Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification

Global climate change has intensified the need to assess the capacity for natural populations to adapt to abrupt shifts in the environment. Reductions in seawater pH constitute a conspicuous global change stressor that is affecting marine ecosystems globally. Here, we quantify the phenotypic and genetic modifications associated with rapid adaptation to reduced seawater pH in the Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. We reared a genetically diverse larval population in two pH treatments (pHT 8.1 and 7.4) and tracked changes in the shell-size distribution and genetic variation through settlement. Additionally, we identified differences in the signatures of selection on shell growth in each pH environment. Both phenotypic and genetic data show that standing variation can facilitate adaptation to declines in seawater pH. This work provides insight into the processes underpinning rapid evolution, and demonstrates the importance of maintaining variation within natural populations to bolster species’ adaptive capacity as global change progresses.

Bitter M. C., Kapsenberg L., Gattuso J.-P. & Pfister C. A., 2019. Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification. Nature Communications 10: 5821. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13767-1. Article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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