New research from the University of East Anglia provides insight into how climate change is impacting insect populations.
The research team exposed Red Flour Beetles (Tribolium castaneum) to simulated heatwave conditions, in a lab, to explore the impact on male reproduction. While female fertility was unaffected, heatwaves halved the amount of offspring males could produce, and a second heatwave almost sterilised males. The offspring of the heatwave-exposed males were also significantly affected, and produced less than 1% of the sperm produced by the control group.
Research group leader, Prof Matt Gage, remarked "Since sperm function is essential for reproduction and population viability, these findings could provide one explanation for why biodiversity is suffering under climate change.
"Warmer atmosphere will be more volatile and hazardous, with extreme events like heatwaves becoming increasingly frequent, intense and widespread.
“Heatwaves are particularly damaging extreme weather events. Local extinctions are known to occur when temperature changes become too intense. We wanted to know why this happens. And one answer could be related to sperm.”
The team hopes these new findings will help produce models predicting species vulnerability and, consequently, help enhance conservation actions.
Image: Tribolium castaneum by Udo Schmidt