Earlier this fall, comparative physiologists met in San Diego for the eighth APS Intersociety Meeting in Comparative Physiology. Comparative physiology is the study of biological processes—particularly adaptation to various environments—of different species. In short, comparative physiologists study animals. The theme of this year’s conference, “From Organism to Omics in an Uncertain World,” highlighted many studies that centered on how climate change and environmental pollutants affect life on land and sea.
If you live in, or have ever visited, the southern regions of the U.S. in the summer, you may have experienced the high humidity that can make the heat even more miserable. But the saying “it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” takes on a new meaning when it comes to survival of bees in the desert heat. Research from Arizona State University found that it’s water loss (humidity) that shortens male bees’ activity period—and therefore mating opportunities—during a day’s peak temperatures, rather than the heat itself.
Higher temperatures lead to changes in bodies of water around the world. New research from the University of Tasmania in Australia suggests warmer temperatures and increased salt levels might have a harmful effect on the behavior and physiology of school sharks. Usually, school sharks swim constantly, but recent changes in the water properties have caused them to rest more, which can be a sign that they’re too stressed out to find food or get away from predators.
Environmental pollutants can also wreak havoc on marine life. A new study from East Carolina University suggests that oil exposure from oil spills can drastically compromise the survival rates of mahi-mahi. The fish exposed to the toxic substance were more susceptible to being hunted by other sea animals and did not reproduce at the same rate as those that were not exposed to oil.
Additional research presented at the conference discussed:
- how warming oceans may threaten seabass development and food security,
- a math model that predicts extinction for an ancient marsupial species, and
- how ocean acidification changes the physiology in mussels.