Thursday, 13 February 2020

Small marsupials in Australia may struggle to adjust to a warming climate

FEBRUARY 12, 2020
Numerous questions remain unanswered as to how the planet's species will respond to climate change. A new paper in the journal Frontiers in Physiology suggests that at least one species of marsupial "mice" may struggle to adapt to a warming world.
The study found that changes in ambient temperatures experienced during the development and growth of yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) can influence their behavioral and physiological traits.
"This has important implications in terms of how this species will respond to changes in the climate," said lead author Dr. Clare Stawski, associate professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. "Individuals raised in warm conditions appear to have less phenotypic flexibility, suggesting that they may not be able to respond effectively to prolonged increases in temperature."
Phenotypic flexibility refers to the ability of an organism to adjust to a new type of environmental stress. In this case, Stawski and colleague Dr. Fritz Geiser, a professor at the University of New England in Australia, wanted to see how antechinus might respond to temperature swings for varying time periods.
The experiment involved 19 juvenile antechinus, which were split into two groups and subjected to different temperature regimes ranging from 16.7 degrees Celsius to 24.7 degrees Celsius. Infrared sensors attached to individual cage lids measured their activity and custom-made data loggers recorded their behavior.
Once the miniature marsupials reached adult age, the scientists measured metabolic rates, body mass and other physiological parameters across another set of experiments. These included putting them into temperature-controlled chambers where they experienced further variations in temperatures.

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