Animals are gaining longer appendages in the face of Climate Change

Ectotherms, or animals that regulate their own body heat, have recently been shown having longer legs, tails, or beaks due to increased temperatures (Fearon, 2021). This may seem like a weird adaptation for animals to get on board with, but it makes sense. Endotherms shed heat through their beaks and tails, so having a larger surface area means these animals are able to cool off quicker (Fearon, 2021). Physiologically speaking, as temperatures continue to warm, these individuals will need to find ways to keep their bodies at optimal temperatures because once their body temperatures increase to a certain point they will have other problems to contend with.

Figure 1: The North American dark-eyed junco with a longer then usual beak (modified from Fearon, 2021).

So, as temperatures continue to rise, we may just see more birds like The North American dark-eyed junco showing longer beaks. Or individuals like the Wood Mouse showing longer tails. Or even animals like the Masked Shrew adapting larger legs. So why do we, as humans, care about these changes? It’s important to know that some animals are able to adapt to the quick changes in temperature that we are currently seeing. However, it is important to know that this is not an indication that animals are doing well in the face of climate change (Fearon, 2021). It means they are surviving by adapting in these ways. Climate change is happening quickly, and in most cases, it may be happening too quickly for animals to adapt to (Fearon, 2021).

This is not the only way we see animals adapting to the effects of Climate Change. It is, however, one of the most interesting to see. The adaptations mentioned above are happening at faster rates then we usually see, but they are among the multiple adaptations we will likely be seeing moving forward (Fearon, 2021).

 

References

Fearon, R. (2021). Shape-shifting is how some animals adapt to climate change. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.discovery.com/nature/shape-shifting-is-how-some-animals-adapt-to-climate-change

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