A study concludes that mammals and birds evolve faster in isolated regions like mountains. This kind of evolution is dependent on several factors that determine how creatures adapt to their environment.
Authors from Cambridge University in the evolutionary study of animals say it is driven if the location is highland or lowland in the last three million years. Noticeably this has affected the adaptations of every animal living since then, which is the primary driver of change in nature.
Study finds a process that leads to evolution
Speciation is a process caused by higher elevations to be a factor in creating new species more so than the rapid change of temperature or climate change, reported the Daily Mail.
When landmasses get higher in altitude, especially in mountain ranges, it will influence unique habitats. Height will kick in the creation of new animals that are specialized for it.
One species resulting from these unique conditions is the Kea and several birds living in the New Zealand alpine regions. Much of the results of speciation also brought about the bighorn sheep of the Rocky Mountains. The Kea is a large parrot inhabits the higher Alpine region in the South Island and Mount Cook National Park.
According to Dr. Andrew Tanentzap, the mountain tops have unique species which cannot be seen anywhere. One assumption was the climate and its conditions that would nudge the creation of new species. Still, it is the elevation or location of the habitat which serves as the main factor. Mammals and birds evolve faster in elevated regions like mountains due to variables in these environments.
Examination of how higher altitudes can drive how a new species is adapted for exotic environments instead showed that mammals were evolving faster than birds, noted the study authors.
Implication of increased altitude habitats
Birds can fly and cross more areas to look for a mate over a broader range than mammals. Other findings are that birds are likely to feel modern-day temperatures than mammals. Next, Dr. Tanentzap specified two essential variables to explain why higher elevations push evolution faster than usual, cited Texas News Today.
New habitats allow species to adapt to unique niches that are exploited to specialize in. Used as an example are the maps of the Victorian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt's iconic maps, outlining habitat changes in increasing elevations.
One more reason is that barriers keep mammals locked in areas, compared to birds that can fly out. The isolation caused a lack of unique mates, and inbreeding occurs, unlike interbreeding. Having barriers on different levels on the mountainside keeps them separate over longer distances. Dr. Tanentzap suggested that land barriers would be more of a hindrance to mammals which evolves differently from birds. Flight is the variable that determines speciation in birds, noted National Geographic.
Researchers made a model that tracked changes in elevation of the earth's surface in the last three million years, combined with climate change in the same period-combining the locations of birds and mammals where they lived. What differed in the land increased with lower temperatures, with more complex habitats in locations that are in mountainous regions.
Isolation of mammal groups that breed amongst themselves gives another avenue for evolution that will occur. Getting isolated starts creating new species, which is an exception in the case of the Kea, a large parrot that evolves faster in elevated regions like mountains.