Climate change is changing the appearance of some animal species

Study: Climate change is changing the appearance of some animal species

Bearwood.The appearance of some animals is changing as a result of climate change. Their beaks, legs, and ears are getting larger or longer to better regulate their body temperature as the Earth continues to warm. This is what the scientists write in the journal “Trends in Ecology and Evolution.”

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On hot days, most living things need cooling. In humans, for example, sweating helps withstand extreme heat. Many animals have to manage differently, for example by their physical structure. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) They pump as much blood as possible into their big ears at high temperatures, for example, and then cool down there by wagging their tails. Toco Toucan (Ramvastus TokoIts powerful beak acts as a built-in cooling system: in the cold evening hours, it uses this to dissipate excess heat into the environment.

Animals in cold regions have smaller limbs

Animals from cold regions usually have smaller limbs, tails, and ears than closely related species from warmer regions. This association was described by American zoologist Joel Allen over a hundred years ago in Allen’s reign, which can be explained biologically: smaller limbs mean less body surface area and therefore less heat loss, while greater surface area allows for more body heat. dissipate more easily.

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The team, led by ornithologist Sarah Riding of Australia’s Deakin University, has now investigated how climate change and associated global warming are affecting animal species around the world under Allen’s Law. Researchers have conducted previous studies looking for evidence that animals change shape as a result of rising temperatures. Indeed, they have found many scientific examples of this phenomenon, known as shapeshifting, especially in the world of birds, for example in studies in which researchers have compared enclosed representatives of museum species with living specimens.

Body changes are related to temperature

Some of this work has shown that beak size in many Australian parrot species has increased by 4 to 10 percent since 1871, which correlates positively with annual summer temperatures. There is a similar development in winter bunting in North America (Junko Himalis), where an association was found between increases in beak size and short-term temperature extremes in cold environments. But changes were also observed in mammals: the researchers reported an increase in tail length in wood mice (Apodimus Sylvaticusand increased tail and leg size in masked red-toothed American shrews.Sorex Syneros).

So we could see Dumbo in action in the not too distant future.

Sarah Reading

bird seeker

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“The increases observed in limb size to date are very small, at less than 10 percent, so changes are likely not immediately noticeable,” lead author Ryding explains in a statement about the study. “However, prominent body parts such as the ears are expected to grow larger – so we could see Dumbo in action in the not too distant future.” This was to name only one reason to change the shape of animals. However, these changes can be observed in so many geographical regions and in so many species that there is little in common besides climate change.

Not all animal species can adapt to climate change

The debate over climate change revolves mostly around whether humans can handle it and which technologies are necessary. Reading stresses that it is time to realize that animals also have to adapt to climate changes – and in a very short time frame in terms of evolutionary history. “The climate change we’re causing is putting enormous pressures on them, and while some species adapt, others won’t.”

Next, the biologist wants to examine 3D scans of museum specimens of Australian birds from the past 100 years to see changes in shape. By doing so, her team hopes to better understand which birds are changing the size of their limbs due to climate change and why. “Changing shapes doesn’t mean animals can handle climate change and all is well,” Riding says. “It just means that they are evolving to survive climate change – but we’re not sure what other ecological consequences of these changes are, or whether all species can evolve and survive.”

RND / dpa

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