Climate change is affecting a lot of animal life on earth, and is also linked to a decrease in the population of some species.
But when it comes to adaptation, wild salamanders are something else! It has been found that wild salamanders in North America are actually ‘shrinking’ in size in response to their surroundings getting warmer and drier.
“One of the stresses that warmer climates will impose on many organisms is warmer body temperatures,” Michael W. Sears, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained. “These warmer body temperatures cause animals to burn more energy while performing their normal activities. All else being equal, this means that there is less energy for growth.”
The researchers examined museum specimens of these wild salamanders to understand how changing weather and warmer temperatures influence their biology. They then compared them to the wild salamanders found between 2011-2012 and compared their ‘sizes.’
Using a computer model, they also attempted to gain insight into the daily activities of these salamanders, and noted how climate change affected them.
The results revealed that these wild salamanders were indeed getting smaller in size, and using the computer model, the scientists were able to find out ‘why.’
“Ectothermic organisms, such as salamanders, cannot produce their own body heat,” Sears explained. “Their metabolism speeds up as temperatures rise, causing a salamander to burn seven to eight percent more energy in order to maintain the same activity as their forebears.”
In short, these salamanders got smaller because they have to devote more calories to metabolize rather than to grow in size.
The researchers will now attempt to take their study to the next level and find out why the population of wild salamanders is on a decline.