Reply To: Global warming is well underway

By Mark Henderson, Science Editor

GLOBAL warming is already influencing the evolution of some animals, according to research that attributes genetic changes to rising temperatures.
Scientists have identified heritable genetic changes among squirrels, birds and insects that appear to be evolved adaptations to a warmer world.

As average temperatures have increased, the researchers say, so have the lengths of the warmer spring and autumn seasons. This has given a substantial advantage to animals with the genetic ability to vary their behaviour accordingly, influencing the course of evolution.

The evolutionary adaptations observed to date, however, are all related to changing season length, rather than building tolerance to higher temperatures or altered climatic conditions. This means that species are likely to remain vulnerable to extinction as global warming progresses.

In a review published today in the journal Science, William Bradshaw and Christina Holzapfel, of the University of Oregon, highlight several examples of animal species evolving in response to global warming.

The animals are migrating, breeding or developing earlier in the spring, and research has established that this goes beyond normal variation and is influenced by genetic change.

Animals evolve to keep pace with global warming