Mammals that hibernate or burrow are less likely to go extinct

January 29th, 2009 - 6:36 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan.29 (ANI): A new study published in The American Naturalist suggests that mammals that hibernate or that hide in burrows are less likely to turn up on an endangered species list.
The study’’s authors — Dr. Lee Hsiang Liow of the University of Oslo and Mikael Fortelius of the University of Helsinki claimed that the ability of such “sleep-or-hide” animals to buffer themselves from changing environments may help them avoid extinction. In the study, Liow and his colleagues wanted to see if this trend holds for mammals living today.
Using a database of over 4,500 living mammal species, Liow and his team identified 443 mammals that exhibit at least one sleep-or-hide behavior.
Their list includes tunneling and burrowing animals like moles and chipmunks, as well as animals that can periodically lower metabolic rates like squirrels, bats and bears.
The sleep-or-hide list was then compared with “Red List” of threatened species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
As the researchers suspected, sleep-or-hide species are less likely appear in any of the IUCN’’s high-risk categories. The pattern holds even under controls for other traits that may influence extinction rates, such as body size (smaller animals generally have lower extinction rates) and geographic distribution.
Despite these results, sleepers and hiders shouldn”t be viewed as evolutionary “winners,” the authors say.
“Sleep-or-hide species survive longer, but in a changing world they run the risk of eventually becoming seriously obsolete,” said Fortelius.
“Species that don”t sleep or hide are short-lived, but they may be more likely to leave successful descendants. In a way it’’s the classic choice between security and progress,” he added. (ANI)

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