Newsflash: tropical species adapt to temperature changes

From Wiley Sciences, some interesting admissions, though I have to think that insects are far more tolerant than they give them credit for. But, take it all with a grain of salt, because it is just more modeling output.

Some like it hot: Tropical species ‘not as vulnerable’ to climate change

Functional Ecology (journal)

Functional Ecology (journal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

extinction

In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish. Ecologists studying evolutionary responses to climate change forecast that cold-blooded tropical species are not as vulnerable to extinction as previously thought. The study, published in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology, considers how fast species can evolve and adapt to compensate for a rise in temperature.

The research, carried out at the University of Zurich, was led by Dr Richard Walters, now at Reading University, alongside David Berger now at Uppsala University and Wolf Blanckenhorn, Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Zurich.

“Forecasting the fate of any species is difficult, but it is essential for conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources,” said lead author Dr Walters.

“It is believed that climate change poses a greater risk to tropical cold-blooded organisms (ectotherms), than temperate or polar species. However, as potential adaptation to climate change has not been considered in previous extinction models we tested this theory with a model forecasting evolutionary responses.”

Ectotherms, such as lizards and insects, have evolved a specialist physiology to flourish in a stable tropical environment. Unlike species which live in varied habitats tropical species operate within a narrow range of temperatures, leading to increased dangers if those temperatures change.

“When its environment changes an organism can respond by moving away, adapting its physiology over time or, over generations, evolving,” said Walters. “The first two responses are easy to identify, but a species’ ability to adapt quick enough to respond to climate change is an important and unresolved question for ecologists.”

The team explored the idea that there are also evolutionary advantages for species adapted to warmer environments. The ‘hotter is better’ theory suggests that species which live in high temperatures will have higher fitness, resulting from a shorter generation time. This may allow them to evolve relatively quicker than species in temperate environments.

The team sought to directly compare the increased risk of extinction associated with lower genetic variance, owing to temperature specialisation, with the lowered risk of extinction associated with a shorter generation time.

“Our model shows that the evolutionary advantage of a shorter generation time should compensate species which are adapted to narrow temperature ranges,” said Walters. “We forecast that the relative risk of extinction is likely to be lower for tropical species than temperate ones.”

“The tropics are home to the greatest biodiversity on earth, so it imperative that the risk of extinction caused by climate change is understood,” concluded Walters. “While many questions remain, our theoretical predictions suggest tropical species may not be as vulnerable to climate warming as previously thought.”

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32 Responses to Newsflash: tropical species adapt to temperature changes

  1. Edohiguma says:

    Life always adapts. This has been going for literally hundreds million of years. Of course, things like that are a surprise for the AGW crowd, which seems to believe that everything on the planet is static and never changes.

  2. EJ says:

    “However, as potential adaptation to climate change has not been considered in previous extinction models we tested this theory with a model forecasting evolutionary responses”

    What the heck? So all this screaming about tropical species going extinct up until now has just assumed they can’t adapt? *sigh*

    Huh. Interesting concept: that organisms which have tolerated more dramatic climate swings in the recent past might be able to tolerate another.

    I worry a bit about how many graduate students have gotten their degrees by conducting poor research in the field of biology relating climate change to doom and gloom. Faulty education…

    Quick question for the regulars here: do these comments support html?

    [Reply: You can use HTML. BB Code is not supported. ~dbs, mod.]

  3. Steve C says:

    Should the insects appear to be adapting too well, and thinking of those grains of salt, there’s always this.

  4. DesertYote says:

    Who knew that one could do science without data. I guess all one needs to do is to play WoW and record the results.

    I guess everyone has forgotten that the model, whether computer or mathematical, is part of the measurement system so its output is NOT data.

  5. SasjaL says:

    Another parallel to the medieval Christianity …

    Back then, belief prevailed over reality just as the present AGW religion, but as with wind energy, people finally came to their senses.

    Still, some find it hard to let go …

  6. Berényi Péter says:

    We do know that optimal temperature for biochemical processes is somewhere between 36°C and 39°C, because that’s where internal temperature is set in endotherm species. Now, in wet climates external temperature is always lower than that, therefore the higher the temperature the better it is for ectotherms, provided they abandon specific adaptations they may have to lower temperatures (but that’s always easier than the other way around).

  7. striptubes says:

    We do know that optimal temperature for biochemical processes is somewhere between 36°C and 39°C, because that’s where internal temperature is set in endotherm species.

    That’s an awfully broad assertion. There’s no shortage of organisms whose optimal temperatures are not in that range.

  8. Craig S says:

    It’s models all the way down . . . .

  9. davidmhoffer says:

    DesertYote says:
    August 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm
    Who knew that one could do science without data.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    That was my first thought. No data, no evidence, just a set of assumptions and all they seem to be reporting is what the result of their assumptions is. No evidence to show that their assumptions are in any way accurate.

    My second thought was that they left out a rather important fact, which even the alarmist IPCC admits, which is that the tropics will show the least warming. Any warming that does occurr will be most pronounced at night time lows, in winter, in high latitudes. Warming at day time highs in summer in the tropics will be negligible by comparison. So why they would study the consequences of something that even the alarmist literature says will be almost insignificant in the big picture is beyond me.

  10. P Wilson says:

    So there won’t be any giant flesh eating ants that hunt down humans, or giant spiders, triffids and alien invasions associated with global warming?

    I feel so betrayed by the alarmists. Mind you, they’ve probably been watching too many sci fi films, which is where they seem to get their science from

  11. SasjaL says:

    Berényi Péter on August 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    You have significant flaws in your argument! Both mechanical and biomechanical systems are inefficient and therefore emits heat. If the heat can’t be diverted problems occurs. For a biomechanical system, this is critical (compare with fever). For man, problems occur when surrounding temperature exceeds the teperature of the skin, at about 26°C.

  12. SasjaL says:

    Berényi Péter on August 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Forgot …

    There are lifeforms that thrives at 36-39°C – we call them “bacteria” …

  13. “Forecasting the fate of any species is difficult, but it is essential for conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources.”

    Now let’s see here. First, blow some smoke up me posterior. Second, let’s just analyze this assertion.

    Forecasting a fate is difficult. You bet your patoot it is. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible. This being the case, it follows that its “essentialness” regarding biodiversity conservation is unknown as well. Pass the grant hat! How to create a non-ism to imply great importance. Bollocks. Pat the author on the back, and bend over!

  14. Berényi Péter says:

    striptubes says:
    August 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    There’s no shortage of organisms whose optimal temperatures are not in that range.

    Would you care to mention several endotherm species which have regulated internal temperature outside the range 36°C – 39°C?

    At the lower end I can only come up with monotremes (30-31°C), but that’s developed under severe evolutionary pressure to decrease energy consumption. Some marsupials may also have regulated core temperature slightly below 36°C, not by much. On the upper end one finds birds, especially passerines, with core temperature up to 41°C. And that’s all.

    Monotremes are restricted to Australia and New Guinea with platypus and four species of echidnas. That’s definitely a shortage, is not it?

  15. Jim G says:

    “In the face of a changing climate many species must adapt or perish.”

    I’m shocked, shocked! What tremendously valuable research to let us know this! We can be certain that this is a new development and this has not previously been the case. I guess I can stop trying to bag that saber tooth tiger I have been looking for.

  16. tckev says:

    Some guy, many years ago, before anyone could read thermometers properly, came up with some really hokey theory about ‘origin of species’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ and all that.

    Darwin or somebody?

  17. Martin Clark says:

    “It’s models all the way down … “. Yep. Being run by researchers who appear to inhabit colder darker places on the planet. We get a lot of this round here.
    From my experience, it is likely to be bunk (ludicrously false) all the way down as well.
    “It is believed that climate change poses a greater risk to tropical cold-blooded organisms (ectotherms), than temperate or polar species.”
    Is that so?
    One thing I have noticed here in tropical Australia is that there are huge apparent cyclical variations in populations of ectotherms and other species.
    I don’t know what species they are, but I haven’t seen any “thunder flies” for several years. These insects gather around street lights and the like, drop on the ground, and shed their wings. Tens of thousands of them. They stick in everything, stink the place up, concrete surfaces black with the mess. Their apparent absence is is not climate change, real or imagined, just a very long cycle, or one of many species that flourishes for a VERY short period, then disappears.
    If we get a short “wet” period, dragon flies flourish. Extended wet period? No dragon flies. The recent extended wet season should have benefitted the cursed cane toad, but around here at least, the opposite seems to be the case.
    I’m tired of hearing about this/that frog species “disappearing”.
    One good cyclone ripping through the tree canopy and you find all sorts of creatures on the ground, some of which aren’t supposed to be living here …

  18. jorgekafkazar says:

    “Forecasting the fate of any species is difficult, but it is essential for conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources,” said lead author Dr Walters.

    There will always be biodiversity. There is nothing sacred about our present mix of species; it’s been drifting slowly over eons as species evolve and go extinct. The connection between biodiversity and natural resources is tenuous. Let’s focus on conserving plants and animals that we can eat. The primary rule for such conservation is don’t turn ‘em into motor fuel!

  19. richardscourtney says:

    Friends:

    Almost all the species which have existed on the Earth are extinct. And that was also true before the human race evolved.

    Richard

  20. striptubes says:

    Berényi Péter
    Would you care to mention several endotherm species which have regulated internal temperature outside the range 36°C – 39°C?I wasn’t meaning endotherms specifically. I meant broadly thoughout the tree of life. If you meant that there is an apparent optimum for endotherms in the 36-39° range, I won’t dispute that, but nor will I necessarily take it at face value. I do, however, accept the assertion that the vast majority of endotherms’ body temperatures fall within that range.I fear that there may have been a mere miscommunication here.

  21. striptubes says:

    I note with some dismay that the line break html tag (br) doesn’t seem to be working even though WordPress says it should be. Is there any way to get a preview of what my comment will look like so I know if things are going to work?

  22. davidmhoffer says:

    richardscourney;
    Almost all the species which have existed on the Earth are extinct. And that was also true before the human race evolved.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    worth pointing out also that of the species that went extinct, the bulk of them did so because of global cooling…

  23. gringojay says:

    It is important to distinguish between basal thermo-tolerance and inducible thermo-tolerance which involves threshold temperature activation of heat shock response to deal with degradation of inside cell proteins. The same type of organism in different niches can have different numbers & different isoforms of heat shock protein(s).
    The endo-symbionts of that organism in it’s different niches can also modify their symbiotic processes in way that helps the host organism. Changing endo-symbionts & their own heat shock protein isoforms are integral to how fecund the host organism is when compared to same type of host organism whose endo-symbiont did not adapt to the niche conditions. Survival of the fittest endo-symbionts can show changes in very short time spans.

  24. Patrick Davis says:

    Similar rubbish from the Australian CSIRO, although apparently based on observations.

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/some-like-it-cold-as-sea-life-moves-south-20120817-24cct.html

  25. Rick Bradford says:

    Well, of course, Green/Leftists believe that nothing can prosper without government intervention, so the idea of tropical species being able to adapt to climate change is prima facie absurd
    /sarc

  26. Ric Werme says:

    striptubes says:
    August 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I note with some dismay that the line break html tag (br) doesn’t seem to be working even though WordPress says it should be. Is there any way to get a preview of what my comment will look like so I know if things are going to work?

    See the bottom of my Guide to WUWT, note the icon up on the righthand nav bar.

    See also the “Test” link on the top nav bar, you can try stuff out there.

    Finally, there’s a firefox extension that can help, see the links on the test page to GreaseMonkey and CA assistant. I tried them out, and didn’t like a couple things about them.

    Mods – The test page is stuck on bold at http://wattsupwiththat.com/test-2/#comment-994949 – please fix when you have a chance. I wish WP would fix that bug.

  27. H.R. says:

    Steve C says:
    August 16, 2012 at 11:58 am
    “Should the insects appear to be adapting too well, and thinking of those grains of salt, there’s always this.”

    I followed your link, Steve C, and I find that the downside is one would be charged immediately with a-salt. OTOH, if the specs are accurate, one could never be charged with battery.

  28. Brian H says:

    Arg, the brain-pain.
    “…stable … with narrow temperature ranges…” tropics require fast adaptation to climate change? Which will affect the tropics almost not at all? Someone please ‘splain why this isn’t jaw-droppin’ stoopid, pliz?

  29. ferdberple says:

    “The tropics are home to the greatest biodiversity on earth, so it imperative that the risk of extinction caused by climate change is understood”
    ==============
    From this “scientists” conclude that warming is bad. If warming is bad, then why is the “greatest biodiversity on earth” in the warmest region of the earth?

    Surely if warming is bad, then the greatest biodiversity should occur at the poles.

  30. Mike M says:

    The whole issue appears moot because there is no evidence of anything but natural variability in the tropics. I think that so because that is where the greatest amount of negative feedback from water vapor occurs. Simply knowing how much higher tropical thunderstorms reach in altitude and how more frequently they form for every degree increase might be enough of a basis alone to assert that continued spending to examine tropical species vulnerability to global warming is nothing more than a waste of money.

    Wow, there’s been a whopping ~0.2 degree warming in the last 30 years, all those critters are gonna die!

    http://www.climate4you.com/images/NOAA%20SST-Tropics%20GlobalMonthlyTempSince1979%20With37monthRunningAverage.gif

    What if the moon fell to earth? Oh my! Let’s fund a study for that possibility…

  31. Steve C says:

    H.R. – Glad you got a chuckle out of it, as I did from your comment. I dunno how much longer I can hold out without one …

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