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Cool Grasshoppers Beat the Heat of Warming Via Their Ingenuity

Paper Reviewed
Harris, R.M.B., McQuillan, P. and Hughes, L. 2015. The effectiveness of common thermo-regulatory behaviours in a cool temperate grasshopper. Journal of Thermal Biology 54: 12-19.

Introducing the subject of their work, Harris et al. (2015) write that "behavioural thermoregulation has the potential to alleviate the short-term impacts of climate change on some small ectotherms, without the need for changes to species distributions or genetic adaptation." And in support of this statement, they go on to describe how they measured "the effect of behavior in a cool temperate species of grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum) over a range of spatial and temporal scales in laboratory and natural field experiments." And what did they learn about the subject via these several means?

The three Australian researchers report that "P. vittatum maintains its preferred body temperature by means of [1] timing of activity, [2] choice of substrates with optimum surface temperatures, and [3,4] the use of specific behavioural postures such as stilting and vertical orientation," while further noting that these behavioural responses "are constant and cover a range of spatial scales, from several centimeters to many meters, and temporal scales from seconds to hours." And, therefore, they confidently conclude that "the effectiveness of behavioural thermoregulation in P. vittatum demonstrates a high adaptive capacity to cope with changing climatic conditions without the need for changes in distribution or genetic adaptation." Thus, we have yet another example of an animal species that likely will not succumb to model-based predictions of widespread extinctions due to global warming.

Posted 25 April 2016