Global warming harms organisms living in symbiosis
Many animals and other organisms harbor microorganisms inside their body. Some insects, such as the southern green stinkbug (Nezara viridula), depend on specific gut bacterium for normal growth and survival.
In the new study, investigators demonstrated that when the southern green stinkbug was reared inside an incubator, in which temperature was controlled at 2.5 °C higher than outside, there was a significant reduction in the symbiont bacteria that sparked severe fitness defects in the insect (ie. retarded growth, reduced size). Global warming is predicted to raise the average temperature by 2.5 °C by 2100. At higher temperatures, no nymphs were able to reach the adult stage.
“Considering that many microbial symbionts are vulnerable to high temperature stress, such symbionts can be the Achilles’ heel of symbiont-dependent organisms in this warming world,” said principal investigator of the study Takema Fukatsu, PhD, prime senior researcher and leader, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and a professor at the University of Tokyo and University of Tsukuba.
Dr. Fukatsu said that people should keep in mind that global warming might impact diverse organisms, not necessarily directly, but possibly indirectly via affecting unseen microbial associates. “Coral breaching, in which symbiotic photosynthetic algae of corals are killed by high temperature and coral reefs are severely damaged, is regarded as a serious environmental issue, but plausibly, similar phenomena may be ubiquitously found in the ecosystem,” said Dr. Fukatsu.
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