Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Loss of Arctic Ice May Promote Hybrid Marine Mammals

16.12.2010
Scientists have expected for some time that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer by the end of this century. Writing in today’s issue of the journal Nature, a trio of researchers say the seasonal loss of this ice sheet, a continent-sized natural barrier between species such as bears, whales and seals, could mean extinction of some rare marine mammals and the loss of many adaptive gene combinations.

Marine mammalogist and first author Brendan Kelly of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine mammal lab in Juneau, with conservation geneticist Andrew Whiteley of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and evolutionary biologist David Tallmon of the University of Alaska, say genes developed over millennia in isolated populations have given many Arctic marine animals sets of fine-tuned adaptations, helping them uniquely thrive in the harsh environment.

Their article for the first time looks ahead to speculate on what biologists can expect as these populations meet, hybridize by interbreeding and mix their gene pools.

The authors call for immediate monitoring and stepped-up study of many already rare, threatened or endangered bears, whales and seals in the coming decades, before discrete populations begin to disappear through interbreeding.

As Whiteley explains, the picture is complicated and it is hard for biologists to know exactly what to expect because hybridization can have beneficial consequences in the first generation. But in later generations, the process begins to have more negative effects as genomes mix and any genes associated with environment-adapted traits are recombined. Genes related to any trait that once allowed the animal to thrive in a specific habitat can be diluted, leaving the animal less well suited to surviving and reproducing there.

In some cases hybridization, which is one of nature’s sources of evolutionary novelty, might not be so bad, the authors acknowledge. But in other cases such as interbreeding between the rare North Pacific right whale, with fewer than 200 individuals believed to be left, and more numerous bowhead whales, interbreeding could mean extinction of the rarer, smaller population.

In a chart accompanying their Nature article, Kelly, Whiteley and Tallmon identify 22 marine mammal species they believe may be at risk of hybridization. They report that several Arctic hybrids have been documented already by DNA testing. For example, hunters shot a white bear with brown patches in 2006 that later was confirmed to be a polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid.

At UMass Amherst, Whiteley’s usual primary research interest is in exploring questions related to a variety of species in Massachusetts and elsewhere, such as how evolutionary fitness works in wild populations and the effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change on species’ evolutionary potential.

Andrew Whiteley | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umass.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds
25.07.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht NASA flights gauge summer sea ice melt in the Arctic
25.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>