evolutionary traps' are increasingly common, threatening the persistence of affected species. Here, we review examples of evolutionary traps to identify their anthropogenic causes, behavioral mechanisms, and evolutionary bases, and to better forecast forms of HIREC liable to trigger traps. We summarize a conceptual framework for explaining the susceptibility of animals to traps that integrates the cost-benefit approach of standard behavioral ecology with an evolutionary approach (reaction norms) to understanding cue-response systems (signal detection). Finally, we suggest that a significant revision of conceptual thinking in wildlife conservation and management is needed to effectively eliminate and mitigate evolutionary traps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environment
  • Human Activities*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Perception*