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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Behavioral flexibility as a mechanism for species to cope with climate change in the short term; case study on the Pika

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August 2 2017 read full ScienceDaily article here

As climate change brings new pressures on wildlife, species must “move, adapt, acclimate, or die.” Researchers reviewed the literature on acclimation through behavioral flexibility, identifying patterns in examples from invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and fishes, in the cover article for the August issue of the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The authors focused on the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as a case study in behavioral adaptation.

Behavioral responses, which can be rapid compared to shifts in range, may serve as early warnings of climate impacts on species. Shifting mating seasons or migrations are common behavioral adaptations to the temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and other changes encompassed by climate change. Animals also adjust strategies for feeding, foraging, avoiding predators, and sheltering from inclement weather.

Behavioral solutions, however, are limited by physiology, and sometimes incur costly trade-offs with other essential activities. An animal that spends the day in a rock crevice, sheltering from the sun, does not have enough time to forage. So changes in behavior alone are unlikely to be sufficient to adapt successfully to the predicted changes in climate over the next century….

Erik A Beever, L Embere Hall, Johanna Varner, Anne E Loosen, Jason B Dunham, Megan K Gahl, Felisa A Smith, Joshua J Lawler. Behavioral flexibility as a mechanism for coping with climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/fee.1502

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