Temperature affects nearly every part of animals day to day existence, but how does it affect their reproductive strategies? In a paper in the Ecology Letters, Michael Moore, a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, and his collaborators Noah Leith and Kasey Fowler-Finn at Saint Louis University examined the current research into these topics and proposed new ways for them to be studied.
The paper considers ways that thermal ecology affects mating system dynamics and also how these mating dynamics generate selection on thermal traits.
“Now that we’ve studied a huge number of traits that animals have evolved in order to survive the temperatures they face, we’re starting to realize that these traits also have consequences for where and how animals reproduce,” said Moore. “But as we thought about the ways in which an animal’s thermal traits influence how it tries to attract mates, we also couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a very survival-centric view of the adaptation.”
Moore says that up until now, researchers have believed that animals reproduce in their climate due to how they have evolved in order to survive in that climate.
“However,” he said, “we know from decades of behavioral ecology research that animals will often put themselves at risk of getting eaten or parasitized if it means they could potentially attract a mate. We were curious then why the threat of overheating should be any different.”
Animals will often risk it all for reproduction, even if it means being at the wrong temperature. Researchers have found evidence that animals have evolved mechanisms that allow them to tolerate temperatures they are in during mating.
More research is needed for researchers to understand if and how these organisms can adapt to climate change. Research could help reveal how these animals are adapting to global warming and what the possible negative outcomes could be.
The potential consequences of global warming on reproduction and sexual communication are not studied well, and Moore says that it is essential to understand. Their work shows that reproduction can be the leading factor for many of the adaptations that animals have been dealing with the changes in their local climates.
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