Monday, September 22, 2014

Wolves to Help Scientists Predict Climate Effects on Various Species


By studying the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, a group of researchers are developing a new model for understanding how both ecological and evolutionary traits of an animal population change as the environment does.

The researchers recorded and studied data from Yellowstone for more than 15 years, including the body size, coat color, and population to see how animals react to climate change, both in terms of behavior – such as the age they first reproduce – and genetics – such as whether it has black or grey coat.

"We know that climate change is having an impact on the lives of animal species around the world. This is clear through the changes we've seen in their population sizes, as well as their body sizes, but what has not been so clear is what underlies these changes. This work provides a relatively easy way for biologists to investigate how, and why, environmental change impacts both the ecology and near term evolutionary future of species," said researcher Tim Coulson, of Imperial College London.

The results from the study, published in the journal Science, could eventually help scientists discover which animals, species ranging from mosquitoes to crocodiles, are more resilient to climate change – and which would be at most immediate risk of extinction. This is important data and can be used to set conservation policy.

Read more from Imperial College London News.

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