Climate Change May Cause Major Problems for Cold-Blooded Animals

First Posted: Jan 20, 2016 06:25 PM EST

Climate change will impact animals across the world, but what will happen to cold-blooded creatures like lizards and fish? Scientists have taken a closer look at these animals to see how rising temperatures might affect them.

While researchers have done a good job at saying that climate change will have an impact on cold-blooded animals, or ectotherms, they haven't done as much investigation when it comes to how they will be affected. In this latest study, the researchers took a closer look at these animals to find out what these effects may be.

"While preferred body temperature is a good index of what most behaviors are affected by temperature, it is not a good representation of the biology of the animals because they are actually active cooler and warmer than their preferred temperature," said Manuel Leal, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In this latest study, the researchers proposed a conceptual framework in which four components of temperature-dependent activity were integrated to predict activity windows at the scale at which organisms experience and respond to ambient temperature.

More specifically, the researchers applied their framework to investigate the consequences of climate warming on Anolis cristatellus, a tree-dwelling lizard in Puerto Rico. This reveals that behaviors such as eating and mating are extremely sensitive to thermal change.

"For example, our analyses show that the physiological performance of A. cristatellus in dry habitats will decrease by about 25 percent under future warming, but that their activity budgets will decrease by 50 percent," said Leal. "Furthermore, the habitat will become much less suitable for reproductive behaviors, which are of course critically important for populations to avoid extinction."

The findings are published in the journal Ecology Letters.

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