How the abiotic environment is perceived by populations depends on its physical and chemical properties as much as on the presence of other species. Even though this is of the utmost importance, in the context of climate change and adaptation, few experimental studies have focused on how species interactions affect adaptation to new abiotic conditions. An example can be found in the use of experimental evolution systems, which have provided empirical evidence of the genetic bases of adaptation in different systems, highlighting the importance of several mechanisms.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that interactions between species, and their evolution, is itself very interesting and an active field of study, with examples of remarkable population dynamics underlying most of what we know about predator-prey or host-parasite co-evolution.
In this project we propose to address that question by developing a consumer/resource experimental system based on Caenorhabditis elegans, Escherichia coli and high salt (NaCl) concentration as a stress condition to which both species have to adapt.
By controlling population dynamics of each species we will test if:
- food resources can act not only as means for energy uptake but also modulate consumers traits such as development or metabolism;
- physiological changes in consumers as a result of feeding on “adapted food” can change the selection pressure imposed by the original (abiotic)
stress, leading to a more/less benign environment depending on the specific traits that evolved in the species used as food.
Science and Technology Foundation (FCT -PTDC/BIA-EVL/0009/2014).