UC Riversides Derek Roff says global warming may threaten endangered species

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- (www.ucr.edu) -- In a perspective article entitled "Evolutionary Danger for Rainforest Species" in the July 4, 2003, issue of the journal Science, UC Riverside's Derek Roff explains new findings that show that a population of rainforest fruit flies had no genetic variation in an ecologically important trait: 'desiccation resistance' or the protective strategy used by cells against drought stress in order to prevent water loss. In the perspective, Roff also discusses the implications of the study for the adaptation of species to global warming.

"The perspective concerns the lack of genetic variation to adjust to changes in climate such as might occur with global warming," said Roff, who is professor of biology. "Given that California is likely to incur changes over the next few decades as a result of global warming, this result indicates that we should be concerned about the possibility that some presently endangered species may also lack the necessary genetic variation to survive the change."

In the perspective article, Roff comments on the paper "Low Potential for Climatic Stress Adaptation in a Rainforest Drosophila Species" by A. A. Hoffmann et al., also appearing in the July 4 issue of Science.

Roff writes:

    The authors have studied a single trait that apparently lacks genetic variation in the fruit fly Drosophila birchii, which inhabits patches of Australian coastal rainforest The results reported by Hoffman et al. appear exceptional, but given that the trait involved is likely to be under selection generated by global warming, there is an obvious need to assess genetic variation for similar traits in other species, particularly those that are already endangered.

"The principal finding

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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