Magazine article USA TODAY

Evolution Not Keeping Up with Climate Change

Magazine article USA TODAY

Evolution Not Keeping Up with Climate Change

Article excerpt

Many vertebrate species would have to evolve about 10,000 times faster than they have in the past to adapt to the rapid climate change expected in the next 100 years, contends a study by an ecologist at the University of Arizona. Tucson.

Scientists analyzed how quickly species adapted to different climates n the past, using data from 540 living species from all major groups of terrestrial vertebrates including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They then compared their rates of evolution to rates of global warming projected for the end of this century. This is the first study to compare past rates of adaptation to future rates of climate change.

The results show that terrestrial vertebrate species appear to evolve too slowly to be able to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. The researchers suggest that many species may face extinction if they are unable to move or acclimate. "Every specie has a climatic niche, which is the set of temperature and precipitation conditions in the area where they live and where they can survive," explains John J. Wiens, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

"We found that, on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of about 1[degrees]C per 1 000,000 years but, if global temperatures are going to rise by about four degrees over the next 100 years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. …

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