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Cli­mate change — higher tem­per­a­tures change predator-​prey relations

pub­lished 11 August 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

Tem­per­a­ture rises can dras­ti­cally alter rela­tion­ships between preda­tor and prey, includ­ing the suc­cess of inva­sive species, new research from the Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney has shown. This was pub­lished in Pro­ceed­ings of the Royal Soci­ety B online before print on August 1.

The research high­lights how the abil­ity of a species to adapt to cli­mate change may be less impor­tant than how cli­mate change affects its rela­tion­ships with other species and by exten­sion the entire ecosystem
Frank See­bacher, lead author, Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney — School of Bio­log­i­cal Sciences »

“We found the higher tem­per­a­ture lev­els cli­mate change is pre­dicted to bring about will reduce the num­ber of attacks by the Aus­tralian bass on the mos­qui­tofish,” said Pro­fes­sor Frank See­bacher. “At the same time the escape speed of the mos­qui­tofish increased. This means the Aus­tralian bass was much less suc­cess­ful in catch­ing the mos­qui­tofish, an inva­sive species that is a major part of the bass diet.”

At first, as the tem­per­a­ture in the fish’s envi­ron­ment was raised the bass made more attacks but as the tem­per­a­ture increased to the range likely to be intro­duced by cli­mate change (30 degrees cel­sius) its attack rate dropped.Australian bass

“Impor­tantly we have shown that while the range of higher tem­per­a­tures pre­dicted to occur with cli­mate change might not directly kill a species, the impact on its rela­tion­ships with its prey can threaten it and bring about com­plex changes to the ecosys­tem,” said Pro­fes­sor Seebacher.

What is true for these two species will be true for many more. Under­stand­ing the full impact of cli­mate change depends on under­stand­ing these inter­ac­tions and not just the likely sur­vival of a species con­sid­ered in isolation

In an evo­lu­tion­ary sense, mos­qui­tofish might be expected to adapt bet­ter to tem­per­a­ture changes than bass because it lives in a wide range of ther­mal con­di­tions, from hot springs to cool moun­tain habi­tats. The bass, by con­trast, is restricted to coastal areas in tem­per­ate parts of east­ern Aus­tralia. “Inter­est­ingly while the bass expe­ri­ences a much nar­rower and less var­ied range of tem­per­a­tures than the mos­qui­tofish it was still able to spon­ta­neously adapt to changes in tem­per­a­ture. So evo­lu­tion­ary the­ory alone can­not explain its response — which raises inter­est­ing ques­tions about what mech­a­nism it is using to cope with this envi­ron­men­tal change.”

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at The Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney News. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Source: The Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney News, 02.08.2012)

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