Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Big Year For Darwin, But What Would He Make Of The Climate Change Ahead?

Date:
February 10, 2009
Source:
Rutgers University
Summary:
Charles Darwin may have been born 200 years ago come Feb. 12, but his theory of evolution remains an everyday touchstone for modern biologists. And while the Origin of Species author might not have known the term “global warming,” he wouldn’t have been surprised that the environment is changing. He would, however, be astonished by the speed at which it’s happening today, researchers believe.

Charles Darwin may have been born 200 years ago come Feb. 12, but his theory of evolution remains an everyday touchstone for modern biologists. And while the Origin of Species author might not have known the term “global warming,” he wouldn’t have been surprised that the environment is changing. He would, however, be astonished by the speed at which it’s happening today, researchers believe.

Related Articles


“Every species is under temporary permanence,” says Bill Saidel, an associate professor of biology at Rutgers University’s Camden Campus, where he teaches Animal Behavior and Behavioral Neurobiology. Darwin would have predicted changes in species’ habits and even changes in the environment, but the planet’s facing changes that are both drastic and unpredictable.

Saidel notes some already observed results of global warming today, like changing avian migration patterns and pH levels in oceans. But how would Darwin begin to determine how every species might respond to climate change? Most likely he’d begin by observing those habitats that are uniquely individual and well-defined.

This approach – researching one specialized habitat for insight into a larger understanding of evolution – is how Saidel conducts his own research at Rutgers–Camden. His interest in the exotic African butterfly fish is precisely because it has evolved two retinas in each eye, but only feeds from information derived from one. The fish’s highly specialized adaptations, from retina to brain, serve as a model for discerning the circuitry of feeding in all vertebrae whose visual traits aren’t as clearly segmented.

“This fish has much to teach us. It has adapted extraordinarily to a single unique environment. Yet, the consequences of a highly adapted species is that any change can be dire,” says Saidel.

Dan Shain, associate professor of biology at Rutgers–Camden, also researches highly specialized creatures: worms that thrive in the world’s most extreme climates. He studies them for insight into their adaptations and their unique cocoon production processes, which have biomaterial applications. Only the intensely frigid environs Shain once explored in destinations like Alaska aren’t as cold anymore.

This summer, the Rutgers–Camden researcher traveled to Denali National Park to observe ice worms, whose glacial habitats make them an ideal indicator species for climate change.

“Ice worms have been around at least a few million years and have been through many ice ages, but the change there now is dramatic,” Shain says. “I’ve been traveling to Alaska for 10 years studying ice worms. The mass of the glaciers is about half of what it was a decade ago.”

Disappointed, Shain didn’t find new specimens allegedly living in Eldridge Glacier. Even the glaciers he previously identified as housing a plethora of ice worms had sadly receded.

“The number of ice worms is radically down. We think ice worms are getting washed off the glaciers and they don’t have the capability to move up the glacier quickly enough,” he reports.

The issue of time is crucial to understanding the implications of global warming. Shain calls it “accelerated evolution” and predicts large-scale extinctions that even Darwin couldn’t comprehend. Species that can best adapt to this abrupt change will go on and multiply, leaving the world with less of a variety.

“We lose diversity with a rapid change, but always life finds a way. Some kind of life will fill the gap.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rutgers University. "Big Year For Darwin, But What Would He Make Of The Climate Change Ahead?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202113611.htm>.
Rutgers University. (2009, February 10). Big Year For Darwin, But What Would He Make Of The Climate Change Ahead?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202113611.htm
Rutgers University. "Big Year For Darwin, But What Would He Make Of The Climate Change Ahead?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202113611.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

AFP (Apr. 18, 2015) In the Himalayan town of Lukla, excitement mingles with fear as mountaineers make their way up to Everest a year after an avalanche killed 16 guides and triggered an unprecedented shut-down of the world&apos;s highest peak. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2015) "Water cops" in Los Angeles remind the public about water conservation methods amid California&apos;s prolonged drought. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

AFP (Apr. 17, 2015) Scientists gathered at a European Space Agency (ESA) facility outside Rome this week for the Planetary Defence Conference 2015 to discuss how to tackle the potential threat from asteroids hitting Earth. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Five years after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, splotches of oil still dot the seafloor and wads of tarry petroleum-smelling material hide in pockets in the marshes of Barataria Bay. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins