5 Animals Feeling The Most Heat From Climate Change
Climate change has forced animals to eat different foods, adopt new habitats and travel longer distances. And for these five species, the earth's changing climate poses some of the most significant dangers -- if the environment continues to shift so drastically, they may not be around to share Earth Days with our future generations.
[Image credit: Martin Lopatka]
1. Polar bears
The poster child (or cub) for global warming, polar bears face shrinking Arctic sea ice. As climate change pushes these hunters into unfamiliar habitats in search of food, they've begun to mate with grizzlies, bearing hybrid offspring known as "grolar bears." In a 2010 report in the journal Nature, American biologists note that the rarer species' genes -- in this case, those of the polar bears -- are more likely to be lost in an Arctic melting pot.
2. Monarch butterflies
In Mexico, monarch butterfly populations have dipped to their lowest numbers in 20 years, according to a World Wildlife Fund study released last year. "Abnormal patterns of drought and rainfall in the U.S. and Canada breeding sites may have caused adult butterfly deaths and less plant food for caterpillars. Fewer butterflies up north mean fewer then migrate south to Mexico for the winter," the WWF writes.
3. Shenandoah salamander
The only place to find the endangered Shenandoah salamander is beneath the rocks on the slopes of the Appalachians, where the air stays cool. And as these habitats dry out in the Appalachians, all types of salamanders are shrinking in size.
4. Bog turtles
Federally listed as endangered in 1997, the diminutive bog turtles live in fractured swampy habitats across North America. "We do have some concerns because the species is impacted by small changes in temperature, and its habitat is driven by freshwater springs," says wildlife manager Michael Horne in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. The turtles' nesting sites sit very close to the surface of the bogs where they live -- should these areas flood in the summer, the nests are at risk of washing out.
5. Magellanic Penguins
Blistering heat waves and torrential rain threatens baby Magellanic penguins off the Argentinian coast. "We're going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season, as climatologists predict," University of Washington biologist Ginger Rebstock tells The Guardian.