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Some mammals may shrink in size when global warming takes hold


Scientists have suggested a possible relation between global warming and size of mammals through a study that found the increase in temperatures on Earth may have caused some mammals to shrink in size in the past.

A team of scientists led by University of New Hampshire researchers predict that mammals may start shrinking if the effect of global warming continues and we do not take steps to curbed it in the near future. Scientists based their findings on through fossil evidence that indicate that such shrinkage has occurred in the mammals 50 million years ago because of the shift in climatic conditions.

Palaeontologists found fossils from the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming of one of the species of horse and rabbit. On analysing the fossils [teeth], scientists found that during the greatest warming event in the history of earth known as Paleocene – Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), mammals underwent around 14 per cent shrinkage.

The study, which is published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that one of the reasons behind the animal dwarfing is the extreme heating up of earth leading to drought-like condition that subsequently causes starvation and other effects. These conditions cause difficulty for some species as they can’t carry out hunting and other life-essential activities resulting into their stunted growth. Nutrient availability and the degradation in plant quality are few other reasons which might have caused the shrinkage in mammals’ size.

Scientist Abigail D’Ambrosia who led this study, has warned about the similar scenario to be re-created in near future if the global warming is not appropriately dealt with. However this effect is unlikely to be seen in humans.

Ambrosia also says that dwarfing of mammals is not something that has been an absolute unprecedented occurrence. It is a part of their evolution response pertaining to nature conditions, but its extent depends on the scale of the weather extremity and suitability to that particular mammal. Unfortunately as the planets is getting warmer due to the immense growing effect of greenhouse gases, scientists fear that the shrinkage may occur in the mammals again.