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!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research