Legacy of Ancient Ice Ages Still Shapes Eelgrass Today

Past migration, pleistocene ice ages still impact size and structure of modern eelgrass communities

Deep evolution casts a longer shadow than previously thought, scientists report in a new paper published Aug. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Smithsonian scientists and colleagues looked at eelgrass communities—the foundation of many coastal marine food webs along the north Atlantic and Pacific coasts—and discovered their ancient genetic history can play a stronger role than the present-day environment in determining their size, structure and who lives in them. And this could have implications for how well eelgrasses adapt to threats like climate change.  Jay Stachowicz, professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology and the Population Biology Graduate Group, is a co-author on this paper.