Evolution is faster than you think

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Killian Campbell, Eastern Washington University 

My work here at Grice is concluding for the summer and I cannot believe how fast time has gone by!

In my last post, I revealed to you the primary tool (inhibitors) I would be using to understand the role heat shock proteins play in responding to stressors. I also mentioned that I would be subjecting samples of an invasive seaweed, Gracilaria vermiculophylla (or simply Gracilaria) to extreme heat, cold, and low salinity and observe how much they bleach in response.

After conducting the entirety of the experiment and reviewing our data, our hypotheses about heat shock proteins and Gracilaria, an invasive organism were largely supported!

We found that samples of Gracilaria when administered the heat shock protein inhibitor bleached at much higher rates than samples without the inhibitor. This relationship held true for all three stressors. This result is particularly interesting, because it demonstrates, at least experimentally, that heat shock proteins play a central role in tolerating stress events. However, when considering past research conducted on native populations these results become increasingly interesting. Research has shown that native populations bleach at much higher rates than the invasive populations they produced when subjected to the same stressor. Therefore, the amalgamation of this evidence has lead us to hypothesize that the Gracilaria population found here in Charleston rapidly evolved after it was introduced. Meaning that, Gracilaria in Charleston (and the greater SE USA) is thriving because it rapidly evolved to express a trait that allows it tolerate stressors. Given the experimental data produced so far, this type of response is not seen in the native populations.

Of course, we cannot claim this as absolute, but it definitely sets the stage for further research to pursue this idea.

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