Our planet is having a tough period. The climate changes caused by the increase in temperature on Earth could have catastrophic consequences. However, according to a new study, there’s more chance that the mammals and birds would survive the possible massive animal extinction that is threatening due to those changes.
Researchers conducted an analysis on different species and analyzed more than 270 million years of data. The analysis suggests that mammals and birds have more odds of surviving as warm-blooded animals, compared to their cold-blooded peers, including reptiles and amphibians. Scientists published their findings of their study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
“We see that mammals and birds are better able to stretch out and extend their habitats,” lead author Jonathan Rolland, a researcher at the University of British Columbia said in a press release. “This could have a deep impact on extinction rates and what our world looks like in the future.”
About 66 million years ago, a huge space rock collided with Earth. The crash led to debris being thrown into Earth’s atmosphere which led to a massive lowering of the planet’s temperature for decades. That shock wiped out the world’s dinosaurs, whether it was T-Rex or Triceratops.
Nevertheless, warm-blooded animals on the land survived. Now that our planet is dealing with global warming, many animal species are jeopardized and could cease to exist. It’s threatening to cause another mass extinction event, which will be the first since the dinosaurs were extinct and sixth in the last half-billion years on our planet.
Researchers looked at the fossil records and genetic data, which helped them reconstruct the locations where animals lived over the past 270 million years. They also checked the temperature ranges under which those animals could live.
When the Earth gradually cooled down about 40 million years ago, mammals and birds managed to adapt to new life conditions by moving into new habitats. However, cold-blooded animals couldn’t.
“This might explain why we see so few reptiles and amphibians in the Antarctic or even in temperate climates,” Rolland said.
He added that those creatures can also evolve when pressed by the environment, although it takes more time. Endotherms, animals which can regulate their own body temperature, are able to provide warmth for their embryos and offspring, which means higher survival chances.
“We see that mammals and birds are better able to stretch out and extend their habitats, meaning they adapt and shift much easier,” said Rolland. “It’s possible that they will eventually adapt and could move into these regions but it takes longer for them to change.”
Mammals and birds are capable of migrating or hibernating much easier compared to cold-blooded ectotherms because the ectotherm’s body temperature depends on the temperature of the environment.
“These strategies help them adapt to cold weather but we rarely see them in the ectotherms or cold-blooded animals,” he said.