A new discovery has found that animals were ‘dwarfed’ by global warming 50 million years ago, and scientists are concerned that it could happen again.
The study shows that warm-blooded animals got significantly smaller at least twice in Earth’s history when temperatures increased, and carbon dioxide levels soared.
Palaeontologists (aka Ross from Friends) discovered fossil teeth belonging to early horses as well as a hoofed mammal the size of a rabbit. The teeth revealed that during Eocene Thermal Maximum 2, a warming event that happened around 53 million years ago, both species shrank in size by 14 per cent.
“These guys were probably about the size of maybe a dog, then they dwarfed,” said D’Ambrosia, who headed-up the new work. “They may have gone down to the size of a cat.”
Current climate studies estimate the planet will warm between 2c and 4c by 2100.
“It’s something we need to keep an eye out for,” said D’Ambrosia.”The question is how fast are we going to see these changes.”
Evidence of dwarfing during the most severe warming period on record, Palocene-Ecoone Thermal Maximum (PETA), is well documented; with some animals shrinking by as much as a third as temperatures increased by 5c to 8c.
In hotter climates, warm-blooded animals need to shed heat so they shrink. Smaller animas have more skin per pound than larger ones, so more heat can escape – making them far better suited to warmer climate.
With little, significant change on the horizon – and a worrying dismissal of the impacts of climate change by the leader of the free world; coupled with rising emissions from emerging nations such as China, it seems inevitable that drastic changes like mammal-dwarfing will become a reality. Shame.