Climate change making some animals thin, while some fat

February 10th, 2010 - 2:17 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): In a new study, scientists from the Tel Aviv University in Israel have determined that as a result of climate change, some animals are going on a diet, while others are gaining weight.

It’s likely these are reactions to rapidly rising temperatures due to global climate change, speculates Professor Yoram Yom-Tov of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology, who has been measuring the evolving body sizes of birds and animals in areas where climate change is most extreme.

Changes are happening primarily in higher latitudes, where Prof. Yom-Tov has identified a pattern of birds getting smaller and mammals getting bigger, according to most of the species he’s examined.

The change, he hypothesizes, is likely a strategy for survival.

According to Prof. Yom-Tov, who has spent decades measuring and monitoring the body sizes of mammals and small birds, these changes have been happening more rapidly.

Animal populations in a wide variety of geographical areas - birds in the UK, small mammals in the arctic, and most recently foxes, lynx and otters in cold Scandinavian regions - are adapting to a shift in rising temperatures.

Where temperature changes are most radical, such as those at higher latitudes, Prof. Yom-Tov has measured the most radical changes of these animals’ body size over time.

“This change can be seen as an early indicator of climate change,” he said. “There is a steady increase of temperatures at higher latitudes, and this effect - whether it’s man-made or natural - is having an impact on the animals living in these zones,” he added.

Scientists are finding changes in animals’ bodies across the whole animal kingdom.

“Climate change is affecting migration patterns and the behavior and growth of birds, mammals, insects, flowers - you name it,” said Prof. Yom-Tov.

“The global warming phenomenon is a fact. What we do with this information may change our world,” he added.

According to Prof. Yom-Tov, whether or not human beings are primarily responsible for climate change, science shows that plants and animals are rapidly evolving in response to these changes.

“Smaller bodies allow mammals, for example, to cope with warmer temperatures, since a smaller body size gives the body a proportionally increased surface area for the dissipation of heat,” he said.

“These animals need to adapt themselves to changing temperatures. In some regions the changes are as large as 3 or 4 degrees centigrade,” said Prof. Yom-Tov.
“If they don’t adapt, their numbers may decline. If they do, their numbers remain stable or even increase,” he added. (ANI)

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