An investigation states that climate change will advance ageing in amphibians, insects, fish and reptiles
September 16, 2020
The study, in which the University of Oviedo has participated, has concentrated on ectothermics, which cannot regulate their body temperature. The results show the need to study this line of research in depth in order to establish adequate conservation programmes of wild fauna
An investigation, in which the University of Oviedo has participated, has revealed how climate change can affect animals' rate of ageing, specifically of those that cannot regulate their body temperature, like amphibians, insects, fish and reptiles (the "ectothermic" animals, which are all the exception of birds and mammals). The article, published in Global Change Biology, has as its authors Germán Orizaola, of the Institute of Mixed Research in Biodiversity (University of Oviedo-CSIC-Principality of Asturias), with headquarters in the Mieres Campus, and the researchers of the University of Glasgow Pablo Burraco, Pat Monaghan and Neil Metcalfe.
Whether the effect of temperature on the physiology of animals has been studied in detail, up until now the effect that these physiological changes might have on the ageing of organisms has not been paid attention to. How an increase in temperature will imply a greater rate of growth in these organisms is described in the article, which will alter their physiology, increasing the levels of oxidative stress. In turn, this will impact on the telomeres, structures that are situated on the extremities of the chromosomes and whose function is to give stability to the cell and impede that codifying regions of DNA are lost in cell division. At greater speed of growth and greater oxidative stress, the greater is the rate of degradation of these telomeres and cell death is reached more quickly. It is from here that telomeres are used as indicators of cell ageing in many organisms. Therefore, the direct relationship between climate change, speed of growth, oxidative stress, telomere loss and ageing is established in the article.
The professor Germán Orizaola points out that "any shortening of the animals' life expectancy will reduce their reproductive potential, something that could produce direct impacts in many species and populations, especially if they are already affected by any other factor".
On the other hand, the researchers call the attention on the need to research more into this field, today unexplored, and that could have very negative consequences for the conservation of many animal populations, if they are exposed to a more rapid ageing rate. Germán Orizaola affirms that "considering the impact that climate change might have on the ageing of species it will be essential to establish adequate conservation, handling and exploitation programs of wild fauna".