A new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution looked at fossil records, current distributions and the phylogenetic relationships for over 11,000 terrestrial vertebrates. Using historical records to reconstruct climate and geographical ranges they found that birds and mammals were more successful and faster than cold-blooded animals at adapting to climate changes as well as expanding or changing the location or range of their habitats.
In a quote from Scientific American, lead study author Dr. Jonathan Rolland stated, “We see that mammals and birds are better able to stretch out and extend their habitats, meaning they adapt and shift much easier. This could have a deep impact on extinction rates and what our world looks like in the future.”
Reasons for the better adaptation in mammals and birds likely has to do with temperature regulation. Cold-blooded animals reduce their activity in cold temperatures whereas they may cease to function with increasing temperatures. In contrast, warm-blooded animals are better able to thermoregulate and can thus function in wider temperature ranges and they are better adapted to move to more suitable climates.
J Rolland, D Silvestro, D Schluter, A Guisan, O Broennimann, N Salamin. The impact of endothermy on the climatic niche evolution and the distribution of vertebrate density. Nature Ecology & Evolution. (2018) doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0451-9
Image from Wikimedia Commons