Plasticity and genetic adaptation mediate amphibian and reptile responses to climate change

Authors

  • Mark C. Urban,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
    • Correspondence

      Mark C. Urban, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, 75 North Eagleville Road, Unit 3043, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.

      Tel.: +1 860 486 6113;

      fax: +1 860 486 6364;

      e-mail: mark.urban@uconn.edu

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  • Jonathan L. Richardson,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
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  • Nicole A. Freidenfelds

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
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Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity and genetic adaptation are predicted to mitigate some of the negative biotic consequences of climate change. Here, we evaluate evidence for plastic and evolutionary responses to climate variation in amphibians and reptiles via a literature review and meta-analysis. We included studies that either document phenotypic changes through time or space. Plasticity had a clear and ubiquitous role in promoting phenotypic changes in response to climate variation. For adaptive evolution, we found no direct evidence for evolution of amphibians or reptiles in response to climate change over time. However, we found many studies that documented adaptive responses to climate along spatial gradients. Plasticity provided a mixture of adaptive and maladaptive responses to climate change, highlighting that plasticity frequently, but not always, could ameliorate climate change. Based on our review, we advocate for more experiments that survey genetic changes through time in response to climate change. Overall, plastic and genetic variation in amphibians and reptiles could buffer some of the formidable threats from climate change, but large uncertainties remain owing to limited data.

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