Friday, June 09, 2006

Global warming? Bring it on if you breed quickly.

The meek on global warming shall not inherit the earth.

If God's creatures, small, are anything to go by it looks like that honour may go to the lustful and libidinous, the lubricious and licentious. Or rather the reproductively rapid.

The recent discovery that some species of animals are evolving to adapt to rapid climate change within just a few generations gives us an idea of who or what may be left on board when our 21st century Noah's ark, what I call the planet, comes to metaphorical rest once our carbon dioxide levels stabilise and/or subside: :::[The Independent]

Smaller animals in particular that can breed quickly, such as squirrels, some birds and insects, are showing signs of evolving new patterns of behaviour to increase their chances of survival. Scientists say that many of the genetic adaptations are to cope with changes in the length of the seasons rather than the absolute increases in summer temperatures.

Larger animals and species that are slow to reproduce may on the other hand find it difficult to cope with climate change because they cannot adapt genetically as quickly as smaller, more fertile creatures that have rapid life cycles.

Christina Holzapfel, from the University of Oregon in Eugene says that, "Studies show that over the past several decades, rapid climate change has led to heritable, genetic changes in animal populations.". The Canadian red squirrel is reproducing earlier in the year, German blackcap birds migrate and arrive earlier at their nesting grounds and even northern American mosquitoes are adjusting their lifecycles to shorter days.

In the past it has been noted that animal species are extending their ranges by migrating north (and presumably south) to higher latitudes where global warming is causing longer growing seasons at a faster rate than towards the equator. This has been called 'phenotypic plasticity', or the ability of individuals to modify their behaviour, morphology or physiology in response to altered environmental conditions, but what we are also witnessing is heritable genetic adaptations to changing seasons.

So where does that leave us humans? Mice can outbreed us by a factor of 10,000 to 1. If we don't want the squeak to inherit the earth, if we don't want to say hello to the unicorn, we need to act now to change climate change.


Other posts of global warming animal adaption and non-adaption:
  • Frisky lizards in climate change warning.
    The blue-tongue lizards of my home state are now mating early as mother nature sings out that the climes they are a-changing.
  • Natures climate change canary cooking.
  • The only way is up for the American Pika as it seeks to adjust to global warming. Very sensitive to hot temperatures, their 1200 years migration from the great American plains has found them in alpine terrain
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