Mammals and birds will get smaller over the next century, scientists at the University of Southampton predict. They believe that the animals that thrive will be small, highly fertile, insect-eating animals that can survive in a variety of habitats, like songbirds and rodents. Larger animals that need a special environment to exist will become extinct.
Researchers believe that the body mass of mammals will decrease by 25 percent over the next 100 years; this is a large, rapid change compared to the relatively small body mass increase in the last 130,000 years: just 14 percent.
Drs. Robert Cooke, Felix Eigenbrod and Amanda Bates published their findings in Nature Communications. Cooke noted that the biggest threat to mammals and birds is humans, who destroy the animal's habitat with hunting, farming, deforestation and urbanization.
The scientists used 15,484 birds and land mammals that are most likely to become extinct in the next century for the study. They took into account five characteristics related to each animal's role in nature: litter/clutch size, body mass, diet, length of time between gestation and scope of habitat.
The equine species used in the study included the near-threatened Plains Zebra and Asiatic Wild Ass, the critically endangered African Wild Ass, the vulnerable Mountain Zebra, the endangered Grevy's Zebra and Przewalski's Horse.
The team discovered that the loss of birds and mammals will not be random, but that specific animals will be lost because of their traits and vulnerability to change in the environment. The scientists hope that their study will show that specific conservation strategies can be put in place now before the mammals and birds most at risk become extinct.
Read the study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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