New anthropology findings at UMass

  • For The Recorder/BILL DANIELSON This bird didn't make much sense to me at first, but the black-and-white marks near its nose finally gave it away. Also note the faint suggestion of a stain on the tip of this bird's beak.

Published: 11/15/2016 10:10:01 PM

AMHERST — The legacy of paleoclimate on modern biodiversity patterns is the subject of a new study by a team of researchers that includes UMass Amherst anthropologist Jason Kamilar.

Their startling finding, that past climates are more important to the structure of mammal communities than modern climate, implies that African mammal species have either failed to move with their preferred environments over the last several thousand years of climate change, or that these species are ecologically flexible and can persist in a wide range of climatic conditions.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change on the world’s biodiversity and have put great effort into forecasting the response of species to these changes over the next century. Research aiming to forecast species’ responses often assumes that species are adapted to current climate conditions and will follow their preferred climates during future climate change. However, this new study finds that the distribution of species today may largely be a product of the climate of the deep past, according to UMass researchers.

If species have failed to move with their preferred environment through time to the present, then the researchers believe that there is a significant time lag between climate change and species’ response. Even worse, this time lag occurs under natural rates of climate change — much slower than rates of manmade climate change.

The study, published this month in the biological sciences journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was conducted by Kamilar, assistant professor of anthropology at UMass Amherst and others.


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