LONDON (DOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) – Should fathers have long been afforded to wear boxer shorts and avoid bathtubs, to avoid too much heat that damages their reproductive chances.
Now it appears the same effect – but caused by stronger heat waves driven by climate change – may be behind huge falls in insect numbers, researchers say, in a study published Tuesday (Nov 13) in the journal Nature Communications.
They found that male red dairy cakes exposed to a heat wave in the lab had half of the expected number of offspring and that exposure to a second heat wave, 10 days later, almost sterilized the men.
Beef cakes that are worth injured fathers also lived shorter lives and had much less success to reproduce, says Matt Gage, biologist at the University of East Anglia and the research team's chief.
While fewer pests in your flour sound like good news, it seems as if the same principles may apply further in the food chain too – including potentially for humans.
"We have known for hundreds of years that male fertility is sensitive to heat," said the Gage Thomson Reuters Foundation.
But "the transgender effect was particularly surprising" in the new research, he said.
"We actually heat the planet and it prevents us from reproducing."
A study from 2017 published in the Science magazine found that flying insect populations in German nature reserves had exceeded 75 percent over 30 years.
Gage's team believes that it may be linked to an increasing number of heat waves in the decades – a concern for the planet's biodiversity – and possibly to be parents – because climate change provides warmer, longer heat waves.
Birth rates among people already appear in very hot periods, and not only because the prospect of a particularly sweaty thirst can be quite unpleasant, scientists believe.
A study published in the journal's demographics this year found that "sexual behavior was probably not the explanatory factor" behind the dips in the perception of heat waves, Gage said.
Instead, excess heat may have damaged sperm, leading to the risk of genetic damage and making a successful pregnancy less likely, he said.
Can doctors one day issue warnings warning would be parents to avoid getting pregnant under heat waves, to avoid potential genetic damage?
Gage is not so sure.
"We would really like to know what the mechanism of this transgeneral injury is," he said. "We know that radiation causes mutations in the offspring. It is possible that heat can do similar things."
Regardless of the results of the new study, "it is very important to understand how the species reacts to climate change," he noted.