EvoSize: Size-dependent anthropogenic perturbations - from genes to ecosystems and back

About the project

Adaptive evolution is driven by both selective forces and trait genetic architectures (evolvability), which deflect the movements of the phenotype on the adaptive landscape. Additionally, selection itself may alter trait evolvability and simultaneously reshape the natural selection that acts back on phenotypes through so-called eco-evolutionary feedback loops.

We argue that integrating this whole suite of gene-to-ecosystem processes into a coherent framework would foster significant progress in biology. However, to date, this framework remains largely theoretical.

EvoSize will provide an experimental framework to explore eco-evolutionary feedback loops in the context of the anthropogenic size truncation that results from harvesting, habitat fragmentation or climate warming. We will impose bidirectional size-selection on medaka (Oryzias latipes) populations in the laboratory, thus rapidly generating high growth and low growth lines. In the selected medaka lines, we will measure phenotypic (life history, behaviour) and gene-expression response to selection, and estimate the effects of selection on trait evolvability.

In parallel, we will measure the cascading effects of medaka body-size evolution into pond food webs, and examine how these cascading effects alter the natural selective forces that act back on medaka phenotypes.

To our knowledge, this will be the first project to fully investigate an eco-evolutionary feedback loop from genes to ecosystem and back. Because body size is so important in ecological processes, results from EvoSize will have a wide scope.

Fundamentally, EvoSize will bring a significant breakthrough in our understanding of howevolutionary and ecological dynamics interact. From an applied perspective, EvoSize will provide the necessary knowledge to improve the resilience of human-perturbed ecosystems, and help modellers understand better how anthropogenic impacts (over-fishing) effect natural fish populations.

Objectives

EvoSize aims to comprehensively investigate how anthropogenic size truncation in populations affects ecosystem function and resilience, considering the whole cascade of biological processes from genes to food web and back.

Specifically, EvoSize will:
-Generate large and small morph lines in a vertebrate model species (medaka) using artificial selection to study the interplay of rapid evolution and ecological dynamics
-Elucidate how anthropogenic size selection changes phenotypes and the underlying molecular architectures that support trait evolvability
-Quantify the cascading effects of phenotypic and molecular evolution on food-webs, and how consequent natural selection may act back on phenotypes in an eco-evolutionary loop
-Assess if and how emergent eco-evolutionary feedback loops support ecosystem stability, or instead favour regime shifts and irreversible changes
-Foster progress toward a new biological synthesis integrating the suite of processes from genes to ecosystems and back

Financing

This Project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) FRIMEDBIO

RCN Project Number: 251307 (Project data bank at RCN)

UiO Project Number: 190714

Period

01.06.2016 - 31.05.2020

Published Feb. 5, 2021 1:16 PM - Last modified Feb. 10, 2021 10:54 AM