A shrinking shorebird happens to be affected by the rapid Arctic warming that is occurring nowadays.
Red knots are shorebirds that travel the length of the Arctic and West Africa. The former is their breeding region while the latter is their winter stomping area.
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The chicks that are hatched tend to have diminutive sizes. That is because they have forgone the insect season when they reach their winter grounds.
Some further problems that they face include shorter bills. Thus they cannot feed on the shellfish. Therefore you have small-sized birds with shorter bills. These birds are definitely paying the price of global warming.
Climatic shocks do tend to turn animals into replicas of their former selves. Shrinkage of animals as regards body size is a recent phenomenon. It has been noted down by scientists.
The reasons behind this shrinkage of the body may be twofold. Firstly, a smaller body means that greater heat is conducted outwards to the atmosphere.
The bigger surface to volume ration ensures this. Then there is the hypothetical construct that a smaller body means that the animal will not need such a bulky diet. Thus it would be spared the deleterious effects of starvation which has become the norm.
One thing is for sure, the creatures of the Arctic are shrinking at a fast pace. As it warms up beyond the point of no return, most of the animals that are migrating species tend to lose their body mass.
Take the red knot, it lives at the maximum northern frontiers of the earth. It also undertakes yearly migrations. While nesting begins in Russia, the winter season is spent in West Africa.
The snow at the breeding grounds of the red knot has receded rapidly. This melting of the snow coincides with the peak of the insect season. The young red knots upon arriving in West Africa pay the price of their disrupted habitat by having shorter bills.
They were no competition for the larger-billed mature birds. Since these larger-billed birds tended to get access to all the shellfish, the shorter-billed ones were left high and dry.
These unfortunate birds had to rely on seagrass. This of course is a very bad choice as regards the food supply these birds are dependent on. Thus the population shrinkage in the red knot birds does not come as much of a surprise. It is not only body size but the shape of the forms of these birds that has underwent a radical transformation over the years.
These findings of this study are published today in the journal Science by an international team of researchers from the Netherlands (NIOZ and Univ. Groningen), Australia (Deakin Univ.), France (CNRS), Poland (Univ. Gdansk), and Russia (Moscow Univ.).