Long term environmental stability drives reduced stress tolerance in salt lake invertebrates
The capacity of species to tolerate physical stressors is critical in a world of increasing environmental instability, however, past selective environments should dramatically impact on future stress tolerance, particularly in isolated populations. Through stabilising selection, long-term environmental stasis may reduce physiological tolerance, creating an evolutionary legacy where populations are less fit if environments change. Few empirical studies have investigated this evolutionary legacy of past selection, and of particular interest whether stabilising selection in a benign environment reduces stress tolerance in natural systems. Here we use multiple populations of salt-lake invertebrates (Coxiella striata, Austrochiltonia subtenuis) with either stable or fluctuating environmental histories to investigate the relationship between stabilising selection and environmental stress resistance. Tolerance to both salinity and temperature stress were examined in invertebrate populations from lakes with long-term (decadal) stable environments and compared with populations from lakes with extreme salinity variations. Individuals from stable environments demonstrated significantly lower survival under both increasing salinity and temperature stresses when compared with environmentally unstable populations. Our results support the hypothesis that the evolutionary legacy from stabilising selection in constant environments leads to reduced stress tolerance. This finding demonstrates that under an increasingly variable climate, the evolutionary legacies of populations will be critical for future survival and adaptation.