Global warming could shrink mammals

Increased temperatures due to climate change

Nobody expected it, but that is precisely the conclusion of a study published in the journal Science Advances: global warming could reduce the size of mammals, as it already happened about 56 million years ago, about 10 million years after the dinosaurs became extinct.

At that time, Earth's temperature increased between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius in 10.000 years, and stayed elevated for 170.000 years before returning to normal.

An example of "dwarfing" was found in Sifrhippus, which was the first equid. This animal shrunk by at least 30% during the first 130.000 years of warming. As the temperature of planet Earth returned to normal, his body size grew by 76%. But he's not the only one.

Researchers have shown that this pattern is maintained even in events where the warming is not so great, like the one the planet is experiencing today. That's why researcher Abigail D'Ambrosia of the University of New Hampshire said that "unfortunately, today is a great experiment." The question is, why?

Sifhrippus, the first equid

Image - Danielle Byerley

In areas where the climate is warmer, mammals tend to be smaller than in cooler ones. D'Ambrosia explains that when temperatures are high, the smaller size is more efficient for the body, as it can cool down better.

Although there are other reasons why animals can become small, such as lack of food or water, temperature is a cause that affects all living things. Thus, according to the study, in the future it could be that many of the species that we know today will be smaller than they are today.

You can read the full study here! (It is in English).

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