The key to helping animals evolve quickly in response to climate change could actually be their predators, according to a new UBC study.
The study is one of the first to show that species interactions, meaning the way species interact with each other in an ecosystem, like in a predator-prey relationship, is important to understanding how animals will respond to climate change.
The findings, published today in Biology Letters, have implications for ecosystems around the world where many top predators like sharks or polar bears are disappearing because of increasing pressure from climate change and human populations.
"Not only can predators keep prey populations in check but in some cases they can help speed up the evolutionary response to climate change," said Michelle Tseng, a research associate in UBC's Department of Zoology and lead author of the study. "We now understand that species interactions and evolution can play a significant role in preventing animals from going extinct in a rapidly changing climate."
For the experiment, Tseng and her colleague Mary O'Connor, an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology, studied a small crustacean known as the water flea or by its Latin name Daphnia. These tiny organisms are key members of freshwater ecosystems around the world, and healthy lakes are typically filled with Daphnia or other similar species.
In the experiments Daphnia did not show any evolutionary response to increased temperature when there were no predators in the environment. When they lived alongside their predators, in this case a predatory fly larva, Daphnia populations evolved very quickly to a three-degree increase in water temperature.
Until recently scientists had little idea if species could evolve fast enough to save themselves from extinction in the face of climate change. In laboratory settings, a few studies had shown that some species could evolve rapidly, but these lab conditions were not very realistic.
Tseng and O'Connor set out to better understand how organisms may react to climate change in more realistic situations like those where they have to cope with finding food, finding a mate, or escaping from predators.
The UBC zoologists were surprised by their results. They thought the predators would eat enough Daphnia that their population sizes would be too small for evolution to occur; instead the opposite happened.
"In nature, no population lives in isolation," said Tseng. "The community plays a big role in whether and how an organism responds to climate change. These results highlight the importance of conserving the entire ecosystem instead of protecting just one species."
In the experiment, when the Daphnia lived alongside their predators, the populations evolved very quickly to a three-degree increase in water temperature.
The researchers believe evolution to warmer temperatures sped up with predators because the predators preferred to eat those Daphnia that happened also to be bad at coping with warmer temperatures.
The combination of predators and warmer temperatures resulted in an evolutionary shift in the population from a larger-bodied, more slowly reproducing population, to a population that was 10 per cent smaller in body size, and twice as fast at reproducing. This trend of both temperature and predators causing smaller body sizes is not uncommon in nature, which leads the researchers to think this benefit of predators for evolutionary rates might not be specific to just Daphnia.
Heather Amos | EurekAlert!
Tag it EASI – a new method for accurate protein analysis
20.06.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
How to track and trace a protein: Nanosensors monitor intracellular deliveries
19.06.2018 | Universität Basel
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences