Australian researchers have found that some animals – particularly birds – are undergoing bodily changes as a result of global warming.
Scientists Sara Ryding and Matthew Symonds of Deakin University in Melbourne have examined, with other colleagues, studies done on the bodies of various species over decades.
In a review published on the 7th in “Trends in Ecology & Evolution” of the “Cell” magazine, they concluded that, as the planet’s temperatures rise, birds with larger beaks tend to be favored because they are able to dissipate heat from more efficiently.
This because the birds’ beak is vascularized, ie: has bloodstream. The warmer it gets outside, the more the animal directs blood flow to the beak – to dissipate more heat. In this way, it manages to maintain a stable body temperature (as humans do when sweating).
The gang cockatoo (‘Callocephalon fimbriatum’) is one of the species identified by scientists as those that have undergone changes in the body due to global warming. — Photo: Peter B Kraehenbuehl/Wikimedia
- 3-year-old boy gets lost and survives three days alone in the bush in Australia
Because of this mechanism, the bigger the bird’s beak, the faster it can cool down. This means that birds that have a larger beak can adapt better to the increase in external temperature.
(Not it does mean, however, that the birds are “on purpose” developing larger beaks to adapt to the heat).
According to Ryding and Symonds, the changes appear in several species of birds. In Australia, for example, they point to previous studies showing that the beak size of the cockatoos (callocephalon fimbriatum) and red-headed parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) has increased between 4% and 10% since 1871.
The red-headed parrot (‘Psephotus haematonotus’) is another species identified by researchers as one that has undergone bodily changes due to global warming. — Photo: patrickkavanagh/Wikimedia
In North America, the dark-eyed rush (hyemalis junk) shows an association between increased beak size and short-term relative temperature extremes in typically cold environments.
Birds aren’t the only ones affected either: mammal body parts are also increasing in size..
In the masked shrew (sorex cinereus), the length of the tail and leg has increased significantly since 1950, the researchers note. And, in the big-round-leaf bat (Armiger Hipposideros), the size of the wings increased by 1.64% in the same period.
Body change and global warming: In North America, the dark-eyed junk (Junco hyemalis) shows an association between increased beak size and short-term relative temperature extremes in typically cold environments. — Photo: Cephas/Wikimedia
“The variety of examples indicates that shapeshifting is happening … in a variety of animals, in many parts of the world. However, more studies are needed to determine which types of animals are most affected,” wrote the two scientists for the website “The Conversation”.
But researchers also warn: not all animals will be able to adapt in this way to climate change.
“While our research shows that some animals are adapting to climate change, many will not. For example, some birds may have to maintain a specific diet, which means they cannot change the shape of their beak. able to evolve over time,” they said in the same text.
- More than 200 magazines issue a warning: ‘failure in the fight against warming is the biggest threat to global health’
They point out that while it is important to predict how wild animals will adapt to changes in climate in the future, the best way to protect them is to “drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid global warming as much as possible.”