Species could benefit from climate change: study

From humans to animals, from birds to small insects, the world is witnessing the negative impact of climate change. An increase in temperature changes the ecosystem. Habitats for animals and plants are destroyed due to heavier rainy seasons, prolonged droughts, or unpredictable snowfalls in regions unaccustomed to such changes.

However, a new study has found that warming temperatures may, in fact, benefit one species, namely rattlesnakes. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that rattlesnakes prefer higher temperatures because they are cold-blooded animals.

Subsequently, a warming climate means they spend more time in the wild and less time hibernating, according to a new study published earlier this month in the journal Ecology and evolution suggests.

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For the study, the team of researchers examined the Pacific Rattlesnake and observed that the snakes’ preferred body temperatures were around 86 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Pacific rattlesnakes can be found in desert regions like southern California. They can also be located in colder climates like Washington State.

Hayley Crowell, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, told US TODAY: “They’re living in colder temperatures than they would like to be in a perfect world. If there’s a few degree rise in climate, these snakes, from a physiological point of view, might be happier because they are closer to their preferred body temperature.”

Crowell, who is the lead author of the study, said the observation indicates that for rattlesnakes, hibernation ends earlier in the spring if temperatures continue to rise. “Basically, just more time to grow up and do rattlesnake things,” she said.

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They could benefit from warming temperatures, but rattlesnakes will also experience negative impacts due to low prey and water availability and increased risk of exposure to wildfires.

However, rattlesnakes have a lower metabolism than other animals, Crowell explained, they don’t need a lot of food to survive.

“They just don’t need a lot of food to survive. A rattlesnake can totally survive on one or two large ground squirrels a year if it needs it,” she said.


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Teresa H. Sadler