Fish will likely handle global warming much better than environmentalists predict, according to new government-funded research.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia and Dalhousie University found the Winter Skate, a kind of ray-like finish similar to a shark, could adapt to environmental changes far more rapidly than predicted. In fact, skates have survived much more serious climatic shifts events in their evolutionary history.
Scientists suspect these fish are capable of modifying their gene expression, allowing them to handle changing conditions.
The skates have persisted for more than 150 million years through two mass extinctions, suggesting they have a resilience and an evolutionary strategy allowing them to withstand environmental changes — even though they are currently listed as endangered.
“Our work suggests that some success of sharks, skates and rays over very long evolutionary time scales may be due to their ability to respond rapidly to environmental changes through regulation of gene expression,” Dr. Jack Lighten, a professor of environmental science at the University of East Anglia, said in a press release emailed to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are only just beginning to understand how they may be affected by climate change. We hope our findings will open the door for more detailed research on the role that epigenetics may play in allowing vulnerable and ecologically important fish to persist during this period of rapid global warming.”
Researchers concluded that the Winter Skate was far more vulnerable to over-fishing than to climatic change, and suspect their findings could be generalized to many other fish. The research was funded by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network.