Thursday 9 March 2023

Cold-blooded animals under threat from climate change

Cold-blooded animals under threat from climate change

As the planet warms, cold-blooded animals will need more energy due to their reliance on the thermal conditions of their environment to regulate body temperature.

That’s according to new research by the World Economic Forum (WEF), suggesting that as human-induced climate change causes higher global temperatures, there is an increase in the body temperatures of cold-blooded animals.

While some land-based ectotherms may have already experienced an increase in metabolic rate due to climate warming that’s already occurred, researchers predict that these rates will still climb by 20% to 30% by the end of the century.

This increase means that these animals will need more food, which may lead to starvation and a reduced ability to find a mate and reproduce.

The WEF alleges that previous research focused on understanding the energetic costs of climate warming for these animals was limited because it mainly used those studied in laboratory environments where the only challenge they faced was a change in temperature.

However, animals face many other challenges in nature, including interacting with other species, such as competing for food and predator-prey relationships.

To examine how species interactions might alter predictions about the energetic costs of climate warming for cold-blooded animals, researchers turned to fruit fly species that interact and compete for food. They found that species interactions at warmer temperatures increase the future energy needs of fruit flies by between 3% and 16%.

These findings suggest that previous studies have underestimated the energetic cost of climate warming for ectotherms. Understanding the energy needs of animals is crucial for comprehending how they'll survive, reproduce, and evolve in challenging environments.

In a warmer world, cold-blooded animals will need more energy to survive and reproduce and if there isn’t enough food to meet their bodies’ energy demands, their extinction risk may increase.

Researchers must more accurately predict how climate warming will threaten biodiversity by studying the responses of animals to temperature changes under more realistic conditions, the WEF has stressed.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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