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Warming forces animals to reschedule life processes

Submitted by Julie Jackson
Phone: (907) 474-7640

08/31/07

Each year, across North America, spring is arriving earlier. Birds are laying eggs earlier, plants are flowering earlier and mammals are emerging from hibernation earlier. While these adaptations may benefit individuals, they may also disrupt relationships between and among species, says William R. Dawson, comparative physiologist from the University of Michigan and the Institute of Arctic Biology 2007 Irving-Scholander Memorial lecturer.

Dawson, professor emeritus of biological sciences and a research scientist at the U-M Museum of Zoology, will present "Constraints and Capacities in the Potential Responses of Animals to Climate Change," Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. The seminar will be at the University of Alaska Museum of the North Arnold Espe Auditorium on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The IAB Irving-Scholander Memorial Lecture Series began in 1981 to honor the scientific legacies of Laurence Irving, founding director of IAB and a pioneer in the field of comparative physiology, and his colleague Per Scholander.

Dawson has investigated the regulation of body temperature, water balance and metabolism in a variety of animals and is best known for his research on adaptation to cold. His research was inspired by the works of Irving and Scholander.

Changes in timing of events such as reproduction, hatching and emergence from hibernation will allow some species to adapt to extended warm seasons, says Dawson. "Unfortunately, variation in this type of response among plant and animal species to increasing temperatures may disrupt relationships in biological communities such as those between predators and their prey or pollinators and their food plants."

In the late 1940s, just as Dawson was starting graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, Irving and Scholander published their work on the cold adaptation of Arctic birds and mammals. "It contributed to my interest in how animals meet severe environmental challenges and led to a lifelong research career examining mechanisms of thermal adaptation in reptiles, birds and mammals," Dawson said.

Dawson will present a second seminar, "Variation on the Thermoregulatory Theme: Small Birds in Winter," Friday, Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. in the Elvey Auditorium as part of the IAB Life Sciences Seminar Series.

For more information call (907) 474-7640 or go to www.iab.uaf.edu/events/eventsseminars.php

CONTACT: Julie Jackson, IAB media student assistant, at (907) 474-7640 or via e-mail at fsjkj7@uaf.edu. Marie Gilbert, IAB public information officer, at (907) 474-7412 or by e-mail at marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.