Based on information presented at the Global Change
and Global Science: Comparative Physiology in a
Changing World conference,
August 4-7, 2010 in Westminster, Colorado

“In trying to predict how species will respond to climate change caused by global warming, researchers and scientists are turning to comparative physiology, a sub-discipline of physiology that studies how different organisms function and adapt to diverse and changing environments. i-3629b4127734ad8149728201769cbe49-Screen shot 2010-07-30 at 9.24.30 AM.pngBy comparing different species to each other, as well as to members within a species that live in different environments, researchers are learning which physiologic features establish environmental optima and tolerance limits. This approach gives the scientific community a “crystal ball” for predicting the effects of global warming, according to George N. Somero, Associate Director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station.”

The Trematomus bernacchii (fish), ‘sea spider’ and sea star
are among the creatures confronting climate change. Photo
courtesy of George N. Somero.

After listening to Somero, who presented the plenary lecture for the conference, I agreed. He had compelling arguments about the benefits of comparative physiology and his and his team’s work on the role proteins play in an organism’s ability to adapt to climate change was spot on.

According to Somero, “the comparative approach gives researchers insights into the effects of global warming that they wouldn’t otherwise have, said Dr. Somero. “Only by studying species adapted to different temperatures can we identify the mechanisms that underlie temperature-sensitivity and thus set the capacities of organisms for dealing with climate change,” he said. “Comparative physiological analysis thus can help us determine how a warming world will affect the structure of our ecosystems. It will help us predict which organisms will be forced out and which will continue to thrive.”

He sold me.