European insects show evolution at work as climate warms
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/29/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Climate change is changing insect colors and distributions in Europe according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications. European scientists say they have documented changes in insect coloration and distribution as ecosystems shift.
The study focused on butterflies and dragonflies specifically. This The Southern Small White (Pieris mannii) has expanded its range northward into new regions as the climate has warmed.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to a paper published in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, insects in Southern Europe are taking on more light or clear colorations, and those in the north, are becoming darker.
This process of speciation is an example of evolution at work and reveals adaptations consistent with changes in the natural environment. As Southern Europe becomes warmer, the insects in the region become lighter in color, an adaptation that helps them to stay cooler in hot weather and avoid predation.
Likewise, insects in Northern Europe are becoming darker in response to longer cold spells, a product of climate change most likely linked to the melting of the Arctic ice cap.
Climates, particularly in Southern Europe are changing and environments are shifting. As this gradual change occurs, insects, which can evolve rapidly, are adapting to the changes.
Such changes are more difficult for larger animals which produce far fewer offspring over longer periods. For larger organisms, the shift in the environment is much more serious.
As insects change their coloration, some species will evolve slowly into different, newly-specialized niches suited to their environment. Other examples of species that are no longer as well adapted to the changing environment will become extinct. The white insects are an example of organisms in transition.
The study is considered proof that the climate is changing. The study does not speculate as to the cause of climate change, as this would be beyond the scope of its expertise.
Most scientists however agree that climate change is the result of human activity and that the planet will continue to warm over the next two hundred years or more, driving more evolution in various organisms and favoring new adaptations.
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