Quirks & Quarks

Salamanders Shrink as the Climate Warms

Dryer conditions have caused salamanders in the Appalachians to shrink by 8% in a few decades....
The Appalachian Mountains are home to more species of salamander than anywhere else in North America. But a new study by Dr. Karen Lips, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland, has found that many species have decreased in body size since the 1950's. By comparing museum specimens, collected between 1957 and 2007, to living species from a few years ago, she found that the salamanders have become, on average, 8 percent smaller. Because they are cold-blooded animals, their metabolism speeds up as temperatures rise, resulting in them having to burn more energy in today's hotter, drier climate, than they did under more preferable cooler, moister conditions a few decades ago. A smaller body makes them more prone to predation  , and for female salamanders, more likely to producer fewer offspring.

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