Researchers say that animals are “shapeshifting” parts of their bodies to adapt to the rising temperatures from climate change.
A new study by Deakin University found that over the last 100 years, warm-blooded animals like birds and mammals have gradually increased the parts of their body that help them not die from overheating.
When an animal is overheating, they disperse their heat to a part of their body that can take it. For birds, that’s their beak; for mammals, that’s their ears, legs or tails, if not covered in fur. So, because the planet is getting increasingly hotter due to climate change, these animals have been forced to adapt and increase the size of their cooling systems.
In a conversation with the ABC, Deakin University bird researcher Sara Ryding, who wrote the study, added that several species of Australian parrots, like gang-gang cockatoos and red-dumped parrots, had increased their beak size by 4-10% since the late 1800s. Bats in China reportedly are growing bigger wings, and scientists have noticed masked shrews and wood mice with longer legs and tails respectively.
Tragically, however, while it all sounds cool, the results don’t particularly mean that these creatures are managing climate change well.
“Shapeshifting does not mean that animals are coping with climate change and that all is fine,” Ryding said via The Guardian.
“It just means they are evolving to survive it – but we’re not sure what the other ecological consequences of these changes are, or indeed that all species are capable of changing and surviving.”
The study added that as the planet continues to get warmer, we can expect to see warm-blooded animals’ body parts continue to expand like a hot air balloon, with Ryding telling The Guardian: “Prominent appendages such as ears are predicted to increase, so we might end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-so-distant future.”