Sydney, Feb 8 (IANS) Some of the world’s smallest creatures like snails are in danger of becoming extinct unless climate change models are reworked to save them.
Snails usually play a dominant role in the ecology of freshwater features by providing food for many other animals and maintaining water quality by controlling the growth of algae.
Any future policies for global warming must consider mobile organisms on rocky beaches – such as snails – and their capacity to survive the predicted rise in extreme conditions such as heat waves, said biological sciences doctoral candidate student Coraline Chapperon.
Chapperon from Flinders University says the majority of current global warming research is mistakenly driven by air temperature which does not reflect the body temperature of most animals.
“A lot of current global warming research uses air temperature as a proxy for animal body temperature – so if it is 31 degrees at the beach they’d say all the animals at the beach are 31 degrees but that’s not the case,” Chapperon said, according to a Flinders statement.
“Even the same rock surface varies in temperature at a very small spatial scale at one time which is more pertinent to the biology and ecology of animals than air temperature,” she said.
“As such, we need to consider factors like rock temperature and the individual physiology and behaviour of animals in our climate change models, and look at it on a much smaller scale,” Chapperon said.
To prove how crucial individual animal body temperatures are to global warming policies, Chapperon has spent the past three years investigating the temperature and behaviour of snails and their ability to cope in extreme conditions.
She found that temperatures between microhabitats separated by just a few centimetres, such as crevices and underneath rocks, actually varied more than habitats separated by up to 250 metres.
And that rock and snail temperatures were strongly connected, suggesting snail body temperatures are largely determined by the temperatures of the rocks they are crawling on.
“Despite their limited physiological abilities, snails have certain behavioural qualities that help them cool down when it is warm, such as aggregating or moving underneath rocks,” Chapperon said.