Hexbyte Glen Cove Animals' ability to adapt their habitats key to survival amid climate change thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Animals’ ability to adapt their habitats key to survival amid climate change

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Michael Dillon (left), an associate professor in the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology, and Arthur Woods (right), a professor of biological sciences at the University of Montana, were part of a research group that examined animals’ ability to respond to climate change likely depends on how well they modify their habitats, such as nests and burrows. Here, Dillon bends over to examine a plant and measure microclimates at the UW-National Park Service Research Station in Grand Teton National Park. Credit: Sylvain Pincebourde

Birds build nests to keep eggs and baby nestlings warm during cool weather, but also make adjustments in nest insulation in such a way the little ones can keep cool in very hot conditions. Mammals, such as rabbits or groundhogs, sleep or hibernate in underground burrows that provide stable, moderate temperatures and avoid above-ground conditions that often are far more extreme outside the burrow.

Michael Dillon, an associate professor in the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology, was part of a research group that examined animals’ ability to respond to likely depends on how well they modify their habitats, such as nests and burrows.

So, how are these animals doing? Are they succeeding, struggling, or are their efforts a mixed bag in adapting their habitats to change?

“One of the key reasons that we wrote this paper is that we don’t know the answer to this very important question!,” Dillon says. “We hope the paper will encourage scientists to begin answering this question.”

Dillon is a co-author of a paper, titled “Extended Phenotypes: Buffers or Amplifiers of Climate Change?,” that was published June 16 in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. The journal publishes commissioned, peer-reviewed articles in all areas of ecology and evolutionary science.

The lead author of the paper is Arthur Woods, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Montana. Other contributors to the paper were from the University of Tours in Tours, France; and Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The study investigated extended phenotypes, which are modifications that organisms—birds, insects and mammals—make to their habitats.

“An extended phenotype can range from simply a hole in the ground occupied by an animal to leaves rolled into cavities by insects, to nests of all shapes and sizes built by birds and mammals, to and bee colonies,” Dillon says.

Extended phenotypes are important because they filter climate into local sets of conditions immediately around the organism. This is what biologists call the microclimate.

Because extended phenotypes are constructed structures, they often are modified in response to local climate variation and, potentially, in response to climate change. This process is called plasticity of the extended phenotype.

“One example might be a bird nest that is well insulated to protect eggs or young birds from cold. As climates warm, if the bird does not adjust insulation in the nest, it may, in fact, cause the young to overheat,” Dillon explains.

In another prime example, termites build mounds that capture wind and solar energy to drive airflow through the colony, which stabilizes temperature, relative humidity and oxygen levels experienced by the colony.

However, the idea of microclimates is broader than constructed habitats. Microclimates typically differ substantially from nearby climates, which means that the climate in an area may provide little information about what animals experience in their microhabitats.

As an analogy, although a weather station might tell the public that the temperature in Laramie is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, simply by moving from the south to the north side of a building, one can experience microclimates that are strikingly different and often not captured by the weather data, Dillon says.

The same is true of animals of many different sizes. For example, a moose can move from an open sagebrush landscape to a shaded river corridor to cool off; a snake can move from its underground hole to a sunny rock to warm up; and a tiny insect shuttling between the top and bottom of a leaf can experience temperature differences of more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

“So, animals use microclimates, both by simply moving but also by building structures, such as nests, burrows, mounds and mines,” Dillon says.

Across the globe, rising levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere are causing temperatures to rise and precipitation patterns to shift. For biologists, a key problem is to understand current effects of climate change on species, and to predict future effects, including how species’ ranges may shift and what the relative risks of extinction are for different animal species’ groups.

The research team favors a renewed effort to understand how extended phenotypes mediate how organisms experience climate change.

“We need a much better understanding of the basic biophysical principles by which extended phenotypes alter local conditions,” says Sylvain Pincebourde, an ecologist in the Insect Biology Research Institute at the University of Tours and one of the paper’s co-authors.

Another key challenge is to understand how much plasticity there is in extended , and how much and how rapidly they can evolve.

“At this point, we pretty much have no idea,” Dillon says. “Can structures that buffer temperature variability keep up with the pace of climate change?”



More information:
H. Arthur Woods et al, Extended phenotypes: buffers or amplifiers of climate change?, Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2021.05.010

Citation:
Animals’ ability to adapt their habitats key to survival amid climate change (2021, June 18)
retrieved 18 June 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-animals-ability-habitats-key-survival.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Animals laugh too, analysis of vocalization data suggests thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Animals laugh too, analysis of vocalization data suggests

Hexbyte Glen Cove

“This work lays out nicely how a phenomenon once thought to be particularly human turns out to be closely tied to behavior shared with species separated from humans by tens of millions of years,” said UCLA professor Greg Bryant. Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Human laughter is common, but it’s a somewhat mysterious part of our evolution. It’s clear to evolutionary scholars that we laugh as a part of play, signaling our cooperation or friendliness. But how did laughter evolve? And are humans the only ones who do it?

Not a chance: Animals laugh too, researchers have observed.

In a new article published in the journal Bioacoustics, primatologist and UCLA anthropology graduate student Sasha Winkler and UCLA professor of communication Greg Bryant take a closer look at the phenomenon of across the .

The pair combed through the existing on animal play , looking for mentions of vocal play signals—or what might be thought of as laughter.

They found such vocal play behavior documented in at least 65 species. That list includes a variety of primates, domestic cows and dogs, foxes, seals, and mongooses, as well as three , including parakeets and Australian magpies.

“This work lays out nicely how a phenomenon once thought to be particularly human turns out to be closely tied to behavior shared with species separated from humans by tens of millions of years,” Bryant said.

The researchers looked for information on whether the animal vocalizations were recorded as noisy or tonal, loud or quiet, high-pitched or low-pitched, short or long, a single call or a rhythmic pattern—seeking known features of play sounds.

There’s much existing documentation of play-based among , such as what is known as “play face” in primates or “play bows” in canines, the researchers noted.

Since what constitutes “play” in much of the animal kingdom is rough-and-tumble and can also resemble fighting, play sounds can help emphasize non-aggression during such physical moments, the article suggests.

“When we laugh, we are often providing information to others that we are having fun and also inviting others to join,” Winkler said. “Some scholars have suggested that this kind of vocal behavior is shared across many animals who play, and as such, laughter is our human version of an evolutionarily old vocal play signal.”

While Winkler and Bryant say that further observation and research into vocalizations would be fruitful, they also note that such observations can be hard to come by in the wild, especially for animals whose play sounds might be quieter.

Paying attention to other species in this way sheds light on the form and function of human laughter, the researchers write, and helps us to better understand the evolution of human social behavior.



More information:
Sasha L. Winkler et al. Play vocalizations and human laughter: a comparative review, Bioacoustics (2021). DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2021.1905065

Citation:
Animals laugh too, analysis of vocalization data suggests (2021, May 7)
retrieved 8 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-animals-analysis-vocalization.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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