ibusinesslines.com March 24, 2017

Global warming could make us shorter

20 March 2017, 03:06 | Justin Tyler

Mammal Dwarfing: Animals May Shrink As Earth Heats Up

An Arenahippus tooth specimen from a time period midway through the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 and an Arenahippus tooth specimen that originated outside the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2

"Dwarfing appears to be a common evolutionary response of some mammals during past global warming events, and the extent of dwarfing seems related to the magnitude of the event", D'Ambrosia explained in a report from Telegraph.

During our current warming, temperatures may not rise as much as they did 56 million to 54 million years ago.

In this study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers collected jaw and teeth pieces in the Bighorn Basin region of Wyoming in the USA, which is very rich in its fossil presence.

According to Abigail D'Ambrosia, a doctoral student at the University of New Hampshire in the U.S. and the lead author of the study, "Some 50 million years back, when our mother planet - Earth went through multiple extreme global warming events, youth mammals failed to withstand the effects and started shrinking in size". "The hope is that it would help us learn more about the possible effects of today's global warming". This included Arenahippus pernix, which was an early ancestor of modern horses, and Diacodexis metsiacus - a rabbit-sized ancestor of pigs and deer.

During the study, the experts analysed the size of the fossilised molar teeth as a substitute for body size and found that the significant decrement of the body size of these mammals took place throughout a second, minor, hyperthermal, which is dubbed as ETM2.

"We found evidence of mammalian dwarfism during this second hyperthermal". During the ETM2 - which was shorter and less extreme than PETM - the two species shrunk by roughly 14 and 15 percent, respectively. D'Ambrosia described it from being the size of a dog to the size of a cat.

Coauthor Philip Gingerich, a paleontologist at the University of MI, and his students collected some of the fossils analyzed in the study. The fossils used in the study are from the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology. In fact, the man-induced warming could cause the animals to change size even faster than natural environmental changes did.

The researchers believe that the body change could have been an evolutionary response to create a more efficient way to reduce body heat. The availability of nutrients and the quality in plants may also have played a role in decreasing the body heat. That could have limited nutrient quality in plants, which may have contributed to the smaller mammal body size.

She added, "Drought conditions have been known to lead to smaller offspring". After both hyperthermal events, body sizes of all mammals rebounded.

Global warming can trigger global shrinkage among mammal species, research shows. At least twice before in Earth’s history, when carbon dioxide levels soared and temperatures spiked, mammals shriveled in a bit in size, including our earliest primate ancestor, according to a new study based on fossil teeth found in Wyoming.

William Clyde of the University of New Hampshire, Henry Fricke of Colorado College, and Hemmo Abels of Delft University of Technology, Netherlands are coauthors of the study.

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