Potential to adapt is revealed by evolutionary genomics

phys.org | 10/1/2019 | Staff
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Global climate change is going to drastically alter the environmental conditions for humans and nature. Animals and plants unable to cope with the new conditions are thus forced to shift their range to different areas or to adapt genetically. Otherwise they are in danger of extinction. Mobile species such as birds can change their migration routes and colonize new, more suitable habitats. Earth worms, on the other hand, are much more stationary and therefore heavily rely on adaptation. However, in most cases the actual reaction of a given species has not been clarified to date.

An international team led by Senckenberg scientists and members of the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics intends to revolutionize these predictions with a new research approach. Their method involves studying the genome to deduce the amount of leeway available to a given species for genetically adapting to new environmental conditions. This information can then be combined with other data, e.g., regarding the expansion potential or global warming, to form so-called eco-evolutionary prediction models.

Species - State - Evolution - Species - Properties

"Species are in a continuous state of evolution. Therefore, we cannot just simply project a species with its current properties into the future; rather, we must consider to what extent the species is able to adapt or undergo evolutionary changes. As long as we ignore this potential, predictions about the way species will react to climate change do not reflect what can actually happen. By combining genomic and ecological data, we can therefore significantly improve these prediction models," says the study's supervisor Prof. Dr. Markus Pfenninger of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics in Frankfurt.

The extent to which a species changes in the course of evolution depends on the genetic diversity of its genome, the size of the population in a particular area, and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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