Year 4, Month 8, Day 21: Bow To Your Arthropod Overlords, Apeling!

Looks like the Clever Apes should start tuning up to join the Great Hum. The Arizona Star:

Vertebrates would have to evolve 10,000 times faster than they ever have to keep up with the pace of change predicted for their climatic niches in the next century, says a University of Arizona researcher.

“If where they live now is going to be outside their climatic niche, they either have to move or acclimate to it,” said John Wiens, UA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Acclimating can be a tricky thing, Wiens said.

Some lizard and tortoise species in warming climates have been known to limit their outdoor exposure when their particular niche warms up, he said. That lessens the physiological impact of heat, but also deprives them of time for food gathering and reproducing, he said.

Wiens and co-author Ignacio Quintero, an ecologist at Yale University, examined and compared the evolutionary paths of more than 500 species, from weasels to frogs to crocodiles, to arrive at their conclusions about what would be needed to survive a predicted rise of 4 degrees Centigrade in average temperatures by the end of the century.

They found that evolution can’t keep pace with the rapid change in climate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – not by a long shot.

Short but bitter. July 29:

Much of Earthly life will indeed be left behind in the process of evolutionary adaptation to climate change. When environmental transformations unfold over long stretches of time, evolution has a chance to do its work through the slow processes of natural selection — essential for big animals with reproductive cycles covering many years.

Human civilization’s last century introduced millions of years’ worth of previously fossilized carbon into the atmosphere in a geological eyeblink, triggering potentially catastrophic transformations that are going to happen far faster than the capacity of many species to adapt. Creatures like elephants, gorillas, moose, camels, bears, and human beings can’t reproduce rapidly enough to keep up with a climate gone mad.

Of course, Earth has many lifeforms with very rapid generational cycles, and they’ll be doing just fine in the years to come. We should probably start treating flies and cockroaches with a little more respect.

Warren Senders

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