Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Animals cope with climate change at the dinner table: Birds, foxes and small mammals adapt their diets to global warming

Date:
February 11, 2010
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
New research measures the evolving body sizes of birds and animals in areas where climate change is most extreme. In higher latitudes, a pattern of birds getting smaller and mammals getting bigger has been identified. The change, researchers hypothesizes, is likely a strategy for survival.

Arctic fox in the Canadian Arctic.
Credit: iStockphoto/John Pitcher

Some animals, it seems, are going on a diet, while others have expanding waistlines.

It's likely these are reactions to rapidly rising temperatures due to global climate change, speculates Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology, who has been measuring the evolving body sizes of birds and animals in areas where climate change is most extreme.

Changes are happening primarily in higher latitudes, where Prof. Yom-Tov has identified a pattern of birds getting smaller and mammals getting bigger, according to most of the species he's examined. The change, he hypothesizes, is likely a strategy for survival. Prof. Yom-Tov, who has spent decades measuring and monitoring the body sizes of mammals and small birds, says that these changes have been happening more rapidly.

His most recent paper on the topic, focused on the declining body sizes of arctic foxes in Iceland, appeared in Global Change Biology.

Radical changes in body size

Animal populations in a wide variety of geographical areas -- birds in the UK, small mammals in the arctic, and most recently foxes, lynx and otters in cold Scandinavian regions -- are adapting to a shift in rising temperatures. Where temperature changes are most radical, such as those at higher latitudes, Prof. Yom-Tov has measured the most radical changes of these animals' body size over time.

"This change can be seen as an early indicator of climate change," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "There is a steady increase of temperatures at higher latitudes, and this effect -- whether it's man-made or natural -- is having an impact on the animals living in these zones."

In his most recent paper, Prof. Yom-Tov and his Tel Aviv University colleague Prof. Eli Geffen report that arctic foxes are being influenced by changing water currents in the oceans. These changes, likely a result of climate change, affects the foxes' food supplies. Hydrologists are confounded as to why the shifts in currents are happening, but the effect in foxes is evident: their bodies are changing along with the changing currents.

Scientists are finding changes in animals' bodies across the whole animal kingdom. "Climate change is affecting migration patterns and the behavior and growth of birds, mammals, insects, flowers -- you name it," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "The global warming phenomenon is a fact." What we do with this information may change our world.

Adapting to survive

Whether or not human beings are primarily responsible for climate change, Prof. Yom-Tov says, science shows that plants and animals are rapidly evolving in response to these changes. Smaller bodies allow mammals, for example, to cope with warmer temperatures, since a smaller body size gives the body a proportionally increased surface area for the dissipation of heat, he says.

"These animals need to adapt themselves to changing temperatures. In some regions the changes are as large as 3 or 4 degrees centigrade," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "If they don't adapt, their numbers may decline. If they do, their numbers remain stable or even increase."

Prof. Yom-Tov's method accesses many years' worth of data, comparing bones and skulls that natural history museums and individuals have collected over decades. He measures body sizes by studying various features (cranial size, for example) and then statistically analyzes how they have evolved.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Animals cope with climate change at the dinner table: Birds, foxes and small mammals adapt their diets to global warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152235.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2010, February 11). Animals cope with climate change at the dinner table: Birds, foxes and small mammals adapt their diets to global warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152235.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Animals cope with climate change at the dinner table: Birds, foxes and small mammals adapt their diets to global warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152235.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) 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:
from the past week

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