According to a recently released study, a tremendous increase in carbon over 50 million years ago caused the planet to warm by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of the temperature rise, some animals survived by shrinking in size, sometimes by as much as 50 percent. About a third of the existing mammals at the time reacted to the hotter temperatures by shrinking.
Researchers say during the hotter period there were horses the size of pet cats. Other species such as beetles, bees, spiders, algae, gophers, woodrats and some birds were also smaller. That such animal shrinkage happened on a large scale all those millions of years ago points to the potential for it to happen again, as the planet once again undergoes an increase in surface temperatures.
“This has implications, potentially, for what we might expect to see over the next century or two, at least with some of the climate models that are predicting that we will see warming of as much as four degrees centigrade over the next 100 years,” said researcher Ross Secord of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Source: Calgary Herald)
One explanation for animal shrinkage during hotter periods, is the increase in metabolic rate for cold-blooded animals which means they either have to consume more food or shrink in size. Warm-blooded animals do well in colder climates because a larger body size helps conserve energy, but in warmer temperatures they can experience size reductions. It has already been documented some polar bears are shrinking.
The current climate change situation is happening much faster than the temperature increase over 50 million years ago, which could cause extinctions because the animals don’t have enough time to adapt.
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