Global warming improves sex life of seals
December 14, 2006
Climate change is enhancing the sex life of subordinate male grey seals on the remote Scottish Island of North Rona according to researchers at Durham University and the University of St Andrews.
Writing in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, Dr Sean Twiss, a professor at the Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, said that higher temperatures and lower rainfall has altered the mating habits within the grey seal colony of North Rona. A statement from Durham University explains:
Warmer and drier autumns have led to a reduction in pools of rainwater which the female seals require to maintain their body temperature and provide them with a source of drinking water. As a result the females, who remain loyal to one breeding site, must travel further to access the vital resource for themselves and their pups, which removes them from the watchful eye of the dominant males and allows subordinate males to mate with them.
Photo by Dr. Twiss
The researchers recorded a 61% increase in the number of males contributing to the genetic pool during their nine-year study.
"Much current research is focusing on the geographical movement of animals as a result of climate change. What we are interested in finding out is what impact climate change has on the behaviour of animals — how it effects their social systems including mating patterns," Twiss said.
"The effect of climatic variation on temperature and rainfall has wide-spread implications for many species as there are very few animal populations whose mating patterns and levels of polygamy are not intimately linked to resource distribution. These findings show that climate change, whilst endangering many species could also help to increase the genetic diversity of some species, giving a leg up (or over!) to males who normally wouldn't be so successful."
This article is based on a news release from Durham University.
Recommend this article? Comments?
>Digg this article | >Hugg this article | Contact