Norfolk

Beetles 'evolve to reproduce in warmer weather'

red flour beetle Image copyright UEA
Image caption Researchers at the UEA found the red flour beetle had evolved to "buffer climate change"

Beetles have evolved to reproduce in warmer weather to "buffer themselves against climate change", scientists say.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich found beetles had "sophisticated mechanisms" to cope with temperature variations.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to heatwaves can damage sperm and male fertility in insects.

The UEA team says the beetles' ability to adapt "makes evolutionary sense".

Researchers used the red flour beetle as a model to understand the effects of warmer and cooler environments on reproduction.

The study said most animals were cold blooded, "so a whole series of biological functions - including reproduction - are affected by changes in their thermal environment".

Image copyright UEA
Image caption Beetles' ability to adapt "makes evolutionary sense", scientists say

Researchers examined how thermal variation affected sperm and egg development, and whether males and females could produce sperm and eggs that "matched" the environment into which they were going to develop.

Prof Matt Gage, from UEA's School of Biological Sciences, said: "We wanted to find out more about how these important reproductive cells cope with environmental variability."

The team reared adults in warm or hot environments, and then measured their sperm and egg reproductive performance in either warm or hot environments.

Reproduction was much harder to achieve in hotter conditions, but "something more sophisticated was going on", the findings revealed.

Males and females "tailor something" inside their sperm and eggs to match their own current thermal environment to the imminent reproductive environment - and can do so over a matter of days, Prof Gage said.

"This all makes evolutionary sense, because both sperm and egg function are temperature-dependent," he added.

The research is published in the life and biomedical science journal, eLife.

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