New York: Some species can quickly shapeshift to cope with climate change without having to migrate or evolve, shows a research.
A mustard plant in the Rocky Mountains alters its physical appearance and flowering time in response to different environmental conditions, the findings showed.
The shifts in organisms' physical traits due to changing conditions is called phenotypic plasticity, which allows for different looking organisms without changing their genetic code.
"Because climate change affects some environmental factors like precipitation and temperature but not others like day length, phenotypic plasticity could allow some species to persist in a habitat despite changing conditions and provide more time for them to evolve and migrate," said co-author Zachariah Gezon from Dartmouth College in the US.
In the new study, researchers looked at the life history, leaf shape, flowering time and other characteristics of a native wild mustard plant at different elevations in the Rocky mountains, where warming winters are reducing snowpack and warming springs are causing an earlier snow melt.
They found that the plants have great phenotypic plasticity and the forb's traits consistently vary over a temperature and moisture gradient from low elevations with a hot, dry climate to high elevations with wet, cold conditions.
The study appeared in the journal Global Change Biology.