Physiology

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

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Science  06 Mar 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5919, pp. 1266
DOI: 10.1126/science.323.5919.1266a

It is well established that organisms respond to climate change by adapting, by shifting their geographic distribution, or—in the unluckier cases—by becoming extinct. Most models of responses to climate change focus on changes in distribution, usually based on “climatic envelope” concepts: that is, the range of climatic conditions that a species can endure. For cold-blooded animals such as reptiles and insects, a missing element from such models has been the ability of these organisms to regulate their body temperature by behavioral means, such as not going out in the midday sun, which has the potential to buffer their geographic response to changing climate. By including such thermoregulatory behavior in biophysical models of temperature responses of Australian ectotherms, Kearney et al. show that the challenge for many such species in a warming world will be to stay cool. If moving with the climate is not an option, which it will not be for many tropical organisms, survival will depend on factors such as the availability of shade and the ability of ectotherm species to alter their seasonal or daily patterns of activity. — AMS

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