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Bodies (and beaks) of red knot shorebirds are shrinking—likely due to global warming

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posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:16 PM
A new study (from Science) of the red knot shorebird looked at the entire annual migration pattern of the species to find out why their numbers were shrinking, why they were getting smaller as a species, and why their *beaks* were also shrinking, why they are evolving so quickly.

Historically, their departure to tropical beaches and their arrival back to the Arctic after the cold relents were perfectly timed, when plenty of food was available in both areas.

But . . . [w]arming has caused Arctic snow to retreat earlier, causing insect populations that peak as the snow melts to rise and fall before chicks can eat as many as they need to grow and power the grueling flights to come.

These young birds gorge themselves on insects to prepare them for their migration. Unfortunately, the snow melt occurs earlier and earlier, and they are unable to get the necessary nutrition.

As a result, red knots are physically shrinking. And because the smaller birds are weaker, they’re dying off and causing the population to shrink as well.

And this evolution of their bodies has happened fast:

The shrinkage is a fairly rapid evolution that happened over the past three decades. “Analysis of satellite images has shown that over the past 33 years, snow at the red knot’s breeding grounds has progressively melted earlier, at a rate of half a day per year, so that’s now more than two weeks,”

Interesting that they've noticed that this shrinkage has happened over the last three decades. Now, it's common sense that less nutrition and food will result in smaller sizes. This is, I think, correctable over the course of a generation or a few, but:

This non-genetic change in size due to a lack of nutrition could lead to genetic effects later, van Gils said. “For example, the smaller birds will lay smaller eggs themselves. Imagine that the chicks hatching from those eggs grow up under ideal circumstances. They [could] become bigger than their parents, but they will still be smaller than they should be because they started small. So there is some generation-to-generation effect in there as well.”

Since this has been happening for three decades, the generational effects seem to be clear.

The earth changes all the time, and always will, but it seems there are more observable changes due to a warming planet.

And here, we are seeing a bird population that is dwindling because elements necessary to their prosperity are being affected. Part of it is lack of food due to warming, but there are other issues, such as overfishing, and their inability to get the necessary food at other places during the migration *because* of limitations due to their physical changes. Whether they can recover or not is what is important, especially considering how quickly this is happening-and how fast their numbers have fallen:

According to estimates calculated at the turn of the century, red knot numbers have fallen by nearly 60,000, and “the threat of extinction is more than real”

Thought people might be interested in this.


edit on 12-5-2016 by Liquesence because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:19 PM
This is an example of the environment altering the makeup of an animal's body. Evolution anyone? This is first hand evidence of evolution in action.

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:27 PM
Environmental changes trigger adaption like this. It is a natural process.

This is one of the things I never understand about warmists, they claim to be all-in for science, but they are basically proposing to stop the climate and keep it in some kind of stasis. At least, I've never heard them try to tell us what is, in fact, natural change and what might be man-made. It seems to me that they scream that ALL of the warming is man-made and it all must stop, but since we all know climate changes, and there is good evidence for this (where i now sit used to be covered under a mile of ice sheet - that alone argues for warming), what exactly is the division between natural and unnatural and why does no one address this?

And if we do put the climate in stasis, what does that mean for natural evolutionary and adaption processes? They will stagnate and what impact will that have on the world long-term? Species adapt, evolve and nature prunes the weak. It's what is supposed to happen. It does mean species go extinct, but as one of the characters in Mass Effect said, "You humans, you want to save everyone ..."

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:38 PM
a reply to: ketsuko

Yes, environmental changes trigger adaptation. And yes the earth always changes and always has (I said as much in my OP).

As far as everything else, this thread is NOT about whether it's man-made or not, nor is it about climate change deniers or, as you want to call them, "warmists."

This thread is about a real change that is really occurring, with real observable effects, and part of that change is because the environment IS warming (whether it is man made or not is irrelevant here).

ETA: But we SHOULD strive to be better stewards of our earth.
edit on 12-5-2016 by Liquesence because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:39 PM
a reply to: ketsuko

Climate change is only a small part of it, it is also environmental change and that is much worse than climate change in my opinion.

The cities we have built suffocate the world and wildlife around them, the machines we use pollute the air, the trash we throw out litters the ground, the wood we use destroys forests across the world and also many animals in the process. We destroy entire ecosystems because we are selfish and self-centered.

Humans are a cancer at this point, and cancer kills the body it inhabits. We are killing our world whether manmade climate change is real or not.

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 05:49 PM
a reply to: 3NL1GHT3N3D1

Now I will not argue that in many ways we need to treat the environment around us better. However, I would point out that wildlife in this area is adapting quite well to urban living. I see deer, raccoons, opossums, woodchuck, skunks, wild turkeys, foxes, coyotes, hawks and other large raptors (bald eagles regularly winter along the river), I hear owls at night and see all kinds of song birds. We have snakes living in our yard. I save I don't know how many turtles off the roads every spring.

I think maybe cities like Chicago and New York are ones that feel like they've been denuded of wildlife, but where the city is more spread out, animals can and do live right alongside us. Granted, it is dangerous to live with so many roads, but I rarely see certain critters on the side, so they must learn about roads as part of their growing up.

Sometimes, I think part of the perception of ourselves as so poisonous is fostered by living too much in urban environments where we forget just exactly how much countryside there really is.

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 06:00 PM
a reply to: ketsuko

Cancer grows and only gets worse, we have only recently (relatively speaking) started building these mega cities that span miles and miles of land, we have only recently started building highways that suffocate the ground beneath them and using machines that pollute the air.

The industrial revolution wasn't very long ago and it has already done massive damage to our ecosystem for the short time it has been here. Imagine what it will be like in a hundred or so years as building techniques get more and more sophisticated and faster and faster every year. I'm willing to bet that it won't be too much longer before not much countryside will be left and the cancer will be spread even further throughout the body.

This type of living is unsustainable and will bite us in the ass sooner rather than later.

ETA: I just realized I've steered off-topic a bit. My apologies to the OP.
edit on 5/12/2016 by 3NL1GHT3N3D1 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 06:35 PM
a reply to: 3NL1GHT3N3D1

Humans are not a cancer, cancer can be eliminated or it's fatal.

Nature however ALWAYS find a way to carry on despite all we do

Funny, despite the radiation, life is thriving in the dead zone

So you see, if we're a cancer it is only to ourselves because when we've destroyed ourselves, the world will be here and nature will find a way to carry on.

However nature in itself is a cruel world

You should actually look beyond the beauty of nature and look into the mechanics of nature to realise just how brutal and cold nature actually is

Nature is chaotic, nothing at all to do with balance

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 06:45 PM
If we can alter the planet, I vote we change our Earth to resemble Salusa Secundus.

Very interesting article, these birds will either adapt and thrive or die out a leave room for some other species to take its' place.

Also, the article may or may not be accurate. There are other environmental factors to take into account, is there food chain disrupted by some pesticide or accumulation of some other foreign chemical entering the food chain? It may be due to warming, but then again it may not be; live tends to thrive in warmer climates.

posted on May, 12 2016 @ 06:54 PM
a reply to: GodEmperor

According to the article there are other factors, melting ice being the first factor.

Earlier ice melt=less food for the birds when they hatch, which means smaller, weaker birds. Smaller weaker birds (with smaller beaks) aren't able to get the necessary food at the next point in migration (if they make it) because A) their beaks are too small to get the food they usually do and B) food sources have diminished because of overfishing, etc.

The article sounds pretty accurate, but makes some interesting correlations, but it also shows a variety of (interconnected) reasons, the initial one being: ice melt.

It's a chain of events. :/


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