- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Researchers have identified for the first time a creature that is evolving in response to global warming. It's a tiny mosquito that lives in the pitcher plant.
Researchers at the University of Oregon at Eugene found that the pitcher-plant mosquito, a tiny, fragile species that seldom bothers people, is starting to delay when it breeds and develops.
The pitcher-plant mosquito is not considered a pest. But experts say the study suggests that global warming also could lead to genetic changes in troublesome insects.
The pitcher-plant mosquito bases its behavior on the length of the day, said William E. Bradshaw of Oregon, the first author of the study, which appeared yesterday in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
When days grow shorter as winter approaches, it is genetically programmed to hibernate, settling in to spend the winter protected inside the pitcher plant, he said.
However, a subgroup within the pitcher-plant mosquito population has slightly different genes that cause them to develop and reproduce later in the season. Global warming, with its longer growing season, thus gives that subgroup a leg up over the other mosquitos through a greater opportunity to leave its genes in the overall population, Mr. Bradshaw said
The result is eventual domination of the pitcher-plant mosquito population, in what Mr. Bradshaw called an evolutionary response to global warming.
The pitcher-plant mosquito, which lives mostly on nectar, is found in eastern North America, from Canada to Florida. Along its southern range, it is found as far west as Mississippi.
The pitcher-plant mosquito that has adapted to a longer growing season is found mostly in the southern range, Mr. Bradshaw said, but now is moving north.
In laboratory experiments, the Oregon researchers showed that this genetic adaptation could come to dominate a mosquito population in as little as five years.
The study suggests it is possible that other species may also be in the process of genetically adapting to longer growing seasons, Mr. Bradshaw said.


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