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UCLA life scientists present new insights on climate change and species interactions

ooded and a cold-blooded animals, such as warm-blooded birds that feed on cold-blooded lizards, or snakes that feed on squirrels. In these cases, the internal body temperature of the cold-blooded animal the lizard or snake will vary when the climate changes. As a result, the organism's physiology will change and, in turn, influence its body velocity, activity and reaction rates. In contrast, warm-blooded animals, whose body temperature is largely independent of external climate, will not experience much change, again creating an asymmetry between species.

Using the biotraits database, the authors show that trait-specific asymmetries exist in organisms' responses to temperature change and are likely to be a major factor in determining the effects of climate change on species interactions.

Naturally, the researchers say, it is impossible to study all the species on the planet, but with their new mathematical model, predictions can be made about effects of warming on different types of consumerresource interactions.

"The large diversity of species that make up natural ecosystems mean it is logistically infeasible to study every species interaction in a community and make predictions about how these interactions will be affected by climate warming," Savage noted. "However, models that assume all species respond to temperature in the same way will both miss the large diversity in ecological systems and therefore miss the most important consequences that arise from differential and asymmetric responses to temperature among species."

"In this paper we forge a middle ground between these two extremes," Dell said. "We allow different species to have different thermal responses and show this is essential for predicting species responses to climate change, while also having our categories be much broader than every species on the planet. This new model can help form the foundation for a more predictive framework for understanding t

Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

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