HomeScience and ResearchSustainability'Eerie Discovery' Suggests Humans Could Actually Be Shrinking in Size

‘Eerie Discovery’ Suggests Humans Could Actually Be Shrinking in Size

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An expert in paleoanthropology has cautioned that humans may begin to shrink as a result of climate change.

While the repercussions of a warmer globe have already been seen in terms of rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and higher disease risks, an expert has warned that the climate crisis could result in humans decreasing in size. Humanity may begin to evolve to adapt to such circumstances, according to a palaeontologist, because mammals with smaller frames are better able to deal with rising global temperatures.

Professor Steve Brusatte, a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, believes that scientists might learn about the future of human evolution by studying how other animals have adapted to climate change.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago, prehistoric horses shrank in size as temperatures rose, and he linked this transition to that.

“There’s a great fossil record across this global warming event, it’s really the most recent big global warming event in the geological record,” he told the Guardian.

“The two plots are eerie, how similar they are.”

Prof. Brusatte points out in his new book The Rise and Reign of the Mammals that animals in warmer parts of the earth are often smaller than those in colder areas.

Bergmann’s rule, an ecological principle, has also been observed in humans living in many parts of the world.

Human populations residing near the poles, such as the Inuit, Aleut, and Sami, have been found to be on average heavier than those living at lower latitudes.

“The reasons are not entirely understood,” Prof. Brusatte wrote, “but it is probably, in part, because smaller animals have a higher surface area relative to their volume than plumper animals and can thus better shed excess heat.”

He went on to say that shrinking was “a common way that mammals deal with climate change”.

“That’s not to say every species of mammal would get smaller,” he said, “but it seems to be a common survival trick of mammals when temperatures spike pretty quickly.”

“Which does raise the question: if temperatures do spike really quickly might humans dwarf, might humans get smaller?

“And I think that’s certainly plausible.”

Previous palaeontological research has found that prehistoric human species shrank when resources were low.

Prof. Brusatte talked about the Homo floresiensis. These so-called “hobbit-humans” used to live on the Indonesian island of Flores.

In a recent study, researchers looked at human bones from the past million years and discovered that temperature may have been a key predictor of body size.

Meanwhile, researchers monitoring red deer in northern Europe and Scandinavia believe that the region’s warmer winters are contributing to the animals’ decline.

Image Credit: Getty

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