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Antarctic bacteria reveal an evolutionary limit to dealing with heat


Some bacteria living in the Southern Ocean can only adapt to temperatures about 2°C above what they usually live in, and other organisms could face similar limits adapting to higher temperatures



Life



15 July 2022

Southern Ocean and Antarctic islands near the Antarctic Peninsula in winter; Shutterstock ID 204022084; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

Southern Ocean and Antarctic islands near the Antarctic Peninsula

Copyright (c) 2014 Tarpan/Shutterstock

A species of bacteria from the coastal waters of Antarctica is unable to adapt to temperatures much above what it usually tolerates. The finding suggests there is a hard limit to organisms’ ability to evolve adaptations to heat waves and long-term higher temperatures driven by climate change.

Bacteria are the Houdinis of evolution, escaping even the most challenging of environmental pressures. That is thanks to their sheer numbers and the fact that new generations grow so rapidly that they can quickly evolve …



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