In the drive to survive changing climates, larger herbivores may fare slightly better than their smaller competitors, according to new research from the UT-based National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Scientists have generally expected animals to get smaller as the planet warms, as research on the interactions in food webs has focused mainly on the effects of temperature. But the new study accounts for additional climate variables that could come into play, including atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and rainfall patterns.
The key factor appears to be plant quality.
In the study, published in the journal American Naturalist, researchers developed a model based on food web interactions among plants, grasshoppers, and spiders exposed to multiple changing climate variables. The variables interact and influence plant nutritional quality, which in turn affects the herbivorous grasshoppers and the shared predator—the spiders.
Read more about the study on the NIMBioS website.