Sunday, January 11, 2015

Genotype to the Phenotype - Revolutionising Evolutionary Dynamics (PS1.3 - Luisa Orsini)

Understandings of relations between communities/organisms and climate change commonly miss a linkage between the genotype and the phenotype. Luisa Orsini today discussed the effects of environmental changes on natural populations and communities, by gauging ecological genetic drift. Using Daphnia (water flea) as a keystone species from freshwater ecosystems, she measured the response to both natural and anthropogenic changes of 166 individual marker genomes and at the phenotypic level, over extended generations. This was possible because Daphnia have a short generation time and parthenogenetic reproduction, meaning cloned females are produced during favourable external conditions and sexually produced “resting phase” eggs in times of environmental stress. These resting phase eggs give the ability to look back into the Daphnia's 'genetic timeline'.
She produced repeatable patterns of adaptations of the genome from spatially separate communities, using stresses of an anthropogenic nature, predation and parasitism, as well as temperature changes.
What I found most interesting is that this has an applicability for understanding the influence of genetic changes at a community level, while perhaps not directly to all other species, but for understanding the evolutionary and ecological changes behind a community under the combined weight of climate and anthropogenic change. This will hopefully be the cause for further research in this groundbreaking area.

Lake Genval, Belgium (photo credit:

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