A primary goal of climate change research is to determine if species will be able to persist in a warmer environment. Most studies predict that climate change will cause many species to become extinct. However, these projections are based on experiments where only a single life stage or generation of a species was exposed to future conditions (i.e. shock treatments), and thus overlook the possibility of species adapting or acclimating to new environmental conditions over multiple generations. As a result, current projections of species persistence through climate change likely overestimate species extinction. In this study, I will measure the rate and extent in which adaptation and transgenerational acclimation may allow species to persist through climate change. I will use marine rotifers, Brachionus plicatilis, as model species because they have very short lifespan and their culture methodology is well-established. I will rear a population of rotifers for five months (ca. 25 generations) under four temperature treatments: 1) highest temperature within their natural temperature range (to assess transgenerational acclimation); 2) current average temperature with weekly exposure to high temperature shocks (to promote adaptation through survival of the fittest); 3) highest temperature within their natural temperature range with weekly exposure to sub-lethal temperature shocks (to evaluate the interaction between acclimation and adaptation); and 4) current average temperature (control).
To assess changes in population survival, growth rates and fitness, I will take weekly samples to determine population composition (life stages) and density (number per volume), adult size and aerobic performance (respiration rate), respectively. This multi-generational study will enhance our understanding of the rate and extent in which transgenerational acclimation and adaptation may allow species to persist through climate change. Specifically, these estimates may then be incorporated into models to improve projections of survival through climate change of species with longer lifespans.