Suppose scientists could watch 20 generations of whales or sharks adapt to climate change, measure how they evolve and how their biology changes as temperatures and carbon dioxide levels rise. That could tell researchers a lot about how resilient life in the oceans might be to a warmer world. But it would also take hundreds of years -- not very useful to ecologists or policymakers trying to understand our warming world today.
Instead, consider the life of the copepod Acartia tonsa, a tiny and humble sea creature near the bottom of the ocean food web. The copepod reproduces, matures, and creates a new generation in about 20 days. It takes about one year for 20 copepod generations to pass.