The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Hybridisation of marine biota on a changing planet

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Human­induced climate change forces species to migrate away from their native habitats, which may lead to hybridisation among previously isolated species. This project evaluates the links between the consequences of hybridisation and global change by combining population genetic analyses with multigenerational experimental studies. An improved understanding of the effects of hybridisation and climate change is fundamental to guide future conservation efforts and prevent economic hazards.

Project Overview

Hybridisation, or the production of viable offspring as a result of crosses between divergent genetic lineages, is an increasingly frequent phenomenon as a result of human activities. Opportunities for hybridisation are greatly enhanced by habitat alteration (e.g. removing physical barriers) globally. Human­induced climate change forces species to migrate away from their native habitats, which may lead to hybridisation among previously isolated species. Human activities are thus providing opportunities for hybridisation at an unprecedented level. This has important conservation implications as hybridisation directly increases extinction rates of rare / endangered species and causes major alterations in species distributions. Consequently, studies are urgently warranted to understand how hybridisation will affect global biodiversity in the future. This project proposes an innovative multidisciplinary approach to explore and evaluate the links between the consequences of hybridisation and global change. This project will combine population genetic analyses with multigenerational experimental studies to understand the effects of hybridisation on species distributions under future climate scenarios. For this, a revolutionary technique that has emerged in recent years (next generation sequencing) will be used to foresee future changes as a result of hybridisation and changes in species distributions of marine organisms. An improved understanding of the effects of hybridisation and climate change is fundamental to guide future conservation efforts and prevent economic hazards in activities such as shipping and aquaculture.

This project has been funded by the National Science Foundation, South Africa.

Associated research themes

Molecular Zoology Lab

Ecology and Evolution Lab

Christopher McQuaid’s Lab

Related research groups

Marine Biology and Ecology

Staff

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