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Study finds climate changes faster than species can adapt
Date:12/5/2011

dels into the future, the researchers calculate the expected changes in range at the lower and upper extremes of warming predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change between 1.1 degree and 6.4 degrees Celsius. They calculate that rattlesnake ranges have moved an average of only 2.3 meters a year over the past 320,000 years and that their tolerances to climate have evolved about 100 to 1,000 times slower, indicating that range shifts are the only way that rattlesnakes have coped with climate change in the recent past. With projected climate change in the next 90 years, the ranges would be displaced by a remarkable 430 meters to 2,400 meters a year.

Increasing temperature does not necessarily mean expanded suitable habitats for rattlesnakes. The timber rattlesnake, for example, is now found throughout the Eastern United States. The study finds that, with a temperature increase of 1.1 degree Celsius over the next 90 years, its range would expand slightly into New York, New England and Texas. But with an increase of 6.4 degrees, its range would shrink to a small area on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The giant Eastern diamondback rattlesnake would be displaced entirely from its current range in the Southeastern U.S. with a temperature increase of 6.4 degrees.

The findings suggest snakes wouldn't be able to move fast enough to keep up with the change in suitable habitat. The authors suggest the creation of habitat corridors and managed relocation may be needed to preserve some species.

Rattlesnakes are good indicators of climate change because they are ectotherms, which depend on the environment to regulate their body temperatures. But Lawing and Polly note that many organisms will be affected by climate change, and their study provides a model for examining what may happen with other species. Their future research could address the past and future effects of climate change on other types of snakes and on the biological co
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Contact: Steve Hinnefeld
slhinnef@iu.edu
812-856-3488
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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