How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

How Predators May Modify Evolution of Their Prey to Warming

Paper Reviewed
Tseng, M. and O'Connor, M.I. 2016. Predators modify the evolutionary response of prey to temperature change. Biology Letters 11: 20150798.

In a rather unique experiment, Tseng and O'Connor (2016) tested whether a species interaction (predator vs. prey) could modify the evolutionary response of the prey to changes in temperature; and in so doing they demonstrated that "predation pressure by Dipteran larvae (Chaoborus americanus) modified the evolutionary response of a freshwater crustacean (Daphnia pulex) to its thermal environment over approximately seven generations in laboratory conditions."

In this particular case, the two Canadian researchers report that "Daphnia kept at 21°C evolved higher population growth rates than those kept at 18°C, but only in those populations that were also reared with predators," noting that "predator-mediated selection resulted in the evolution of elevated Daphnia thermal plasticity."

In further discussing their findings, Tseng and O'Connor say they "complement the growing ecological literature on population persistence in the context of species interactions in changing environments," citing the studies of Petchey et al. (1999) and Fussmann et al. (2014) as further examples of "possible evolutionary benefits of trophic interactions for rapid adaptation in the face of warming." And they therefore conclude their paper by rightly stating that "these results demonstrate that evolutionary change can occur in ecological time scales and thus strengthen the argument for incorporating evolutionary processes into explanations of short-term ecological patterns," as was earlier suggested by Carroll et al. (2007).

Carroll, S.P., Hendry, A.P., Reznick, D.N. and Fox, C.W. 2007. Evolution on ecological time-scales. Functional Ecology 21: 387-393.

Fussmann, K.E., Schwarzmuller, F., Brose, U., Jousset, A. and Rall, B.C. 2014. Ecological stability in response to warming. Nature Climate Change 4: 206-210.

Petchey, O.L., McPhearson, P.T., Casey, T.M. and Morin, P.J. 1999. Environmental warming alters food-web structure and ecosystem function. Nature 402: 69-72.

Posted 6 May 2016