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Who has a better chance of surviving climate change – mammals or reptiles?

Posted February 8, 2018

The climate on Earth is rapidly changing. This, of course, is a huge threat to humanity, but the nature is going to suffer as well. However, there is hope that evolution will do its job and some animals will learn to adapt to the new environment. But which animals are more likely to survive the climate change? What will it take for them to adapt to the environmental changes?

Mammals and birds are quicker to adapt by moving to the regions with a more suitable temperature. Image credit: Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

An international research team, involving scientists from Canada, Switzerland and Sweden, revealed that warm-blooded animals, such as mammals and birds, have a better chance of adapting to the changes in Earth’s climate. It is because these animals find it easier to enlarge their habitats and move around more than their cold-blooded peers, reptiles and amphibians. However, plant’s climate has been varying quite a lot throughout the history, which gives scientists something to learn from.

Scientists analysed the current distribution of animals, fossil records and phylogenetic information for 11,465 species. This allowed them to reconstruct where animals have lived over the past 270 million years – what kind of temperatures were in those places, what other environmental factors were needed for survival of these species. Scientists know that Earth’s climate is always changing. For example, it was fairly hot in here until like 40 million years ago. However, then the climate started cooling down. Mammals and birds were the best to adapt, by moving to regions where the temperature was more fitting for their survival. It seems that reptiles take longer to adapt to the changes – that might be why we don’t see a lot of them in the Antarctic or even temperate habitats.

Warm-blooded animals, which can regulate their body temperature better, known as endotherms, may be more suitable for survival in colder climates simply because they can keep their embryos warm, take care of their offspring and they can migrate or hibernate. Ectotherms, or cold-blooded animals, typically live in a smaller area on Earth, which shows that they are not as quick to adopt as mammals and birds.

Studies like this are very important, because they help us imagine, how life on Earth is going to be like in the future. Climate change, whether you think it is caused by humans or not, will impact wildlife and we have to see what we can do to preserve biodiversity.


Source: UBC

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