Cool species can take the heat

May 17, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two scientists from Simon Fraser University and one from Deakin University (DU) in Australia have made a discovery that is overturning conventional wisdom about how land and marine animals react to heat.

SFU  Nick Dulvy and Jennifer Sunday, and DU environmental scientist Amanda Bates have discovered that all land-dwelling cope with extreme heat similarly, regardless of how far they live from the equator.

The puzzling finding contradicts popular belief that animals living in cooler climates, such as British Columbian frogs, are less heat tolerant than their relatives in the tropics.

The scientists have published a paper on their findings, Global analysis of thermal tolerance and latitude in ectotherms, in the latest online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B.

The scientific trio compared the heat tolerance of more than 300 species of lizards, frogs, insects, spiders, bivalves, crustaceans and fish worldwide from the Antarctic to Alaska. The study is the most comprehensive analysis of the geographical distribution of life forms’ thermal limits ever compiled.

“We are surprised that cold-blooded animals living at the highest latitudes have the same heat tolerance as those living in the tropics,” says Sunday, a biology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

The team stumbled upon its discoveries, not by working with the animals themselves, but by gathering up previously published studies.  “All the information was out there in libraries, we just needed to mine out the data to make this discovery,” says Bates.

“The consistency in heat tolerance from the tropics to the poles across so many animal groups suggests a common mechanism is at play,” says Dulvy, associate professor of biology.

The scientists believe there are two possible explanations for their findings. “Either heat tolerance is a historical legacy and there is little cost to retaining this trait,” says Sunday. “Or animals face equally high temperatures on the hottest day of the year, from Costa Rica to British Columbia.”

Dulvy stresses, “We need to understand which one of these mechanisms is controlling species’ distributions to better predict their response to global climate warming.”

Sunday’s findings in another study drive home the importance of getting an accurate handle on how all life forms respond to global warming. In a paper that she recently presented at a marine conservation meeting, Sunday concludes B.C. sea urchins appear to be evolving their way out of problems associated with oceans’ rising acidic levels. Global warming is believed to be causing the increase.

Explore further: Invasive vines swallow up New York's natural areas

Provided by Simon Fraser University

3.7 /5 (3 votes)

Related Stories

Anti-HIV vaginal gel promising protection in Africa, SE asia

Apr 20, 2011

A new vaginal microbicide gel and drug formulation looks promising for empowering women in developing countries to protect themselves from HIV during intercourse, without having to inform their partners, according to research ...

Vitamin D levels, prostate cancer not linked

Feb 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a detailed review, funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists looked at all the available evidence and found there was no link between the amount of vitamin D in men’s blood and the ...

Gene that suppresses cell's immune activation identified

Mar 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study of prostate tumors has shown that a gene, FOXO3, suppresses activation of cells related to immunity and thus leads to a reduced immune response against a growing cancer. One of the main ...

Immune function boosted by life in the wild

Dec 06, 2010

Life in a demanding environment with limited resources might be better for the immune system than living in comfort, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

Why more species live in the Amazon rainforests

May 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- For more than two hundred years, the question of why there are more species in the tropics has been a biological enigma.  A particularly perplexing aspect is why so many species live ...

Recommended for you

Invasive vines swallow up New York's natural areas

17 hours ago

(Phys.org) —When Antonio DiTommaso, a Cornell weed ecologist, first spotted pale swallow-wort in 2001, he was puzzled by it. Soon he noticed many Cornell old-field edges were overrun with the weedy vines. ...

Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks

Apr 23, 2014

Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools, according to results published April 23, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gabriel Vianna from The University of Wes ...

Researchers detail newly discovered deer migration

Apr 23, 2014

A team of researchers including University of Wyoming scientists has documented the longest migration of mule deer ever recorded, the latest development in an initiative to understand and conserve ungulate ...

How Australia got the hump with one million feral camels

Apr 23, 2014

A new study by a University of Exeter researcher has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia's remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SteveL
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
What, no mammals? Pffft!

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...