How climate change is affecting how animals and people date and mate – The Washington Post

by | Nov 28, 2022 | Climate Change

Leave it to climate change to teach us that looks aren’t everythingNovember 28, 2022 at 6:33 a.m. EST (Video: Dan Woodger for The Washington Post)Comment on this storyCommentGift ArticleThis article is the first installment of the new Hidden Planet column, which explores wondrous, unexpected and sometimes funny science of our planet and beyond.Dating and mating have never been hotter — and that’s not always a good thing.Take the male dragonfly, which tries to impress a lady with striking yellow, red, brown and black wing designs like a flittering Pablo Picasso. But some males are finding that looking that attractive in darker pigments isn’t worth the energy in a warming world. Now many are losing the bling in their wing to help stay cool — even if it could disappoint the ladies.Leave it to climate change to teach us that looks aren’t everything.Animals and humans are shifting how they select mates as greenhouse emissions raise global temperatures and warm our world. (Video: Brian Monroe, John Farrell/The Washington Post)In the animal world, the selection of certain traits has long been the biggest driver in how some sexual species will evolve. If a trait, behavior or dance will help attract or compete for a mate, they’ll do it even if it’s not that useful otherwise. But as our planet warms to unthinkable temperatures, some are forced to rethink their dating habits.Those adjustments come in many forms. A lot of animals are giving up attractive traits, while others are keeping those characteristics and finding different ways to conserve energy. Some animals are adjusting by altogether shifting the attributes they value in a mate. And although the research is very limited, there is even some evidence suggesting that human mating habits are changing in a warming world too.Currently, animals are not adapting fast enough to keep up with changes in the climate. But in the long run, changes in sexual selection could be an important component for some animal species to adapt faster and more efficiently to a rapidly warming climate — and it’s something that will be critical as climate change could drive as many as 1 in 6 animal and plant species to extinction.“We’re all realizing, ‘Oh, we need to be studying reproduction in addition to survival if we’re going to understand how organisms are going to respond to the climate over the next 20 to 50 years,’ ” said Michael Moore, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado at Denver.Here are a few animals adapting their mating behavior in high heat.I like big phenotypes and cannot lieThe male lion with the greatest, darkest mane. The male peacock with the longest and most colorful feathers. The “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” contestant with prettier or more handsome looks (we’ll get to human mating momentarily).Typically, many sexual animals find a mate based on observable characteristics, known as a phenotype. The animal with grander, flashier or more flamboyant features than its competitors is preferred. These traits are usually focused in males, but not always (shout-out …

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