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Short Lived Birds May Outpace Climate Change

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posted on Jul, 21 2013 @ 04:47 PM
I didn't use the title to be more accurate to what the study actually shows.

A new study has shed light on the potential of birds to survive in the face of climate change. In the analysis, based on more than fifty years' detailed study of a population of great tits near Oxford, UK, a team of scientists were able to make predictions about how the birds could cope with a changing climate in the future. They found that for small, short-lived birds like the great tit, evolution can work fast enough for genetic adaptation to keep pace with a changing environment. However, even for such fast-evolving species, evolution on its own is not enough.

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According to the study the great tit, has adapted it's egg laying by about 2 weeks, laying them earlier in spring than 50 years ago in accordance to their primary spring source of food, caterpillars.

By studying individual birds over multiple years, the team were able to show that individual birds have a built-in flexibility that enables them to adjust their behaviour rapidly in response to short-term changes in the environment. This flexibility—known as phenotypic plasticity—greatly increases the chances that a population can survive in spite of short-term changes, but that possibility depends on how closely they can track the key aspects of their environment, such as the availability of food. As species become longer-lived, and thus slower to reproduce, evolutionary adaptation is far slower and can't on its own save such species from climate change-induced extinction.

I wonder how many other short-lived species have this rapid phenotypic plasticity as I think it will play a part in determining how the natural world will look in 100 years or so. The sadder question is how many don't, will other factors increase their chances of survival or this flexibility going to be the determining factor?

edit on 21-7-2013 by Kali74 because: (no reason given)

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