The evolution of trait correlations constrains phenotypic adaptation to high CO2 in a eukaryotic alga

The Royal Society
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2021, 282, (1953), pp. 1-9
Issue Date:
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Microbes form the base of food webs and drive biogeochemical cycling. Predicting the effects of microbial evolution on global elemental cycles remains a significant challenge due to the sheer number of interacting environmental and trait combinations. Here, we present an approach for integrating multivariate trait data into a predictive model of trait evolution. We investigated the outcome of thousands of possible adaptive walks parameterized using empirical evolution data from the alga Chlamydomonas exposed to high CO2. We found that the direction of historical bias (existing trait correlations) influenced both the rate of adaptation and the evolved phenotypes (trait combinations). Critically, we use fitness landscapes derived directly from empirical trait values to capture known evolutionary phenomena. This work demonstrates that ecological models need to represent both changes in traits and changes in the correlation between traits in order to accurately capture phytoplankton evolution and predict future shifts in elemental cycling.
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