Can animals stay cool?

Animals often cope with changing temperatures by moving to other places [10], as we discussed in a previous post. Alternatively, some animals cope by staying in the same place but behaving differently [1]. For example, lizards may spend more time under SHELTER to stay cool [1]. This can have disadvantages though – if a lizard spends longer in shelter, it may have less time for finding food [1]. Animals can often adjust to climate change, but at a cost to their overall success [1].

Another response to higher temperatures is changing BODY SIZE [8]. Smaller animals have a larger “surface area” compared to their internal volume [7]. This results in them losing heat more quickly [6]. Throughout the history of Earth, when the global climate has been warmer, many animals got smaller [5]. Some animals, such as mountain wagtail birds from South Africa, are already becoming a bit smaller due to climate change [8,9]! This is an evolutionary process – the smaller birds survive better & have more babies than larger individuals [8].

Humans (& all mammals & birds) can REGULATE their body temperature, independently of the environmental temperature – your body temperature is around 37°C, unless you have a fever [3]. In contrast, the body temperature of other animals, like sharks, reptiles, and insects, varies greatly depending on the environment [4]. Higher temperatures (caused by climate change) can be beneficial or detrimental for certain animals [2]. For example, sharks are expected to be able to SWIM FASTER as water warms, making them better able to catch prey [2], while sea mammals like dolphins can’t [2]. Sharks and dolphins compete for food, so in some areas dolphins will likely lose out to sharks as warming water benefits the sharks [2].

References

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