A multi-university study has shown that mammals and birds could have the best shot at surviving climate change as they may have a better chance of evolving and adapting to the changing climate.
The findings are based on analysis of more than 270 million years of data on animals – both warm-blooded animals. Scientists point out in their study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution that it is much easier for mammals and birds to move around, extend their territory and adapt to changes in the environment much easily.
By combining data from the current distribution of animals, fossil records and phylogenetic information for 11,465 species, the researchers were able to reconstruct where animals have lived over the past 270 million years and what temperatures they needed to survive in these regions.
The planet’s climate has changed significantly throughout history and the researchers found that these changes have shaped where animals live. For example, the planet was fairly warm and tropical until 40 million years ago, making it an ideal place for many species to live. As the planet cooled, birds and mammals were able to adapt to the colder temperatures so they were able to move into habitats in more northern and southern regions.
Scientists explained that animals that can regulate their body temperatures, known as endotherms, might be better able to survive in these places because they can keep their embryos warm, take care of their offspring and they can migrate or hibernate.
Researchers argue that studying the past evolution and adaptations of species might provide important clues to understand how current, rapid changes in temperature impact biodiversity on the planet.