New study probes impact of climate change on ectotherms

Dec 12, 2012

A new study by biologists at Mercyhurst University focuses on the influence of climate change, particularly warmer winters, on the survival and potential fecundity of cold-blooded animals.

, or ectotherms, do not have an internal mechanism for regulating body temperature. Instead, they rely on solar energy captured by the environment.

The purpose of the Mercyhurst study, a collaboration of Michael Elnitsky, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology; and students Drew Spacht and Seth Pezar, is to assess the current and future on the overwintering energetics and microenvironmental conditions of the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis). Larvae of the goldenrod gall fly have long served as model organisms for studying the strategies used by freeze-tolerant animals for winter survival.

"We used historical temperature data to estimate the overwintering (November through March) energy use of larval gall flies," Elnitsky said. "Based upon the relationship between metabolic rate and temperature, the estimated energy utilization during winter has increased by more than 30 percent over the last 50 years."

Further, with continued climate change, each additional 1 degree C rise in temperature during winter is projected to increase energy use by 12 percent. The consequence of this is that the amount of energy remaining at winter's end directly determines how many offspring the goldenrod gall fly can produce.

"Unlike some other insects that are benefitting from a , goldenrod gall fly populations would be predicted to decline," Elnitsky said.

The research team has begun similar assessments of the impacts of a changing for other , such as (Ixodes scapularis) that transmit bacteria and the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an invasive insect destroying hemlock forests throughout the eastern U.S.

The Mercyhurst group presented their research at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in Knoxville, Tenn., last month. Spacht of Erie and Pezar of Madison, Ohio, were awarded the President's Prize in the Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology section for their poster presentation. The President's Prize is the award given to the top undergraduate presentation in each section at the conference, which was attended by more than 4,000 scholars.

Explore further: 'No take zones' in English Channel would benefit marine wildlife and the fishing industry

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What should goldenrod do to avoid an insect attack? Duck

Mar 08, 2010

A field of golden-flowered stems swaying in an autumn breeze may evoke a peaceful scene. But this tranquility belies serious battles between natural enemies that took place in the spring. In particular, young ...

UQ students name and describe insect species

Nov 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Third-year Biological Sciences students at The University of Queensland have applied their knowledge from the classroom to name and describe a species of gall insect; Apiomorpha nookara.

Winter diets? The secret is to chill the extremities

Dec 16, 2011

It is well known that large mammals living in temperate climates lower their metabolism in winter. But does this represent a mechanism for coping with less food or is it merely a consequence of having less to eat? For the ...

Recommended for you

World's wildlife critical to the economies of nations

19 hours ago

Wildlife is critical to the economies of nations. New Zealand's wildlife – whales, dolphins, red deer, thar, albatross, kiwi, tuatara, fish and kauri – attract tourists. And the tourists who come to see ...

Modern methods lead the way toward a rhino rebound

20 hours ago

Cutting-edge technology and techniques have become essential tools in the effort to save rhinos. Micro chips, translocation and consumer campaigns are helping shift the balance against record-setting poaching ...

The water trading strategies of plants

20 hours ago

Plants trade water for carbon – every litre of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.