SCIENCE

Salamanders Are Decreasing in Size Thanks to Climate Change

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Mar, 28, 2014, 11:13 AM
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salamanders shrinking
(Photo : USGS/Handout via Reuters) A new study suggests that wild salamanders in dry areas in the United States have decreased in size thanks to warming over the last 50 years.

A new study suggests that wild salamanders in dry areas in the United States have decreased in size thanks to warming over the last 50 years.

The study raises questions as to what true potential climate change holds over animal's rate of survival.

"This is one of the largest and fastest rates of change ever recorded in any animal," said author Karen R. Lips.

Although the effects have caught the attention of researchers, they do not deem the animals as "endangered" just yet.

Lips' research draws information on salamander specimens dated back to 1950 up to 2007 by Richard Highton, a retired ecologist at the University of Maryland. In 2011-2012, Lips and her colleagues re-sampled 78 of the sites originally researched by Highton.

To find out how climate change is affecting the survival rate of salamanders, the group created a biophysical model simulating salamanders' daily routines using temperature and moisture data from the National Weather Service. From this, they found that salamanders are burning more energy now thanks to the climate, and unless they eat more to compensate for the lost fuel, they will get smaller.

"We also need to figure out the relationship between declining populations and body size, to see if they're related or two separate issues," she says.

"I think the framework of their study can and should be replicated, built upon," said Joseph Milanovich about the study.

He notes that most of the information from the study was done during the day. Salamanders also come out at night and even sometimes stay idle during the daytime to avoid the heat. He believes that the bigger ones out-compete the smaller ones during the night, so it makes sense that the groups' day time study centered on smaller salamanders.

Lips disagrees however, and said that there is a similar trend in the museum specimens as well, and that their average length has decreased.

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