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Climate Change: Fish May Outlive Us All

Jul 21, 2015 03:40 PM EDT
As the world's oceans warm, certain fish may have a coping mechanism.
The genes of certain fish allow them to withstand heat better, generation by generation.
(Photo : Flickr: Icelight)

If you think that in a competition for withstanding hot and sweaty summer, your grandparent might have beaten you, we're unlike the fish in the sea.

Which is to say, researchers at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at Australia's James Cook University reported in the journal Nature Climate Change that some fish are more able, generation by generation, to adjust to warming oceans. They say it's in the genes.

"Some fish have a remarkable capacity to adjust to higher water temperatures over a few generations of exposure," says Dr. Heather Veilleux from the Coral CoE, in a release.

The research team, including scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, identified 53 genes that are involved in multi-generational acclimation to higher temperatures, the release said.

Here are some things that certain fish had in common if they were exposed to warming waters for two generations: Higher levels of metabolic gene activity; and immune and stress genes that performed more efficiently. Scientists say this indicates that energy production shifts are key to adjusting to higher temperatures.

"Understanding which genes are involved in transgenerational acclimation, and how their expression is regulated, will improve our understanding of adaptive responses to rapid environmental change and help identify which species are most at risk from climate change and which species are more tolerant," Dr. Veilleux says in a release.

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