Global warming could be a killer to some animals in the near future.
A University of Utah lab experiment discovered that when temperatures increased, woodrats were left vulnerable to plant toxins that they normally consume without a problem when cooler. That leads scientists to believe that global warming could potentially threaten herbivores in the near future.
"This study adds to our understanding of how climate change may affect mammals, in that their ability to consume dietary toxins is impaired by warmer temperatures," biologist Denise Dearing, senior author of the research published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said this week, as reported by Phys.org. "This phenomenon will result in animals changing their diets and reducing the amount of plant material they eat, relocating to cooler habitats or going extinct in local areas."
Dearing added that "over 40 percent of all existing mammals eat only plants" and that "[m]ost plants produce toxins, so the majority of plant-eating mammals eat toxic compounds, and this may become more difficult to deal with as the climate warms."
Birds could also be affected by this, according to Dearing.
The study's first author and University of Utah biology doctoral student Patrice Kurnath says any free-range domestic animal will come across plants with toxins, leaving many more animals susceptible to not being able to withstand these poisonous compounds as temperatures warm up.
Can this be reversed to preserve these animals?