Weather And The Animal Kingdom

Pika (Ochotona princeps.) Photographed near Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. Rodent iStockphoto

Unseasonably warm weather (or strangely snowy, in the case of Colorado) is irking skiers and dominating water-cooler talk across the country. Many fear this weird weather is a symptom of global warming.

Climate change is already shifting cycles of life of in the animal kingdom.
How do weather changes affect the animal kingdom?
Frogs

According to the World Wildlife Federation, human-induced climate change has already claimed victims. The golden toad and the harlequin frog of Costa Rica are now extinct — and experts blame it on global warming.

Polar bears

Several species are at risk due to the glacial melting caused by global warming. The polar bear is the first concern of environmentalists, because it depends on the sea ice as a platform off of which to catch prey. And if Arctic Sea ice is melting at a rate of 9 percent per decade, the bear's existence is in serious danger.

According to some experts, polar bears in Canada's Hudson Bay area are already losing body fat and muscle because the ice there breaks up two weeks early in spring, depriving them of hunting time.

Pikas

The BBC reports that "one of the most direct and dramatic demonstrations of the impact of global warming," comes from a furry little creature: the pika. It also calls pikas "hands down" one of "the most adorable animals you'll ever see in the wild."

Pikas dwell high in the mountaintops, and cannot survive at all in warm weather. Researchers say it is all in their habits: the guinea-pig-like animals simply do not move very much, and migration is out of the question. But groups of them have been dying out in recent years due to warmer temperatures — even on mountaintops. Some researchers say the heat-sensitive Pikas are the ideal early warning sign of global warming.

Monarch butterflies

The Platonian idea of butterfly is often the monarch. But some experts say all that might be left of the monarch in 50 years is memories. That's because butterflies that spend summers in the eastern United States —migrate to Mexico.

According to a computer analysis by the University of Minnesota of the dozen or so places in Mexico butterflies usually go, the projected temperatures of the regions would stay relatively stable. But the precipitation would more than triple by 2050 — and monarchs have never been known to survive in extremely wet conditions.

Sea turtles

Rising sea levels due to melting polar ice is the biggest threat to some sea turtles, which lay their eggs on Brazilian beaches. But there's a gender issue at play here, too. Turtles' nest temperature influences the sex of the offspring, with colder sites producing more male offspring and warmer sites conducive to female hatchlings.

Orangutans

The only ape in Asia is endangered. The orangutan is threatened by climate change, and some experts say its species is within a few decades of extinction. According to the World Wildlife Federation, some symptoms of global warming — including droughts, brushfires and over-logged forests — are the biggest threat to the orangutan's well-being and survival.

Deer, squirrels, rabbits

But other wildlife, such as forest and northern animals like squirrel, rabbits and deer, seem to love the warmer weather. Finding food is easier when it isn't cold or snowy outside, plus with less snow they are not as accessible to predators.


To learn more about threatened species:
• Click here for a World Wildlife Federation guide.
  • Christine Lagorio

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