Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Predators key to helping prey evolve with climate change

16.12.2015

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 key to helping animals evolve quickly in response to climate change could actually be their predators.

Credit: Michelle Tseng

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."

BACKGROUND

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.

Media Contact

Heather Amos
heather.amos@ubc.ca
604-822-3213

 @UBCnews

http://www.ubc.ca 

Heather Amos | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>