Finding a shady refuge to cool off on a hot day could be more than a lifesaver in a warming world.
Finding a shady refuge to cool off on a hot day could be more than a lifesaver in a warming world. It might save several species that would otherwise go extinct due to global warming, according to an analysis by ecologists at a dozen institutions.
“Animals are not passive, and there’s plenty of evidence that some of them will seek out shade to regulate their body temperature,” said Rice University ecologist Volker Rudolf, co-author of a study in Global Change Biology that examined both the behavior and habitats of 39 species. “The big question, for ecologists, is whether we can create a predictive framework that uses what we already know about species’ behaviors and habitats to predict whether this behavior might buffer them from rapid climate change and potentially rescue them from otherwise going extinct.”
Rudolf said he and his colleagues, including study co-lead authors Samuel Fey of Reed College and David Vasseur of Yale University, set out to create such a framework, in part because a number of high-profile studies have ignored behavior in making predictions about the possible impacts of climate warming.
Scientists have examined the impact of temperature on the fitness of many species. To control for external factors, almost all such tests are performed in a laboratory, where temperature can be increased while all other factors remain constant, said Rudolf, a professor in Rice’s Department of BioSciences. The overall health, or fitness, of individuals often falls off as temperatures increase, especially in insects and other ectothermic animals whose bodies don’t self-regulate temperature.
Read more at: Rice University
A predictive framework for estimating how a species’ behavior might mitigate the ill effects of rising temperatures was first tested on the southern rock agama lizard, a species native to South Africa. (Photo Credit: Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons)