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
A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington
Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy