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  1. Coulson, Tim (Ed.)
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. Complex life cycles, in which discrete life stages of the same organism differ in form or function and often occupy different ecological niches, are common in nature. Because stages share the same genome, selective effects on one stage may have cascading consequences through the entire life cycle. Theoretical and empirical studies have not yet generated clear predictions about how life cycle complexity will influence patterns of adaptation in response to rapidly changing environments or tested theoretical predictions for fitness trade-offs (or lack thereof) across life stages. We discuss complex life cycle evolution and outline three hypotheses—ontogenetic decoupling, antagonistic ontogenetic pleiotropy and synergistic ontogenetic pleiotropy—for how selection may operate on organisms with complex life cycles. We suggest a within-generation experimental design that promises significant insight into composite selection across life cycle stages. As part of this design, we conducted simulations to determine the power needed to detect selection across a life cycle using a population genetic framework. This analysis demonstrated that recently published studies reporting within-generation selection were underpowered to detect small allele frequency changes (approx. 0.1). The power analysis indicates challenging but attainable sampling requirements for many systems, though plants and marine invertebrates with high fecundity are excellent systems formore »exploring how organisms with complex life cycles may adapt to climate change.« less
  3. As climate change threatens species' persistence, predicting the potential for species to adapt to rapidly changing environments is imperative for the development of effective conservation strategies. Eco-evolutionary individual-based models (IBMs) can be useful tools for achieving this objective. We performed a literature review to identify studies that apply these tools in marine systems. Our survey suggested that this is an emerging area of research fuelled in part by developments in modelling frameworks that allow simulation of increasingly complex ecological, genetic and demographic processes. The studies we identified illustrate the promise of this approach and advance our understanding of the capacity for adaptation to outpace climate change. These studies also identify limitations of current models and opportunities for further development. We discuss three main topics that emerged across studies: (i) effects of genetic architecture and non-genetic responses on adaptive potential; (ii) capacity for gene flow to facilitate rapid adaptation; and (iii) impacts of multiple stressors on persistence. Finally, we demonstrate the approach using simple simulations and provide a framework for users to explore eco-evolutionary IBMs as tools for understanding adaptation in changing seas.
  4. Many species face extinction risks owing to climate change, and there is an urgent need to identify which species' populations will be most vulnerable. Plasticity in heat tolerance, which includes acclimation or hardening, occurs when prior exposure to a warmer temperature changes an organism's upper thermal limit. The capacity for thermal acclimation could provide protection against warming, but prior work has found few generalizable patterns to explain variation in this trait. Here, we report the results of, to our knowledge, the first meta-analysis to examine within-species variation in thermal plasticity, using results from 20 studies (19 species) that quantified thermal acclimation capacities across 78 populations. We used meta-regression to evaluate two leading hypotheses. The climate variability hypothesis predicts that populations from more thermally variable habitats will have greater plasticity, while the trade-off hypothesis predicts that populations with the lowest heat tolerance will have the greatest plasticity. Our analysis indicates strong support for the trade-off hypothesis because populations with greater thermal tolerance had reduced plasticity. These results advance our understanding of variation in populations' susceptibility to climate change and imply that populations with the highest thermal tolerance may have limited phenotypic plasticity to adjust to ongoing climate warming.
  5. A formidable challenge for global change biologists is to predict how natural populations will respond to the emergence of conditions not observed at present, termed novel climates. Popular approaches to predict population vulnerability are based on the expected degree of novelty relative to the amplitude of historical climate fluctuations experienced by a population. Here, we argue that predictions focused on amplitude may be inaccurate because they ignore the predictability of environmental fluctuations in driving patterns of evolution and responses to climate change. To address this disconnect, we review major findings of evolutionary theory demonstrating the conditions under which phenotypic plasticity is likely to evolve in natural populations, and how plasticity decreases population vulnerability to novel environments. We outline key criteria that experimental studies should aim for to effectively test theoretical predictions, while controlling for the degree of climate novelty. We show that such targeted tests of evolutionary theory are rare, with marine systems being overall underrepresented in this venture despite exhibiting unique opportunities to test theory. We conclude that with more robust experimental designs that manipulate both the amplitude and predictability of fluctuations, while controlling for the degree of novelty, we may better predict population vulnerability to climate change.