Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Taking evolution’s temperature: Researchers pinpoint the energy it takes to make a species

01.06.2006


Comfortable living is not why so many different life forms seem to converge at the warmer areas of the planet.



Writing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say higher temperatures near the equator speed up the metabolisms of the inhabitants, fueling genetic changes that actually lead to the creation of new species.

The finding - by researchers from the University of Florida, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Harvard University and the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque - helps explain why more living species seem to exist near the equator, a scientific observation made even before naturalist Charles Darwin set sail to South America on the H.M.S. Beagle nearly two centuries ago.


It may also have a bearing on concepts such as global warming and efforts to preserve diversity of life on Earth.

"We’ve shown that there is indeed a higher rate of evolutionary change in the form and structure of plankton in the tropics and that it increases exponentially because of temperature," said James Gillooly, Ph.D., an assistant professor of zoology with the UF Genetics Institute. "It tells us something about the fundamental mechanisms that shape biodiversity on the planet."

Speciation - when animals or plants actually evolve into a new species - occurs when life forms with a common ancestor undergo substantial genetic change.

Using a mathematical model based on the body size and temperature-dependence of individual metabolism, the researchers made specific predictions on rates of speciation at the global scale. Then, using fossils and genetic data, they looked at rates of DNA evolution and speciation during a 30-million-year period in foraminifera plankton, a single-celled animal that floats in the ocean.

Researchers compared arrivals of new species of this type of plankton with differences in ocean temperatures at different latitudes ranging from the tropics to the arctic. The results agreed closely with predictions of their model.

"It takes more energy than all the fossil fuel people burn on the planet in a year to form one new species of plankton," said Andrew Allen, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "In terms of conservation, this really highlights that biodiversity does have a price, and the price is very high."

To put a number on it, it takes about 10 to the 23rd power - that is a 1 followed by 23 zeros - of energy units called joules to generate a new species of foraminifera plankton.

"From a scientific perspective, we can now quantify biodiversity in terms of energy," Allen said. "This will help efforts to identify and model areas for protection and conservation."

By observing changes in a unicellular animal whose body temperature varies according to its surroundings, as opposed to a mammal, which regulates a constant body temperature, scientists could more precisely measure rates of speciation caused by the environment. In the end, it is individual metabolic rate - how fast an organism burns food relative to its body weight - that primarily determines evolutionary rate. And higher environmental temperatures help increase metabolism.

"Diversity is the hallmark of the living. Understanding the principles underlying the generation and maintenance of diversity will allow us to understand life, and also how to preserve it," said Pablo Marquet, Ph.D., an associate professor and member of the Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, who was not involved in the research. "Changes in our environment, such as global warming, will not only affect the way the ecosystem functions, but also how life will evolve and hence how diversity is distributed across the planet."

One of the novel insights in the paper is the finding that the energy required to produce a new species is a fixed quantity.

"These authors are changing evolutionary biology, ecology and biogeography, putting them into a firm and quantitative foundation based on the first principles underlying individual metabolism," Marquet said.

John Pastor | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vpha.health.ufl.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>