Climate change will be hardest hit by the alpha males, scientists have found

MOSCOW, 14 Nov – RIA Novosti. Global warming will most strongly affect those species, the males of which use fanciful decoration, while fighting for females or for dominance in the group, say British environmentalists in an article published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

“Sexual selection – the widespread phenomenon, and its results are the most bizarre and noticeable features in the shape of many modern animals. How it interacts with climate change, it is important to understand how much will affect our favorite species of animals, global warming, ocean acidification and other threats,” said Robert knell (Robert Knell) from Queen Mary University in London (UK).

As the scientists explain, the development of almost all multicellular living beings manages two factors – natural and sexual selection. In the first case, the evolution of conduct changing environmental conditions, and the second intraspecific competition for the opportunity to procreate. In this fight to win the “bright” individuals, which leads to the appearance of such ornaments like the tails of peacocks or the combs of roosters.

The reasons for the existence of sexual selection remain the subject of debate among scientists – the part of biologists believes that it helps the populations to be prepared for sudden changes in conditions, while others believe that such competition protects the species from degeneration and support their competitiveness in the evolutionary “arms race”.

On the other hand, the positive role of sexual selection is not always obvious when you change the habitat conditions in which the procreation of animals in the first place depends on their own survival, do not attract females. For example, last year, the American biologists have found that the acceleration of sexual selection among the fish-cichlids, vyzvannoe the emergence of a new kind of perch in African lakes have led to their almost complete extinction.

Nell and his colleague Carlos Martinez-Ruiz (Carlos Martinez-Ruiz) showed that sexual selection in General has a negative impact on survival in the face of climate change, developing computer world, in which animals exposed to sexual selection, lived in conditions of constantly changing temperature or acidity of the environment.

Observing this process, scientists have uncovered a curious effect – it turned out that sexual selection has a positive impact on the survival of the species only if the population of animals is quite large. Otherwise, he, on the contrary, accelerates the extinction of species and helps him survive, as males become too noticeable to predators, or spend too much effort on clarifying the relationship, not survival.

This pattern, as noted by Nell and Martinez-Ruiz, should be considered when the protection of animals – if their calculations are correct, then small animals and birds with pretentious-looking males will be the first victims of climate change. Guided by this principle, it is possible to identify the most vulnerable species of fauna and to protect them from extinction beforehand, the scientists conclude.