GAINESVILLE, Fla., April 9 (UPI) -- In looking at the effects of temperature change on living organisms, researchers at the University of Florida and Kansas State University found insects -- and potentially other animals, as well -- possess the ability to rapidly acclimate to a shifting climate.
The new study details unique genetic makeup in fruit flies for both longterm climate acclimation and short term adjustment.
As climate research increasingly highlights, global warming is most likely to translate into a longterm rise in temperature. But climate change's manipulation can also result in more frequent instances of extreme weather, like cold snaps.
In detailing the genetic architecture of fruit flies, scientists have shown insects are prepared for both scenarios. They say it's likely that other animals also possible similar genetic variation.
"The ability to respond to longer-term seasonal changes does not impede the ability to respond to rapid changes associated with short-term extreme cold events," co-author Daniel Hahn, associate professor of insect physiology at Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, explained in a press release. "We have identified a series of about 100 candidate genes that could explain the ability of animals to rapidly respond to fluctuating temperatures."
By honing in on the gene sequences necessary for adaptation to climate change, scientists may be able to better predict the ecological impact of warming temperatures and extreme weather -- and thus more strategically deploy conservation resources.
"Identifying which of these candidate genes actually causes variation in responses to cold snaps will give us the potential to understand whether evolution to climate change can occur in both wild and domesticated animals," said senior author Theodore Morgan, an associate professor of evolutionary genetics in Kansas State's biology department.
By identifying the so-called winners and losers of climate change, Morgan points out, scientists may be able to "better mitigate the effects of anthropogenic climate change on a wide range of organisms from beneficial pollinators to invasive pests."
The new research was published in the journal PNAS.