Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
In the New York Times, there’s an article on some research that suggest a slight shrinkage of plants and animals with warming. In the “you can’t make this up” department, here’s the illustration:
The idea that creatures shrink in warmer climates seems at odds with the giant dragonflies and the dinosaurs and the like that lived when it was somewhat warmer than now. But that’s not the reason I brought this up. The beauty is in the press release.
First, the lead researcher is quoted as saying:
They cautioned that it was too early to make detailed predictions. “Things start falling apart as we try to make generalizations and impose more levels and hierarchies into our hypotheses,” Dr. Bickford said.
OK, that seems sound. Then the hyperventilating begins:
If all animals were to engage in coordinated shrinking it might not be so bad, the researchers speculate. But if, say, mice are shrinking faster than snakes, the snakes may not be able to capture enough of the mice to meet their energy requirements.
So we’re already off on the ship of speculation, miniature mice and “uncoordinated shrinking”. Reuters picks up the story, with Bickford again quoted:
“We have not seen large-scale effects yet, but as temperatures change even more, these changes in body size might become much more pronounced – even having impacts for food security.”
One supposes that they thought that wasn’t scary enough. Here’s the real capper:
“Impacts could range from food resources becoming more limited (less food produced on the same amount of land) to wholesale biodiversity loss and eventual catastrophic cascades of ecosystem services.”
So it’s too early to make detailed predictions, they’ve never seen this in nature, only in the lab … but they are willing to predict the changes might impact food security, make snakes chase smaller mice, limit food resources, cause wholesale biodiversity loss, and at the end of the day, they break out the big guns, it might end up in, wait for it, catastrophic loss of entire ecosystems …
But it’s too early to make predictions.
This reminds me of a headline I once saw in the “National Enquirer”, an American tabloid newspaper. The big print said
Two Headed Boy Found In Jungle!
Not satisfied with the impact of that, they had added a smaller sub-headline that said
Raised By Wolves Until 14!
But that still didn’t have the punch they wanted, so a sub-sub-head was added that said
Mother Teresa Rushes To Investigate!
These kinds of claims, that it’s too soon to tell but it might cause total ecosystems to crash, should be called “Enquirer Science.” Here’s my submission for the first headline:
Two Sizes Of Frogs Found In Jungle!
Clear Signal of Future Ecosystem Collapse!
Well-Funded Scientist Rushes To Investigate!
[UPDATE] A reader pointed to the Daily Telegraph, which has this:
Animals ‘shrinking’ due to climate change
Polar bears are shrinking because of the impact of climate change on their natural habitats, along with many other animals and plants, researchers say.
I must confess, I find the idea of leetle teeny polar bears quite appealing …