Michigan State University (MSU) biologists studied damselflies – which look like dragonflies and are abundant as both predators and prey in wetlands – to understand what happens throughout their life cycle , from nymph to winged insect, as well as what they eat, when summers get warmer and longer, according to MSU Today.
Now, a new study from MSU suggests bugs will thrive in an ever-changing world.
The researchers found that the damselflies gave birth to an extra set of larvae each year to keep up with rapid changes in global weather, according to SWNS, a British news agency, which also reported on the study.
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The life cycles of Michigan insects have been shown to mirror those of their southern relatives living in warmer climates – and this has been successfully keeping them alive, the same source reported.
This contradicts many scientific models that suggested global warming would doom predator-prey species such as the damselfish.
The MSU team felt that current predictions of the impact of climate change on animals were unrealistic – and that these predictions did not take into account how creatures might behave differently at different temperatures.
Other models have only simulated what would happen if the damselflies lived a year-long life cycle in a warmer world – concluding that they would burn out, die and possibly go extinct.
Insects could thrive if they gave birth to an additional generation each season.
The MSU team found that insects could thrive if they gave birth to an additional generation each season.
Study co-author Phoebe Zarnetske, an associate professor of integrative biology at MSU, said in a press release, “We find that the rate of climate change is much faster than what organisms have endured in their evolutionary experience.
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She also said: “This rapid pace is going to be even more problematic with the increase in extreme events like heat waves.”
To build the new model, a mathematician worked on observational and experimental work in the field and in the laboratory to build a more robust model simulating the future of predators and prey, SWNS reported about the study.
By studying how changes in temperature affect insects in the field, the team said they believed their predictions were much more realistic.
The research began when Dr Laura Twardochleb, a student of Professor Zarnetske, spent a year observing the complex lives of damselflies, SWNS said.
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The insects emerge as adults from ponds in the spring, then mate and reproduce. Juveniles spend more than a year in a pond growing by eating zooplankton.
Dr Twardochleb saw that early models projecting how warming climates would affect predators such as the damselfish were much simpler than the nature she observed.
They did not take into account the changing seasons of the north.
They also didn’t track a predator’s size, growth or how its lifestyle changed with the warmer weather, SWNS noted.
Professor Chris Klausmeier, a mathematician and theoretical ecologist at MSU, incorporated Dr Twardochleb’s observations into his own theory.
The team laid the groundwork for future investigations into how various species will adapt to a warmer world, Dr Twardochleb said.
He said, “I can create any model I want without being constrained by reality. But it’s a bit dangerous because of course you want something related to the real world,” according to reports from SWNS.
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Dr Twardochleb wrote in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, a research journal, that the team had laid the groundwork for future investigations into how various species will adapt to a warmer world, especially mosquitoes disease carriers.
She added, as SWNS also reported, “A lot of the models said the predators were going to starve to death. That’s what’s exciting – that we can make the models more realistic.”
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