Rapid evolution of highly variable competitive abilities in a key phytoplankton species

Climate change challenges plankton communities, but evolutionary adaptation could mitigate the potential impacts. Here, we tested with the phytoplankton species Emiliania huxleyi whether adaptation to a stressor under laboratory conditions leads to equivalent fitness gains in a more natural environment. We found that fitness advantages that had evolved under laboratory conditions were masked by pleiotropic effects in natural plankton communities. Moreover, new genotypes with highly variable competitive abilities evolved on timescales significantly shorter than climate change.

Bach L. T.,  Lohbeck K. T., Reusch T. B. H. & Riebesell U., in press. Rapid evolution of highly variable competitive abilities in a key phytoplankton species. Nature Ecology & Evolution. Article (subscription required).

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