April 3 2013

12:00 LSB 2320

Elizabeth Sbrocco
Postdoctoral Fellow, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Duke University, Durham, NC

Evolution and Climate Change on Coral Reefs: Insight From the Far Side of the World


In the age of mass media and communications, the term "climate change" has become synonymous with human-induced changes in climate due to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Of course, climate on our planet is far from stable, and so the question really is not whether it is changing, but whether it is changing more rapidly since the industrial revolution than over recent geological time, and whether species can cope with these changes given concurrent threats from pollution, habitat loss, and over-exploitation. Coral reef fish in the tropical Indo-Pacific inhabit one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to human activity, and are also living at the advancing edge of thermal climatic niche space. Many populations already occupy climate space with no analog during Pleistocene glacial cycles, and the extent to which these organisms can continue pushing the climate envelope as global warming continues to accelerate remains to be seen. In this talk, I will use geographic information systems (GIS), spatial analysis, and phylogeography to estimate the velocity of climate change that has occurred in the Indo-Pacific since the last glacial maximum and to explore the evolutionary impacts of late Quaternary climate change on coral reef fish. In addition to this historical perspective of evolution in the face of climate change, I will also discuss how the study of evolution during biological invasions can give us insight into how species may adapt to future climatic regimes with no modern-day analog.















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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