Climate Change Makes Salamanders Smaller

May 18, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. shrink /ʃrɪŋk/ (v.) – to be smaller or to decrease in size
Example: Some animals shrink because of lack of nutrition.

2. specimen /ˈspɛsəən/ (n.) – a sample used for an experiment or a study
Example: The scientist collected blood specimens of different animals.

3. crucial /ˈkruʃəl/ (adj.) – very important
Example: Proper care for the environment is crucial for the animals’ survival.

4. simulation /ˌsɪməˈleɪʃən/ (n.) – the process of doing something to act or appear like the original
Example: Researchers did a simulation of the insect’s eating habits.

5. predecessor /ˈprɛdəˌsɛsər/ (n.) – something or someone who existed before another
Example: Some bears nowadays are smaller than their predecessors.


Read the text below.
American researchers claim that the body size of some salamander species has shrunk over the years because of climate change.

In 1957, Professor Richard Highton [hahyt-n] of the University of Maryland started his study on salamanders located in the Appalachian [ap-uh-LEY-chee-uh n] Mountains in North America. For 50 years, he collected thousands of salamanders as samples.

On his retirement, he donated the preserved specimens to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Service Center in Suitland, Maryland. Highton’s findings revealed that the population of salamanders has reduced from the 1980s onwards.

Karen Lips, associate professor in the University of Maryland, continued Highton’s research. Lips collected salamanders in the same areas to analyze its size and health. By comparing her new findings with Highton’s previous data, Lips’ team found that more than half of the current species were 8% smaller than the samples collected before the 1980s.

Lips explained that cold-blooded animals like salamanders often shrink when the surroundings become warmer. She added that the decrease in body size is crucial for salamanders’ reproduction and survival.

To know how the decreased size affects the salamanders, Michael Sears [seerz] of Clemson University created a simulation on the life of smaller salamanders. He estimated how much energy the modern salamanders use compared with the bigger salamanders from the past. Sears concluded that the current salamanders spend about 7% to 8% more energy than their predecessors.

According to Lips, further studies will be conducted to know if the current salamanders can still adapt to the changing environment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         In your opinion, what would happen if the salamanders get smaller and smaller? Kindly explain.
·         How can scientists help preserve the salamanders’ population?

Discussion B

·         Are there actions done in your country to protect animals from climate change?
·         What are the effects of climate change in your country?


May 18, 2014