Animals are 'shape-shifting' to survive warm climates due to global warming

Climate change is happening at an alarming rate due to human activities, and Global Warming is one of its aspects, which is not only causing the melting of glaciers or warming of the earth but is also affecting the lifestyle of warm-blooded animals, as they are physically morphing, or “shape-shifting” to maintain a constant body temperature internally.

According to new research published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Global warming affects animals in different ways as few have to go towards cooler locations and many are helpless to change their important life aspects such as breeding and migration. Shockingly many are changing their body structure or size so that they cool down fastly.

Animals are adjusting themselves against climate change by changing the size of their ears, tails, beaks, and other appendages (in short shape-shifting). The study showed that climate change and thus global warming might result in a change in an animal’s fundamental shape.

birds shape-shifting due to global warming
Male gang-gang cockatoos

Animals with the help of their appendages regulate internal temperature. As the African elephants pump their warm blood towards large ears to disperse heat. The beaks of the birds also work in a similar way and thus they transfer blood flow towards the beak when they are hot.

And the beak is the warmest part of the bird’s body. This suggests that big appendages have advantages in hot environments.

As American zoologist Joel Asaph Allen figured out in their study, warm-blooded animals (endotherms) in colder environments tend to have smaller appendages while in a warmer environment they tend to have bigger appendages. This pattern is called Allen’s rule.

Suh’s biological patterns also help to imagine the evolution in animals as climate changes. In the study, specifically increases in beak size are mostly observed in birds. This includes many species of Australian parrots.

It has been found that the beak size of gang-gang cockatoos and red-rumped parrots has increased by 4-10 percent since 1871.

Mammal appendages are also changed as in the masked shrew, tail and leg length have increased significantly since 1950. Also, the wing size of the round leaf bat also increased by 1.64 percent. Still, it is unknown which animal is most affected.

Red-rumped parrots
Red-rumped parrots

It is found that birds having smaller beaks are less likely to survive in hot summers. Thus the survival effect is stronger than that observed with rainfall. Thus the role of temperature is very important as to the other uses of appendages like feeding, in driving changes in appendage size.

Starlings, song sparrows, and a host of seabirds and small mammals, such as South American gracile opossums are most likely to change their appendage size with increasing temperature.

Earlier a report presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed we have very little time to prevent catastrophic global warming. Some animals may adapt to climate change but many will not be able to do it.

As some birds maintain a specific. diet thus they can’t change their beak size while some might not be able to evolve in time.

Thus to save many wildlife species for the upcoming time it is necessary that greenhouse gas emissions and other factors increasing Earth’s temperature must be prevented as soon as possible.



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