The big chill: Evolution heats up when Earth’s climate cools down

cold

While natural selection is a big part of evolution, the theory now embraces much more than that…In a recent investigation, a team of scientists developed a method to test how non-biological variables influence the rates of trait evolution within a group of related species.

The scientific community has found that temperature impacts biological processes at all levels. It directly influences things like metabolic rates, body size, and productivity. However, there’s still debate about how temperature influences trait evolution. To get at this question, the scientists used their method to analyze body-size data for almost all existing birds and mammals.

This analysis revealed that past climate is a primary driver influencing the rate at which bird and mammal body sizes have evolved. Though many in the scientific community might have expected that warmer climates lead to faster rates of evolution, this work suggests that the opposite is true: evolutionary rates are higher during times of global cooling in most groups. This trend is a general feature of the evolution of warm-blooded (endothermic) animals. And it appears to be independent of the ecological or evolutionary history of a species.

[Read the original source here]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: As climates cool, adaptation heats up

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

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