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Rapid Evolution Helps One Form of Ocean Algae Adapt to Climate Change

The microscopic Emiliania huxleyi phytoplankton can produce 500 generations in a year, allowing it to evolve quickly enough to keep up with changing ocean conditions brought on by climate change, Thomson Reuters reported September 14. Researcher Thorsen Reusch cautioned that the study pertained to just one species of algae, without factoring in predators or disease. “Evolution is usually omitted in scientific projections of how global warming will affect the planet in coming decades because genetic changes happen too slowly to help larger creatures such as cod, tuna, or whales,” Thomson Reuters writes. “What we don’t know is how far these mechanisms will go,” added Stanford biologist Stephen Palumbi. “I suspect personally that they will not solve the future climate problem because climate is changing far too fast.” (A committee hearing we’d like to see: Will U.S. House Republicans now try to argue that evolution, a scientific reality that many of them reject, solves climate change, a science-based challenge that many of them deny?)

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