The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology embraces education and research on all aspects of biodiversity, including the history of life on earth, evolutionary mechanisms that generate diversity, the ecological context in which all life has evolved, and consequences of interactions among organisms, including humans. Faculty expertise ranges from the tropics to the tundra, from the theoretical to the practical.
When people or animals are thrust into threatening situations such as combat or attack by a predator, stress hormones are released to help prepare the organism to defend itself or to rapidly escape from danger -- the so-called fight-or-flight response.
Now U-M researchers have demonstrated for the first time that stress hormones are also responsible for altering the body shape of developing animals, in this case the humble tadpole, so they are better equipped to survive predator attacks.
Through a series of experiments conducted at field sites and in the laboratory, Professors Robert Denver and Earl Werner, director of the E.S. George Reserve, demonstrated that prolonged exposure to a stress hormone enabled tadpoles to increase the size of their tails, which improved their ability to avoid lethal predator attacks.