Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Shrinking goats' another indicator that climate change affects animal size

22.10.2014

Alpine goats appear to be shrinking in size as they react to changes in climate, according to new research from Durham University.

The researchers studied the impacts of changes in temperature on the body size of Alpine Chamois, a species of mountain goat, over the past 30 years.


This is a juvenile Alpine Chamois in the Italian Alps.

Credit: Tom Mason

To their surprise, they discovered that young Chamois now weigh about 25 per cent less than animals of the same age in the 1980s.

In recent years, decreases in body size have been identified in a variety of animal species, and have frequently been linked to the changing climate.

However, the researchers say the decline in size of Chamois observed in this study is striking in its speed and magnitude.

The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council is published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

Lead author Dr Tom Mason, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University, said: "Body size declines attributed to climate change are widespread in the animal kingdom, with many fish, bird and mammal species getting smaller.

"However the decreases we observe here are astonishing. The impacts on Chamois weight could pose real problems for the survival of these populations."

The team delved into long-term records of Chamois body weights provided by hunters in the Italian Alps.

They discovered that the declines were strongly linked to the warming climate in the study region, which became 3-4oC warmer during the 30 years of the study.

To date, most studies have found that animals are getting smaller because the changing climate is reducing the availability or nutritional content of their food.

However, this study found no evidence that the productivity of Alpine meadows grazed by Chamois had been affected by the warming climate. Instead, the team believes that higher temperatures are affecting how chamois behave.

Co-author Dr Stephen Willis, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University, said: "We know that Chamois cope with hot periods by resting more and spending less time searching for food, and this may be restricting their size more than the quality of the vegetation they eat.

"If climate change results in similar behavioural and body mass changes in domestic livestock, this could have impacts on agricultural productivity in coming decades."

According to the authors, the future plight of the Chamois remains unclear.

Dr Philip Stephens, another co-author on the study, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University, said: "The body mass of juvenile animals is critical to their ability to survive harsh winters.

"However, whether that becomes a problem will depend on the balance of future climate change between the seasons."

The research suggests that declining body size is a result of changes in both climate and the density of animals.

To counter declining body size in future, the researchers say it might be necessary to maintain Chamois populations at lower densities than occur at present, perhaps through changes in hunting regulations.

Dr Mason added: "This study shows the striking, unforeseen impacts that climate change can have on animal populations.

"It is vital that we continue to study how climate change affects species such as Chamois. Changes in body size could act as early-warning systems for worse impacts to come, such as the collapses of populations."

Leighton Kitson | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.durham.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>