Animals are ‘shape-shifting’ as a response to climate change

Weather Blog

An Eastern Bluebird casts a shadow on it’s house in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

(KXAN) — New review of existing research done by the authors of Trends in Ecology & Evolution, show some animals are adapting to climate change by changing their body size.

Research done on more than 30 animals show that average body size is decreasing while appendages and limbs, such as tails, beaks, and legs are growing for some animals. It’s suggested this is in order to adapt to a warming world caused by climate change. A smaller body size holds onto less heat and therefore keeps the animal cooler. Increased surface area though from a larger appendage now allows for better cooling and easier regulation of body temperature. This means larger appendages would be more advantageous in warmer climates than in cooler ones.

Studies used museum specimens to compare sizes over various species over a course of decades and even centuries. Australian parrots were found to have up to a 10% increase in beak surface area since 1871. Shrews and bats were also found to have an increase in ear, tails, legs and wing size as the climate warmed.

The research makes clear that although this is an attempt for these species to adapt to a changing climate this doesn’t necessarily guarantee their survival. They also mention more data on a global scale of various habitats and ecosystems needs to be recorded to definitively confirm this assessment.

Find the full study here

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