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    Home > Biochemistry News > Biotechnology News > Marine life may adapt to climate change, but at a hidden cost

    Marine life may adapt to climate change, but at a hidden cost

    • Last Update: 2022-04-28
    • Source: Internet
    • Author: User
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    Image: Copepods are small crustaceans found in nearly all freshwater and marine habitats—they are probably the most abundant animals in the ocean
    .
    Scientists at UVM studied one of them -- Acartia tonsa, pictured here -- to test how they might respond to climate change
    .
    UVM / Pespeni Lab

    Suppose we could observe 20 generations of whales or sharks adapting to climate change -- measuring how they evolved and how their biological structures changed as temperatures and carbon dioxide levels rose
    .
    This could tell us just how resilient marine life is to a warmer world
    .
    But it would also take hundreds of years -- not much use for scientists or policymakers trying to understand today's warming world
    .

    Instead, consider the life of the copepod Arcadia tonsa, a tiny and humble sea creature that sits at the bottom of the food web
    .
    It reproduces, matures and creates a new generation in about 20 days
    .
    Copepods go through twenty generations in about a year
    .

    A team of six scientists led by University of Vermont biologist Melissa Pespenny and postdoctoral scientist Reed Brennan did just that: In a first-ever laboratory experiment, they fed thousands of copepods Exposure to high temperatures and high carbon dioxide levels is what predicts the future of the ocean
    .
    Watching the 20s pass
    by.
    They then took some copepods and returned them to baseline conditions -- the temperatures and carbon dioxide levels at the start of the first generation, just like the state of the ocean today
    .
    Then they went on to observe the past of three generations
    .

    The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, "show promise," Pespeni said, "but also show the complexity of how life responds to climate change
    .
    "

    The cost of plasticity

    Her hope comes from the team's observation that copepods are not dying under climate change conditions
    .
    Instead, they persist and even thrive
    .
    Scientists at UVM; University of Connecticut; Helmholtz Center for Marine Research, Germany; University of Colorado Boulder have documented many changes in copepod genes that correlate with how they respond to heat stress, in more acidic water It is involved in growing bone, producing energy, and other cellular processes affected by climate change
    .
    This suggests that the genetic makeup of these organisms -- exploiting the variation present in natural populations -- has the ability to adapt over 20 generations, evolving to maintain their ability to adapt in dramatically changing environments
    .
    The team's observations support the idea that copepods -- a globally distributed crustacean eaten by many commercially important fish -- may be able to adapt to oceans driven by human use of fossil fuels Unprecedented rapid warming and acidification
    .

    This complexity -- "it's really a warning," Pespeni said -- came from the team's observations of copepods that returned to a baseline state
    .
    These creatures reveal the hidden costs of adaptation for the first 20 generations
    .
    This flexibility that has helped copepods evolve over 20 generations -- what scientists call "phenotypic plasticity" -- is eroded as they try to return to their previously benign environment
    .
    In a sense, after "coming home," the copepods were in poorer health and reproduced less
    .
    After three generations, they were able to re-evolve to their ancestral state -- but they had lost the ability to tolerate limited food supplies and showed less resilience to other new forms of stress
    .

    "If copepods or other organisms had to go down this adaptation path, with some genetic variation to respond to climate change, would they be able to tolerate some new environmental stress, other changes in the environment?" Pespeni wonders
    .
    Copepods are one of many species predicted to adapt to rapid climate change, and this new NSF-supported study supports that view
    .

    "But we need to be careful about overly simplistic model species that will and which will persist into the future, and look at just one variable," said Reid, of Brennan, who completed the research in Melissa Pespeni's lab at the University of Vermont, which is now GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Oceanographic Research in Kiel, Germany
    .
    Scientists' new study of copepods points to a larger truth about the complex evolutionary economy: In a world that's suddenly hotter, rapid evolution can come with unforeseen costs
    .

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