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article imageGlobal warming could cause animals to shrink

By Alexandra Christopoulos     Sep 28, 2011 in Environment
Global warming may cause many different species to shrink, according to new research. Animals raised in warmer than usual temperatures tend to reach smaller adult sizes, scientists at Queen Mary, the University of London have confirmed.
Published in the journal The American Naturalist, the study was authored by Dr. Andrew Hirst and some of his colleagues from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.
Relating to a concept known as "temperature size rule," the study describes how individuals of nearly all cold blooded organisms reach a smaller adult size when raised in a hotter climate.
"We've shown that growth and development increase at different rates as temperatures warm," Hirst said. "The consequences are that at warmer temperatures a species grows faster but matures even faster still, resulting in them achieving a smaller adult size."
Gathering more than 40 years of research on data from tiny crustaceans, also known as marine planktonic copeds, the scientists showed how fast an animal grows in size doesn't necessarily match how fast it passes through its life stages. In other words, regular changes affecting its lifespan may be disrupted.
Reproduction, feeding and mortality, for example, may not change in sync with rising temperatures. The results could have an extreme impact on how organisms work, their food webs and habitats.
The crustaceans are the main animal plankton in the world's oceans and are a food source for larger fish, birds and marine mammals.
Hirst added, the separation, or 'de-coupling' of these rates could have 'important consequences for species and ecosystems.'
More about Global warming, global warming studies, global warming and animals, Climate change
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