Animals “change shape” to adapt to climate change: study

Warm-blooded animals subtly change their characteristics as they adapt to changes in temperature and habitats brought on by climate change, according to a new study.

These “shape-shifting” animals “acquire larger beaks, legs and ears to better regulate their body temperature as the planet warms,” ​​a research team found in a peer-reviewed study published this week. week in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Red-rumped parrot

Red-rumped parrot (Shutterstock /)

“Most of the time when climate change is covered in the mainstream media, people ask, ‘Can humans overcome this? Or “What technology can solve this problem?” Bird researcher and lead author Sara Ryding of Deakin University in Australia said in a statement. The climate change that we have created is putting a lot of pressure on them, and as some species will adapt, others don’t.

To reach these conclusions, Ryding and his team over the years looked at studies of more than 30 animals and found, for example, that the beak size of some species of Australian parrots increased by 4-10% in average since 1871. The study authors also found that shrews and bats increased the relative size of their ears, tails, legs, and wings as the warming occurred.

Birds disperse heat with their beaks and mammals use their ears, the researchers say, as well as their tails and paws that aren’t covered in fur. Animals that cannot control their body temperature can overheat and die.

Although it is difficult to identify the exact cause of the changes, the fact that they have occurred over large geographic areas and among a wide range of species means that the only thing the phenomena have in common is change. climate, the authors said.

“Shape change doesn’t mean animals are dealing with climate change and that all is well,” Ryding told The Guardian. “It just means that they evolve to survive there – but we don’t know what the other ecological consequences are of those changes, or in fact that all species are able to change and survive.”

Additionally, it is not clear whether the changes will help the animals cope. It just means that they are trying.

“We also don’t know whether these shape changes actually help survival (and therefore are beneficial) or not,” Ryding told CNN. “This shape-shifting phenomenon should not be taken for granted, but it is rather alarming that climate change is causing animals to evolve like this, in a relatively short period of time.”


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