Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Resurrection Ecology: Bringing the Past to Life in the Lab

30.01.2009
A Michigan Technological University biologist discovers evidence of evolution in action when he revives the eggs of tiny aquatic animals.

You don't have to visit the Galapagos Islands to see evolution in action. Sometimes, all you have to do is hatch some eggs.

Layered in the sediments of rivers and lakes are the remains of generation upon generation of tiny animals known as zooplankton. In the 1990s, W. Charles Kerfoot, a professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University. was among a team of scientists studying these creatures in Germany when they made a startling discovery: The zooplankton weren't all dead. Or at least their eggs weren't.

"They should have died, but they didn't," Kerfoot said. "They revive, and we don't quite understand how it happens."

It doesn't take much to bring them back to life, either. "We just sieve them out of the sediment and wake them up in an incubator," he says. "Then we grow them up. We have entire populations from nearly 100 years ago."

A whole new field, dubbed by Kerfoot resurrection ecology, has emerged from those original discoveries. Its techniques allow scientists to study organisms from the past and compare them with their modern counterparts.

More recently, Kerfoot has done just that in Portage Lake, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He revived the eggs of a small, shrimp-like animal, Daphnia retrocurva, that he had found in sediment layers going back to the 1920s.

"We were testing a fundamental theory, Van Valen's Red Queen Hypothesis," Kerfoot explains. "It's the idea from 'Through the Looking Glass' that you must run just to remain in place."

Less colorfully, Leigh Van Valen of the University of Chicago postulated in 1973 that in an evolutionary system, it's not enough to rest on your laurels. Predators and their prey must constantly evolve in response to each other's changes or perish in the attempt.

In the case of D. retrocurva, Kerfoot wanted to know what, if any, changes it had made over the past 80 years. This was during a time when Portage Lake had undergone major changes, and those changes had big impacts on the predator populations that had D. retrocurva on the menu.

As it turned out, D. retrocurva, like Alice, followed the Red Queen's instructions. Eggs from different sediment layers grew up into adults with significantly different characteristics. In particular, their helmets and spines, which make them prickly to eat, changed in relation to predators over the 80-year period of the study.

Such microevolutionary adjustments had been observed in Daphnia populations, but resurrection ecology now allows scientists to bring the historical record to life.

"It's like having Rip Van Winkle wake up in your lab," Kerfoot says.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computing, technology, business and economics, natural and physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.

W. Charles Kerfoot | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.mtu.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: 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...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

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 looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>