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Newsroom Releases 2013 August Climate change: the animal response

26/08/2013
Climate change: the animal response
A mouse that changes its behaviour to cope with the prevailing environmental and social conditions could provide some clues as to how animals will adapt to climate change, according to a James Cook University researcher.

A mouse that changes its behaviour to cope with the prevailing environmental and social conditions could provide some clues as to how animals will adapt to climate change, according to a James Cook University researcher.

School of Marine and Tropical Biology Associate Lecturer Dr Tasmin Rymer will give a free public lecture at the James Cook University Cairns campus this Thursday (August 29) on her study of the African striped mouse.

Dr Rymer said the rapid rate of climate change was expected to severely impact ecosystems and the plants and animals inhabiting them.

“Animals may be able to cope with these changes through reversible behavioural flexibility, that is, the ability of an individual to alter its behaviour in response to prevailing environmental conditions,” she said.

“The African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio, is able to alter its social and mating behaviour depending on environmental conditions, specifically population density.

“Females generally prefer to nest alone because reproductive competition between females is very high. Nesting is limited by the availability of free territories incorporating a specific species of plant, Zygophyllum retrofractum.

“When population density is low, females can nest alone because there are numerous free territories. When females nest alone, males adopt a roaming tactic, moving between individual females and demonstrating no paternal care.

“However, as population density increases, females are constrained to living in small groups. Males may then opt to switch to a territorial breeding strategy, dominating these small groups of females. When they do, they show paternal care to their young.

“Understanding how this behavioural flexibility develops could provide some answers as to how animals will cope will cope with changing environmental conditions.”

Dr Rymer’s presentation is the latest in James Cook University’s annual series of public lectures in science and engineering.

The lecture will be held in the Crowther Theatre at James Cook University in Smithfield on Thursday, August 29. Refreshments will be served from 5.30pm and the lecture will begin at 6pm.

Issued August 26, 2013

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