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back to article Global warming COULD SHRINK THE HUMAN RACE

Modern mammals, including humans, could be at risk of shrinking as a result of global warming, just as teeny prehistoric horses shrank to an even smaller size when temperatures rose 56 million years ago. Modern Morgan horse (left) thinks about eating teeny Sifrhippus (right) Modern Morgan horse (left) thinks about eating teeny …

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It's already happened

Go to Willenhall, Coventry. Everyone's about 5 foot tall.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: It's already happened

They eat greasy feet? What is this, a remake of The Hills Have Pies?

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Re: Re: It's already happened

I had heard that Coventry was odd, but this statement just takes the biscuit... "Something about a diet of greasy feet..."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's already happened

Or Hillfields. Or wood end. I think its more the general state of Coventry than anything evolutionary. Something about a diet of greasy food, cheap super strength larger and knocked off fags.

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Go

Re: Re: It's already happened

I didn't want to stereotype the good burgers (sic, snigger) of Cov and hoped to give them an excuse for their diminutive stature via the Church of Climatology.

However my thinly veiled ruse has been uncovered and the truth duly outed!

:oD

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Thumb Up

Re: Re: Re: It's already happened

Rubbish - I'm from the Coventry area and I'm 6'2"

Agree that Coventry is an absolute bloody armpit of a town though.

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Ogi

I'm not sure about this...

I mean, some of the tallest people I know are from some of the hottest climes, particularly Africa. I always thought being larger helps in hot climates due to increased surface area for cooling.

Also, humans seem to be getting taller with time, statistically speaking. I believe the average height in the UK has been increasing for centuries now ( I cannot for the life of me remember where the status for this came from, but I do remember reading about it).

Then again, they are talking size in weight. I can imagine humans getting lighter, as they need less fat to keep warm, etc... Those Africans I mentioned were tall, but very lean.

Interesting study, none the less.

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Re: I'm not sure about this...

"I always thought being larger helps in hot climates due to increased surface area for cooling."

It's the opposite. As you increase it's harder to lose heat because your volume to surface area increases. That's why small animals tend to have faster metabolisms.

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My thoughts exactly

"It's not the first time that scientists have noticed that mammals seem to be smaller in hotter climates, and have speculated that evolution takes care of this, because smaller animals will thrive in high temperatures because their bodies are easier to cool."

What? Have these people ever been to Africa and Asia? Tigers, lions and leopards vs. lynx? Eland are bigger than moose. African buffalo aren't smaller than bison or wisent. Not to mention elephants, giraffes, etc.

Temperature might have an effect on size, but surely other things like availability of food and other evolutionary quirks like elephants' ears.

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Re: I'm not sure about this...

Taller, yes, but the number that counts is not height, but volume. I'd give you good odds that there is an evolutionary pressure for some African peoples being tall (I thinking places like Kenya and Ethiopia here), and that this pressure is probably related to why they make some of the world's best long distance runners. I'd also give good odds that whilst tall, their body volume is considerably lower than shorter people hailing from cooler climates.

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Boffin

Re: I'm not sure about this...

Yes, but the east africans are tall and skinny, that gives them larger surface area-to-body mass ratio, which helps with cooling. People evolved in cold climates like scandinavian vikings are giant beefy f**kers in all dimensions, hence low ratio of surface area to body mass allowing them to stay cool.

This won't really affect humans that much (or domestic and 'indoor' farm anilmals) seeing the extensive use of heating / air conditioning, but it would affect wild animals. It's likely that few animals will be able to adjust their range by moving north/south to find a more optimal temperature because they'll find humans in the way.

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Facepalm

Re: I'm not sure about this

Bulletin, healthy adult humans even today range in size from just under 4 feet to about double that. Their size doesn't depend on whether they got much more or much less sun or water due to their local climate. It does depend, tho, on the level of nutrition they receive while they're growing and whether their genes support potential growth beyond a certain height. Within two generations, humans in general can eat differently and therefore grow to different sizes than their parents and grandparents. And do! Just look around! The idea the entire species would permanently shrink would have to mean their larger sizes would not allow them to live beyond puberty, and the smaller size would. That wouldn't be due necessarily to climate change, as it could have been over a period of many centuries with horses, but would require some kind of mass death of all prepubescents above a certain height. There would necessitate a bizarre change in the environment that would benefit a smaller size. Climate change could not account for that. So the implication in this POORLY written article, by someone who really has little clue to how evolution works, that rising or falling temps would necessarily kill off all tall prepubescants worldwide and benefit much smaller prepubescants, is too preposterous to figure out what kind of condtions could actually cause that.

If there's no protein around, a generation of 6 1/2 ft parents could see their kids grow to 5 ft and no more. Climate change does not imply any such condition. A world of exploding volcanoes would kill off most, and the rest would remain tall IF they had the protein to continue to eat. The conditions of what it would take to shrink human size universally is beyond the understanding of the "author" of this piece. I AM sure about this.

VERY BAD JOB, REGISTER.

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Re: I'm not sure about this...

The tall Africans drink cow's blood. It's the protein that makes them tall, despite the temps. The entire article is junk. Climate change is real---400 billion tons of ice melt each day at the poles---but the not-so-bright idea the entire species could shrink due to climate change is really dumb, unless all protein disappeared, and the climate that would kill off all protein would kill us off too (we're protein!).

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Stop

Re: Re: I'm not sure about this

As a wise friend once said to me, "Just because you are sure, doesn't mean you're right"

It doesn't imply any such mass wipeout of tall people: that *would* be a nonsense. What it means is that over many generations, taller people would be less likely to reproduce, leading to a gradual reduction in the average size of members of the species. Obviously,

How might this come to pass? Well, given the self-evident tendency of surface area per unit volume to decrease with increasing volume, larger animals find it more difficult to remain cool if the temperature increases - not impossible, just more difficult.

That implies less activity for larger animals, since activity produces heat that - unless removed - might cause dehydration/heatstroke/.... Less activity implies a reduced ability to support a family than a smaller but otherwise identical animal (less foraging time, smaller hunting range, or ...). Smaller families for (genetically) larger members of a species leads to a gradual diminution of the average size of a species as a whole.

Doesn't sound too implausible to me.

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Facepalm

Re: Re: I'm not sure about this @ Native

if food .. water .. fuel or other resources got short ..

.. suspect the tall, strong and violent *might is right* people would prevail over the smaller among us .. and isn't that today the way it works in most of the world ?

in agreement

Fly

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Re: I'm not sure about this...

Yes, taller because they have longer legs usually. Short legs (like Europeans') are a cold weather adaptation. Long legs lose heat quicker. House sparrows were introduced with European settlers to North America and now now the further south you go in the USA, the longer their legs.

This article is rubbish as far as any human implications go. The timescale is too short to have any effect on human evolution and countervailing trends (not the least sexual selection by women of taller men) put pressure in the other direction.

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WTF?

Another study tenuously linked to CAGW (for the purposes of funding no doubt).

Global warming, is there anything it cant do? For the complete and growing list see

http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

+1

I tried to get John Brignell in to do staff training about using statistics. His was in particularly poor health and it didn't happen.

I wish I'd tried harder.

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Anonymous Coward

Totally missing the point paraphrase time!

"Global warming creates My Little Pony"

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Re: Totally missing the point paraphrase time!

I wonder who'll end up getting the contracts for defending against the Sonic Rainboom...

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I thought Stephen Jay Gould had debunked this

Read Chapter 5 of "Life's Grandeur" for the fascinating complexity of equine evolution. To vastly oversimplify - the traditional story (developed by TH Huxley) of small many-toed horses evolving linearly via larger specimens with fewer toes up to modern Clydesdales is erroneous. At any given point in time and space there were many different species of equus trotting around - some smaller, some larger; some with fewer toes, some with more - it's just that the surviving examples we find today are of the larger, single-toed variety (and the earliest ones were the opposite).

It may be that warmer climates drove selection of smaller animals, and vice versa, but this would not have been a simple linear process.

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Anonymous Coward

And we'd be healthier !

Shorter => lower Body Mass Index ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And we'd be healthier !

Taller would lower Body mass index not shorter. weight (kg) / height (m squared)

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Re: Re: And we'd be healthier !

Height in meters squared? Did you forget you've left your usual four-dimensional universe for Flatland?

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Will never happen.

Unlike all other animals, we've conquered the environment with intelligence, so physical characteristics are irrelevant.

However we carry over our evolution so birds fancy tall blokes, the tendency is for increase in height. World war two and the welfare state has caused the massive increase in height over the last century, and I see no reason to see it end.

Firstly the war meant that all the dutch are tall because half the dutch women were screwing the same giant of a german soldier, if you're going to fall on your back with your legs in the air for an occupying force, it might as well be for a tall one. The same is true for all the HausFraus in the 50s, with the yanks.

Secondly, the welfare state allows women to screw whoever the want and not worry about how they're fed.

Hey presto, any society where you've conquered the environment and women have a choice, will ensure increasing physical attractiveness. (and intelligence, because stupid men can't get laid, because they're poor.)

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Re: Will never happen.

Not sure it guarantees intelligence. If you guarantee the survival of all sprogs, then thick chav slappers (of both sexes) who get too pissed to use a rubber are going to out-sprog intelligent couples who take a more planned approach. And thick ultra-religious nutters who believe you're destined for hell if you use contraception are also going to out-sprog intelligent people.

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Re: Re: Will never happen.

...And then the food supply will fail because they will replace the watering system with one that uses a 'sports energy drink' because it has 'electrolytes'...

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Re: Will never happen.

One niggle, I'd say it's more to do with the food production capacity (and the ability to move it around the globe) rather than the welfare state, but you make good points.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Will never happen.

A little overgeneralistic, but I would also add I've noticed a correlation between facial beauty and breast size in women. A beautiful woman doesn't need big jugs to attract a mate, though it helps!

However, it remains to be seen whether 'conquering the environment' is an intelligent thing to do - it in no way guarantees long-term survival. Pity none of us will be around to observe the consequences.

Our "intelligence" has caused a population explosion, environmental imbalance and host stress that most viruses would envy.

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Interesting article

However, "However, the potentially rapid nature of climate change now could mean that evolution doesn't have time to work its magic, so the handy planet-saving, human-rescuing shrinking doesn't get a chance to get going." sounds like a load of speculative dung.

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Didn't the Dead Kennedys write a song about this?

Well, kinda.

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Boffin

Bergmann's rule

Ah well, nothing new here folks - Christian Bergmann noted back in 1847 that mammals tended to be smaller in warmer climates than than individuals of the same species in cooler climates:

"Über die Verhältnisse der Wärmeökonomie der Thiere zu ihrer Grösse".

This is in the long term and as the saying goes, in the long term we are all dead so the correct response here would be 'meh'.

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Anonymous Coward

Er

I think someone omitted to tell the dinosaurs that they had to shrink during warm weather!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Er

Dinosaurs are not warm-blooded mammals. Being bigger helped them retain heat and start eating earlier in the morning..

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Joke

Unlike horses, we have invented air conditioning.

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Re "You can either adapt, or you go extinct"

Or you can make your environment adapt to you. Something we have been doing for thousands of years now.

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Re: Re "You can either adapt, or you go extinct"

If there was a competition for 'Last Species Standing' we would probably win our Mammal class. Hurrah for us.

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Pint

Re: Re: Re "You can either adapt, or you go extinct"

Nah, I'd bet on the rats, and with fools like you betting the other way, I'll get good odds. I'll be rolling in it when we're all dead. Just pile the dosh in my coffin.

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"Here's some Benylin."

"Thanks but...I didn't ask for any cough mixture."

"I thought you said you w..."

"No, I said I was feeling a little horse!"

I thank yow.

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Anonymous Coward

Global warming COULD SHRINK THE HUMAN RACE

Yeah! cause we all know the girls dig those shorter, smaller, wimpier guys. They won't be able to resist when they take their tops off, during those future, globally warmed, long hot summers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Global warming COULD SHRINK THE HUMAN RACE

Napoleon did alright for himself...

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FAIL

Re: Re: Global warming COULD SHRINK THE HUMAN RACE

Napoleon was 5'6", about average for the time.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8243486.stm

The "small man - big ego" theory is a bit of a myth

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Boffin

It's all to do with surface-area to volume ratios

Warm blooded animals need to lose heat to the environment at a controlled rate. Two factors govern the rate of heat loss - the temperature difference between environment and body, and the body's surface area to volume ratio.

As the temperature of the environment increases, the heat loss decreases, as the rate of heat flow is proportional to the temperature difference - in other words if the environment is ten degrees cooler than you, you lose heat twice as fast than if it is only five degrees cooler. If the environment is hotter than you, you're in trouble.

The body generates heat at a rate that is proportional to the volume, in other words an animal twice the size will produce twice as much heat. However, the heat loss is through the body's surface, and doubling the volume of an animal does not double the surface area. This is why large animals tend to have wrinkly skin, to increase the surface area, and also why elephants have big ears (nothing to do with Noddy not paying the ransom).

In short, bigger animals lose heat slower than smaller ones, so in a warmer environment, there is a selective pressure for animals to become smaller to lose heat faster.

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Headmaster

Re: It's all to do with surface-area to volume ratios

Really ?

It's pretty bloody hot on the plains of the Serengeti but elephants are quite big aren't they ?

Anyone considered an alternative hypothesis where there may have been a food shortage thus a smaller body requires less calories.

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Silver badge

Re: Re: It's all to do with surface-area to volume ratios

As noted, elephants have lots of very wrinkled skin, and massive ears to increase their heat loss. They also have a slower metabolism than smaller creatures, and a fondness for seeking water to cool down in.

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FAIL

Utter Testicles

When the dinosaurs walked the earth it was a lot hotter than it is now. Who is giving this moron a research grant, Mystic Meg ?

In Australia statistics show when ice cream sales go up when there are more shark attacks !

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Happy

Re: Utter Testicles

Maybe the human metabolism breaks down vanilla and/or milk products so that some is exuded via the sweat glands and acts as a shark-attractant? This needs some controlled experiments and careful observation. Can I have a grant please?

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FAIL

Re: Utter Testicles

You might have missed the somewhat salient fact that dinosaurs are cold-blooded, not warm blooded. Mammals at the time were tiny rodent-like things.

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