Stress responses

Stress is a fundamental aspect of life and a major aspect of natural selection in the wild. Ecologists have studied the responses of plants and animals to environmental stress factors since the 1960s. Previously known as physiological ecology or ecophysiology these studies are now often called stress ecology. The study of stress responses on the genomic level has produced new insights into the mechanisms that enable plants and animals to survive in harsh environments and that limit the distribution of species. Biochemical studies have shown that, on the cellular level, there is surprising degree of uniformity in the stress responses of different species, even to widely different environmental stress factors. Genomic studies have reinforced this idea while at the same time providing new insights into the coherence of the cellular stress response. Stress is evoked in an organism at the edges of its ecological niche. The extent to which the organism is able to deal with such stresses determines the limits of its ecological amplitude. There is therefore a logical link between genomic analysis of the stress response and the ecology of the species. In this chapter we aim to introduce the reader to the ecological genomics of stress analysis.

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