Do it for the sake of the species

September 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mating system affects population performance and extinction risk under environmental challenge
Agata Plesnar-Bielak, Anna M. Skrzynecka, Zofia M. Prokop and Jacek Radwan

Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Krakow, Poland

Author for correspondence (jacek.radwan@uj.edu.pl).
Abstract
Failure of organisms to adapt to sudden environmental changes may lead to extinction. The type of mating system, by affecting fertility and the strength of sexual selection, may have a major impact on a population’s chances to adapt and survive. Here, we use experimental evolution in bulb mites (Rhizoglyphus robini) to examine the effects of the mating system on population performance under environmental change. We demonstrate that populations in which monogamy was enforced suffered a dramatic fitness decline when evolving at an increased temperature, whereas the negative effects of change in a thermal environment were alleviated in polygamous populations. Strikingly, within 17 generations, all monogamous populations experiencing higher temperature went extinct, whereas all polygamous populations survived. Our results show that the mating system may have dramatic effects on the risk of extinction under environmental change.

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