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An Epigenetic Skate Strategy

Winter skate living in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence are showing epigenetic changes that researchers say may be enabling them to deal with warmer waters there, Climate Wire reports.

Climate Wire's Kavya Balaraman researchers have been studying the skate there because of some of their odd traits. In particular, Balaraman notes that this population is smaller than other members of the same skate species living off the Atlantic coast. Researchers suspected, she says, that their small size could be an adaption to the warmer waters.

But rather than uncovering genetic differences between the skate populations, researchers found epigenetic differences in how the fish regulated certain genes. And as epigenetic changes can occur far more rapidly than genetic ones, the researchers suggested that it could mean that some species could be better equipped to deal with a changing climate.

"[T]his fish, and potentially others, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence could provide real insight into how future climate change may affect marine biodiversity, and just as we are becoming to realize this, they may not be around for much longer," the University of East Anglia's Jackie Lighten tells Climate Wire.