Over the past ten years, scientists have been researching the potential for species to adapt to our quickly changing environment.
Our oceans are undergoing unprecedented sea surface warming and increased acidification.
To test how species may adapt to these stressors, they need to be exposed for multiple generations to allow for selection of the more tolerant individuals within a population. This limitation restricts this particular research to short-lived species with fast generation turnover.
Our experiment uses an abundant marine crustacean from the rocky reefs of Sydney, the amphipod Sunampithoe parmerong, as a model species for whether marine organisms can adapt to a changing ocean.
Populations will be raised for multiple generations in stressful environments in an attempt to select for individuals that are thermally tolerant. These individuals will possibly pass those traits onto future generations, resulting in a population of more thermally tolerant crustaceans. The resulting populations will be tested against those raised in ambient conditions to determine if adaptive change is likely in this community under a short timeframe.
Our results will help predict population-level consequences of climate change on this species and their surrounding community.
The research is led by Janine Ledet and Hamish Campbell under the supervision of Prof. Maria Byrne from the University of Sydney and Assoc. Prof. Alistair Poore from UNSW Sydney.