Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on August 19, 2008
If global temperatures rise as predicted, the planet’s sobering message to tropical insects is: adapt or die. Scientists warn that a full blown wipeout is in the cards, altering the face the entomology forever as we bid adieu to a host of beetles, butterflies, aphids and others insects.
Researchers at the University of Washington explained that while temperature rises could deplete insect populations in the tropics, it could also result in an insect boom at higher latitudes as tropical insects are driven out of their normal habitats. The effects on plants pollination and the food supply are unknown. Says the BBC: “In the research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. scientists studied how temperature changes between 1950 and 2000 had affected 38 species of insects”.
Unlike their warm-blooded counterparts, who can regulate body temperature, all cold-blooded organisms can do is lie in the sun or seek shade. With tropical temperatures expected to rise 5.4 degrees Celsius by 2100, this may be too much for tropical insects.
“In the tropics, many species appear to be living at or near their thermal optimum, a temperature that lets them thrive,” says Joshua Tewksbury of the University of Washington. “But once temperature gets above the thermal optimum, fitness levels most likely decline quickly and there may not be much they can do about it.”
While some organisms may be able to evolve to cope with the higher altitudes, for other tropical critters, the “age of insects” may be sadly coming to an end.