The predictability and limits of evolution in response to increased temperature: insights from a natural ‘experiment'

The predictability and limits of evolution in response to increased temperature: insights from a natural ‘experiment'

Issued: Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:53:00 BST

ParsonsLindstromMetcalfeKillen

The project is part of NERC’s Highlight Topic scheme and addresses the pressing question of how organisms will adapt to increases in temperature. To date most studies of this type have examined short term responses to increased temperature within a generation.  However, this project will take advantage of a unique situation in Iceland where several populations of fish (the three-spined stickleback) live within geothermally heated water bodies. By comparing these populations to nearby populations living at ambient temperature this project will take advantage of a long-running ‘natural experiment’ where evolution to a warmer environment has occurred over thousands of generations. By applying approaches from evolutionary developmental biology, physiology, and genomics this integrative project will aim to determine the genetic and epigenetic changes that underlie adaptations to increased temperatures.
Evolution can be viewed as a process that solves problems, and so has great potential for application. This problem-solving nature of evolution is already being recognized for other problems such as crop resistance, or even human disorders that mirror adaptations we see in natural populations.  In this case we have a situation that emulates predicted increases in temperature from anthropogenic climate change that we can use to pre-emptively inform us about what might happen to biodiversity over the next century


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