The climate crisis could turn people into dwarfs

The climate crisis could cause the human race to shrink in size as slender-bodied mammals appear to be better able to cope with rising global temperatures. This is the leading British expert on fossils, said in an interview with The Guardian.

Professor Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, has suggested that humanity will respond to the current period of climate change in the same way that other mammals have previously reacted – a decrease in the average height of people. He compared the current state of humanity to the first horses, which shrank as temperatures rose about 55 million years ago, during a period called the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. “There are a lot of fossils from that period of global warming, and it really was the most recent major event of its kind in the geological record,” Brusatte explained. “The two stories have an eerie resemblance.”

In his new book, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals, Brusatte notes that animals in warmer climates are still often smaller than those in colder regions, an ecological principle known as Bergmann’s rule. “The reasons are not entirely clear, but it’s probably partly due to the fact that smaller animals have more surface area relative to their volume, and thus smaller animals are better able to shed excess heat,” writes Brusatte. “That doesn’t mean that every kind of mammal is bound to get smaller, but it does seem to be a trick to survive when temperatures soar. The question is, will it affect people, will they become dwarfs if the temperature rises at a rapid pace? I think it’s quite plausible.”

Brusatte also points out that other human species have been shown to shrink when resources are scarce. As an example, he points to the so-called hobbits Homo floresiensis, who once inhabited the island of Flores in Indonesia. However, other scientists were rather skeptical about such statements, pointing out that at present, any evolutionary selection has little effect on people.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x