Global warming could cause animals to shrink in physical size, shows research.
The way in which global warming causes many of the world's organisms to shrink has been revealed by new research from Queen Mary, University of London.
Almost all cold-blooded organisms are affected by a phenomenon known as the 'temperature-size rule', which describes how individuals of the same species reach a smaller adult size when reared at warmer temperatures.
Now, researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have discovered how and why that occurs.
They say that the species' growth rate (how fast mass is accumulated) and development rate (how fast an individual passes through its life stages) are consistently decoupled in a range of species, with development being more sensitive to temperature than growth.
"We've shown that growth and development increase at different rates as temperatures warm. The consequences are that at warmer temperatures a species grows faster but matures even faster still, resulting in them achieving a smaller adult size," researcher Andrew Hirst said.
Researchers say that their findings suggest that rates fundamental to all organisms (such as mortality, reproduction and feeding), may not change in synch with one another in a warming world.
The study has been published in the journal The American Naturalist.