PHOTO CREDIT: birdlife.com

 

Just like humans, animals have also been busy figuring out ways of adapting to Climate Change.

A recent review has found that some warm-blooded animals are adjusting their shapes, like getting larger beaks, legs, and ears to better regulate their body temperatures as the planet gets hotter.

In a review published on September 7th in the journal, Trends in Ecology and Evolution bird researcher, Sara Ryding of Deakin University in Australia said climate change, which is apparently a consequence of human activities is heaping a lot of pressure on animal, adding that while some species will adapt, others will not.

“A lot of the time when climate change is discussed in mainstream media, people are asking ‘can humans overcome this?’, or ‘what technology can solve this?’. It’s high time we recognized that animals also have to adapt to these changes, but this is occurring over a far shorter timescale than would have occurred through most of evolutionary time,” Ryding was quoted as saying in phy.org.

Ryding notes that climate change is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that’s been occurring progressively, so it is difficult to pinpoint just one cause of the shapeshifting. But these changes have been occurring across wide geographical regions and among a diverse array of species, so there is little in common apart from climate change.

Strong shapeshifting has particularly been reported in birds. Several species of Australian parrot have shown, on average, a 4%–10% increase in bill size since 1871, and this is positively correlated with the summer temperature each year. North American dark-eyed juncos, a type of small songbird, had a link between increased bill size and short-term temperature extremes in cold environments. There have also been reported changes in mammalian species. Researchers have reported tail length increases in wood mice and tail and leg size increases in masked shrews.

“The increases in appendage size we see so far are quite small (less than 10%). So the changes are unlikely to be immediately noticeable. However, prominent appendages such as ears are predicted to increase—so we might end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-so-distant future,” Ryding stated.

According to Ryding, shape-shifting does not mean that animals are coping with climate change and that all is fine. She said it just means that they are evolving to survive it. What Ryding said is not clear is the other ecological consequences of these changes.

 

 

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