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 Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another

27.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>