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Israeli-Irish study: Global warming may cut lifespan of many species – The Jerusalem Post

Global warming could reduce the lifespan of hundreds of cold-blooded species around the world, a new study by Israeli and Irish researchers has warned. Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Queen’s University Belfast analyzed data from more than 4,100 land vertebrate species to test the long-accepted “rate of living” theory, which predicts that the faster the metabolic rate of an organism, the shorter the lifespan. The study, one of the most comprehensive to date, was the first to test the theory on a global scale with all land vertebrates, including amphibians and reptiles. Rejecting the previously accepted link between metabolism and lifespan, the researchers found that “rate of living” does not affect aging rates. Instead, the researchers found that rates of aging in cold-blooded organisms are linked to high temperatures. Proposing an alternative hypothesis, their findings suggest that the hotter the environment is, the faster the rate of living – which in turn leads to more accelerated aging and a shorter lifespan. Accordingly, global warming could reduce the lifespan of many cold-blooded species, subject to accelerated aging. The findings were published on Friday in Global Ecology and Biogeography, a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal. “The link between lifespan in cold-blooded animals (amphibians and reptiles) and ambient temperatures could mean that they are especially vulnerable to the unprecedented global warming that the planet is currently experiencing,” said Gavin Stark, lead author of the study and PhD student at Tel Aviv University. “Indeed, if increasing ambient temperatures reduces longevity, it may make these species more prone to go extinct as the climate warms.” According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species, amphibians are – on average – the most threatened group. Almost one-in-five of the world’s estimated 10,000 species of lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles and other reptiles are currently threatened with extinction. “Our findings can have critical implications for our understanding of factors that contribute to extinctions, especially in modern times when we are facing a worldwide decline of biodiversity, with cold-blooded animals being particularly endangered,” said Dr. Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, co-author of the study, and lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. “Now we know that the life-expectancy of cold-blooded vertebrates is linked to environmental temperatures, we could expect to see their lifespans further reduced as temperatures continue to rise through global warming.”

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