Warming May Be a Greater Threat to Tropical Life

Hardly a day goes by without more grim news about the likely impact of global warming. The Arctic and its polar bears, of course, have become a poster child for the negative effects of climate change. However, a team led by University of Washington scientists reports that tropical species may face a far greater peril in a warmer world.

Arctic species, the researchers note, typically experience a temperatures that range from subzero to a balmy 60 degrees, well below their thermal limit. They should be able to subsist even though temperature changes will be more extreme in the higher latitudes. But tropical species, they relate, are able to tolerate only a narrow range of temperatures because their climate is so consistent throughout the year. And warming may come too fast for insects, frogs, lizards and other animals to adapt their physiologies to it. "Unfortunately, the tropics also hold the large majority of species on the planet," said Curtis Deutsch, associate professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UCLA.

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