How Will Creatures That Can Barely Move Handle Climate Change? – Hakai Magazine

Ochre Sea Star (by wild trees CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).
Ochre Sea Star (by wild trees CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

Lots of species are being forced to move to escape the heat. Some just can’t move very far.

As the world warms, animals living near the coast are being battered by stronger storms, rising seas, and extreme temperatures. While fish, birds, and other species might be able to escape—often toward the poles—many marine creatures can barely move, let alone speed out of the way.

Scientists have long known that on hot days more mobile shoreline creatures like crabs take steps to control their body temperature by scuttling into cool crevices. Less mobile animals such as barnacles and limpets, meanwhile, just have to cope as best they can. Yet with extreme heatwaves becoming more common, Lily McIntire, an ecologist at San Diego State University in California, was curious to know where intertidal creatures spend hot days and what happens to their internal temperatures.

For the past few years, McIntire has been making epoxy resin models of various intertidal animals—from fast-moving crabs to slower snails and limpets to immobile animals like barnacles—and dotting them around the shoreline in Northern California. Affixed with temperature loggers, the resin replicas are designed to heat up and cool down at the same rate as the real creatures. By then watching where real animals spend their time, and using nearby models to determine their internal body temperatures, McIntire got a glimpse into how the beach’s tiny inhabitants handle the heat…


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