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Evolving to outpace climate change, tiny marine animal provides new evidence of long-theorized genetic mechanism

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Evolving to outpace climate change, tiny marine animal provides new evidence of long-theorized genetic mechanism
Several species of copepods and one ostracod shown. Courtesy NOAA.

Some copepods, diminutive crustaceans with an outsized place in the aquatic food web, can evolve fast enough to survive in the face of rapid climate change, according to new research that addresses a longstanding question in the field of genetics.

Barely more than a millimeter long, the  Eurytemora affinis paddles its way through the coastal waters of oceans and estuaries around the world in large numbers—mostly getting eaten by , like salmon, herring and anchovy.

"This is a dominant coastal species, serving as very abundant and highly nutritious fish food," says Carol Eunmi Lee, professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Department of Integrative Biology and senior author of a new study on the  published in the journal Nature Communications. "But they're vulnerable to climate change."

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