Small temperature changes near the equator could have a big impact on some animals
Insects, turtles and other creatures that regulate their body temperature externally may find themselves in hot water as global temperatures increase, a new study finds.
In the tropics, many of these animals are already living at the temperatures their bodies like best and therefore they have less wiggle room for dealing with a warming world than animals living elsewhere.
Even though temperatures in the tropics are predicted to increase less than in higher latitude regions, certain animals living in these already warm places may be especially vulnerable, the study suggests. It isn’t just the rate of warming that will matter, but also the basic physiology of the animals in those climates, says Curtis Deutsch of the
To investigate, Deutsch and his colleagues at the
“There will be some winners and losers — it’s hard to predict who those are,” says Deutsch, now at UCLA. “But the reorganization of elements of an ecosystem is probably going to be more destructive to biodiversity than constructive.”
Lisa Crozier of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
Of course, there are many factors that will determine the winners and losers, says Deutsch. Insects, which have a much shorter generation time than turtles, for example, may be able to adapt more quickly to changing temperatures. And creatures that can move — either up a mountain or away from the equator — may find their way to hospitable environments. But whether the organisms that they are linked to — a butterfly’s food plant, for example — will move as well is unclear, making the structure of future ecosystems very hard to predict.
“Ecosystems are a very complicated fabric of interactions between species,” Deutsch says. “When you tug on that fabric and break some of the linkages, the predictive power collapses.”
Deutsch, C.A., et al. 2008. Impacts of climate warming on terrestrial ectotherms across latitude. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(May 6):6668-6672.
Climate models and more at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University
Insects — introduction to entomology from the University of Sydney, Austrailia.
Climate models and more at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University. Available at [Go to].
Insects—introduction to entomology from the University of Sydney, Austrailia. Available at [Go to].