Animals Living Long And Having Few Offspring Less Vulnerable to Weather

It is not just humans but animals also face adverse impact of climate change. But how does climate change affect the animals? In a new study, the researchers found that animals that live a long time and have few offspring are less vulnerable when extreme weather hits than animals that live for a short time and have many offspring.

The study pointed out that elephants, tigers, llamas, and some long-lived bats are less vulnerable when extreme weather hits. Meanwhile, small marsupials and rodents are hit the hardest, a group of researchers from the Europe said.


The researchers examined records for 157 species of terrestrial mammals, looking for links between yearly weather anomalies, population growth rates, and species-level life history.  “we use long-term abundance records from 157 species of terrestrial mammals and a two-step Bayesian meta-regression framework to investigate the link between annual weather anomalies, population growth rates, and species-level life history.,” the authors said. 


“Our results suggest that increased extreme/anomalous weather events will have a greater impact (both positive or negative) on the abundance of short-living mammals with higher reproductive output. Therefore, increased monitoring of vulnerable species with ‘fast’ life-history characteristics may benefit mammal conservation as global weather anomalies are increasingly common,” said  author John Jackson.

These new findings fit with other studies, the researchers write, noting that slower-growing, longer-living species with fewer offspring do tend to be more resilient against environmental fluctuations; such critters have evolved to withstand the different conditions they’re likely to encounter over their longer life spans.

The creatures with ‘slower’ life histories often fare better during disasters like prolonged drought, for example, compared with shorter-living species.

They can focus their energy on a smaller progeny, or sometimes just wait out lean times, the researchers note, unlike animals whose briefer lives offer less flexibility in the face of adversity. Indeed, these species often experience booms and busts, with populations sometimes surging or crashing depending on conditions.

The findings are reported in eLife.


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