Introduction – Antarctic ecology in a changing world
Antarctica offers an unrivalled natural laboratory for
fundamental research on the evolutionary processes
that shape biological diversity on both local and regional
scales. Physiologists and ecologists have long been
attracted to environments that lie at the limits of the
physical conditions capable of supporting life. This is
because the polar regions, the deep-sea, hot springs or
hydrothermal vents demand striking adaptations at the
molecular, cellular or whole-organism level to allow
organisms living there to survive, grow and reproduce.
Early work on these systems tended to concentrate on
specific adaptations, such as membrane function in
high-temperature microbes, or antifreeze proteins in
polar fish. These specific adaptations are aspects of
environmental adaptation in general (Clarke, 1983,
1991; Hochachka & Somero, 2002), and hence the
comparative approach has contributed to our overall
understanding of evolutionary adaptation at the
molecular level. In addition the recent revolution in
molecular techniques, particularly those in transcriptomics
and proteomics over the past decade, has allowed
us to link the genome to the environment in entirely
new ways (Feder & Mitchell-Olds, 2003; Chen et al.,
2008). For example it is now possible to couple data on
protein structure and gene expression to ecosystemlevel
processes, and thereby to the evolution of entire
communities (Whitham et al., 2006). This brings with it
the implicit recognition that these links operate over a
range of scales of both time and space.
Authors: Clarke, Andrew, Johnston, Nadine M., Murphy, Eugene J. ORCID record for Eugene J. Murphy, Rogers, Alex D.
Editors: Rogers, Alex D., Johnston, Nadine M., Murphy, Eugene J. ORCID record for Eugene J. Murphy, Clarke, Andrew
In: Rogers, Alex D., Johnston, Nadine M., Murphy, Eugene J. ORCID record for Eugene J. Murphy, Clarke, Andrew (eds.). Antarctic Ecosystems: An Extreme Environment in a Changing World, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1-9.