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Review: Adaptation of animals to heat stress

  • V. Sejian (a1), R. Bhatta (a1), J. B. Gaughan (a2), F. R. Dunshea (a3) and N. Lacetera (a4)...

Livestock plays an important role in the global economy. Climate change effects are not only limited to crop production, but also affect livestock production, for example reduced milk yields and milk quality, reduced meat production and reduced fertility. Therefore, livestock-based food security is threatened in many parts of the world. Furthermore, multiple stressors are a common phenomenon in many environments, and are likely to increase due to climate change. Among these stresses, heat stress appears to be the major factor which negatively influences livestock production. Hence, it is critical to identify agro-ecological zone-specific climate resilient thermo-tolerant animals to sustain livestock production. Livestock responds to the changing environments by altering their phenotypic and physiological characters. Therefore, survivability of the animal often depends on its ability to cope with or adapt to the existing conditions. So to sustain livestock production in an environment challenged by climate change, the animals must be genetically suitable and have the ability to survive in diversified environments. Biological markers or biomarkers indicate the biological states or alterations in expression pattern of genes or state of protein that serve as a reference point in breeding for the genetic improvement of livestock. Conventionally, identification of animals with superior genetic traits that were economically beneficial was the fundamental reason for identifying biomarkers in animals. Furthermore, compared with the behavioural, morphological or physiological responses in animals, the genetic markers are important because of the possibility of finding a solution to animal adaptability to climate change.

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