Worms Show Rapid Adaptation To Climate Change

By on May 16, 2016

The Enchytraeidae family includes at least 600 species and is found in abundance in the upper five centimetres of soil with dead organic material. (Credit: Aarhus University)

Scientists at Aarhus University have found that evolution can occur quickly…or at least it can for slow worms.

The Chamaedrilus species, which belongs to the Enchytraeidae family, is an important species of worm that occurs all over the globe. It has a critical role in aerobic digestion of organic material.

Researchers were able to detect genetic changes in the worms in as little as seven years as a result of artificial climate change where their environment was raised in temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius. The genetic changes could be traced back directly to the change in their climate.

Researchers created an artificially warmer and drier climate for the worms by using waterproof curtains in an otherwise natural setting. The study encompassed about 15 to 30 generations of worms. Researchers found about 12 percent of genetic changes over the study’s course were due to the induced climate changes.

The results may give some hope that worms at least may be able to cope with global warming changes likely to occur in the future.

Top image: The Enchytraeidae family includes at least 600 species and is found in abundance in the upper five centimetres of soil with dead organic material. (Credit: Aarhus University)

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