Ostriches can adapt to heat or cold, but not both
Credit: Charlie Cornwallis

The bird is wired to adapt to temperature changes. The flightless bird with a 40-gram brain finds it more difficult when the temperature fluctuates more often.

A research team at Lund University has shown that an animal is very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The ability of these long-necked birds to lay eggs is affected by the temperature.

The researchers were able to show that if the temperatures were low or high, the females wouldn't lay as many eggs. In a new study published in Science Advances, researchers have learned more about the genetics of the ostrich.

We discovered that genes that increase heat tolerance also decrease cold tolerance. Mads Schou, a researcher at Lund University who wrote an article with Charlie Cornwallis, said that even if the ostrich can evolve to cope with a warmer environment, it will compromise its ability to handle colder periods.

Climate change will lead to rising average temperatures and increase temperature fluctuations according to current climate models. The ability of animals to cope with both hot and cold periods is crucial to their chances of survival.

The responses to rising temperatures have been the focus of previous research. Mads Schou says that the knowledge about the animals' genetic potential to adapt to changing temperatures is limited.

There are trade-offs in evolutionary adaptation. An increased body size of an elephant male increases its competitiveness, but at the same time requires more food. The Lund researchers found that heat and cold tolerance are intertwined. Animals will be more vulnerable to climate fluctuations if this is a general phenomenon.

We were initially encouraged when we discovered that the genetic ability to adapt to both warmer and colder temperatures was found in ostriches. Mads Schou says that it turns out that ostriches can't do both.

More information: Mads F. Schou et al, Evolutionary trade-offs between heat and cold tolerance limit responses to fluctuating climates, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn9580 Journal information: Science Advances Citation: Ostriches can adapt to heat or cold, but not both (2022, May 30) retrieved 30 May 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-ostriches-cold.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.