Thursday, April 2, 2015

02/04/2015: Asian carp and the birthday problem

It’s a popular exercise in statistics and probability: How many people would need to randomly gather to achieve a better than 50 percent chance that any two of them would have the same birthday? The answer is 23, with the the odds landing at about 50.73 percent. Increase the number to just 75 people and the odds reach 99.9 percent, Tom Zeller writes for Forbes.

The branch of maths used to solve the problem is known as combinatorial probability, or combinatorics, and a study out of Canada’s University of Waterloo has used it in a novel way to understand how invasive species might be able to dominate new landscapes, even when their initial numbers are vanishingly small.
The findings might have profound implications for wildlife managers now grappling with Asian carp, a remarkably adaptable species that spread from Southern fish farms in the 1960s and 70s to wild habitats across the United States — and now represents a potentially US$18 billion problem for the Great Lakes. The voracious and fast-growing species, which can weigh as much as 100 pounds, is capable of consuming between 5 and 20 percent of its body weight every day, and quickly crowds out native fish species by dominating the food web.

Only small numbers of the fish are needed to set off a population boom in any given habitat — something that had researchers scratching their heads.

“We recently found that only ten Asian carp are needed to establish a population in the Great Lakes,” said Kim Cuddington, an ecology professor from the University of Waterloo, in a release accompanying the new study. 

“But then we asked, if there are so few individuals initially, how do they find a mate and create an ecological disaster?”

Read more, and watch the video HERE.

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