December 18, 2015 10:51 pm
Updated: December 18, 2015 10:52 pm

Scientist investigating whether global warming expedites natural selection

A UBC scientist is studying an intriguing possibility: can global warming accelerate natural selection? Linda Aylesworth reports.

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One of the greatest concerns about earths rapidly changing climate is whether or not species can evolve fast enough to survive.

A UBC evolutionary ecologist recently concluded a study to see how warming waters affected the tiny creatures living in most of the worlds fresh water.

Dr. Michelle Tseng collected tiny plankton eating crustaceans called Daphnia and put them into tanks of 25 Celsius degree water. Several degrees warmer than they were use to.

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Instead of evolving to be able to handle the temperature – the Daphnia eventually died off. But when she mixed Daphnia in a tank with their number one predator – a voracious fly larvae – they evolved and thrived.

“What we think happened is that the predator was eating the individuals not as good at living at warmer temperatures and that left those who were better at living at warmer temperatures,” said Tseng.

“When you are taking out individuals with bad genes they are leaving the ones with good genes that allows the population to survive in warmer environments”.

The question now is whether or not this kind of accelerated Natural Selection would be true in other ecosystems.

“We would like to see more studies done to see how often predators are helping their prey evolve quickly. I would love to see studies that include predators in the ocean and on land”.

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