Some Like It Hot: Cold-Blooded Tropical Species 'Not as Vulnerable' to Climate Change Extinction
In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish. Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought. The study, published in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology, considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature.
The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.
“Forecasting the fate of any species is difficult, but it is essential for conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources,” said lead author Dr Walters. “It is believed that climate change poses a greater risk to tropical cold-blooded organisms (ectotherms), than temperate or polar species. However, as potential adaptation to climate change has not been considered in previous extinction models we tested this theory with a model forecasting evolutionary responses.”
Ectotherms, such as lizards and insects, have evolved a specialist physiology to flourish in a stable tropical environment. Unlike species which live in varied habitats tropical species operate within a narrow range of temperatures, leading to increased dangers if those temperatures change.