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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • conservation biology;
  • fish;
  • life history traits;
  • paleoecology

A strategy for species to survive climate change will be to change adaptively their way of life. Understanding rapid adaptation to climate change is therefore a priority for current research. In this issue, Turrero et al. (2012) use an original approach to unravel life history trait responses to climate change in two fish species (Salmo trutta and S. salar). Going against the flow, the authors adopt the strategy of going back to the future by investigating the responses of fish to the warming periods that followed the Last Glacial Period (approximately 30–20 000 years BP). To do this, they analysed Salmo vertebrae from well-dated archaeological sites in northern Spain in order to uncover key life history traits, which they then compared to those of contemporary specimens. They found that, as the climate got warmer, Salmo species tended to reduce the time spent in growing areas and reached spawning areas at a younger age; this tendency began approximately 15 000 years BP and accelerated in contemporary periods. The implication is a lower age at maturity and a lower reproductive success, which they tentatively related to recent declines in population growth rate. This innovative study demonstrates how changes in life history traits are linked both to the population growth rate and to the evolutionary rate under climatic constraints, which may serve as a basis for future conservation research.