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Global warming shrunk us all

You may not be able to tell, but we are shrinking. All living beings — from the invisible phytoplankton to giraffes — could be growing shorter because of warming brought on by climate change, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2009 00:23 IST
Chetan Chauhan

You may not be able to tell, but we are shrinking. All living beings — from the invisible phytoplankton to giraffes — could be growing shorter because of warming brought on by climate change.

As temperatures rise, organisms get smaller, says a study published in a US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, on Monday.

That areas with warmer climates tend to be dominated by smaller-sized species is known, said study leader Martin Daufresne, with a French government-funded research institute.

But would this thesis hold in the context of climate change?

It did, they found, among some aquatic communities.

Using long-term surveys to study essentially aquatic communities of phytoplankton and fish, the scientists found these communities did indeed get smaller as temperatures rose in their environments over time.

For communities of fish in large French rivers, the team observed “a decrease on average of something like more than 60 per cent of the mean size at the community scale (over two decades),” Daufresne said..

Indian scientists were not surprised. They have known for a while that goats are getting smaller in the Himalayas. But there has been no research yet to link it to climate change.

“This can happen among terrestrial animals in India,” said Wildlife Institute of India director P.R. Sinha. “We haven’t done specific research on this yet so it will be difficult to comment.”