Climate change and animals: Balearic shearwaters and white-lipped Peccaries

After 14 years of research, British scientists have discovered that in the summer, the Balearic shearwater, Europe’s most endangered seabird, migrates further north to the Atlantic coast of Spain and France and is increasingly seen in the UK. It demonstrates the behavioural flexibility of Balearic shearwaters and suggests that individual animals may be more flexible than previously thought in responding to the effects of climate change.

As the planet warms, some animals may be more active at night to protect themselves from the heat during the day. For example, the white-lipped peccary, native to Central and South America, usually feeds during the day and sleeps at night. However, scientists working in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands have discovered that peccaries become nocturnal when they get boiling (when average daily temperatures exceed 34.4°C). This behavioural flexibility may help peccaries adapt to climate change. Similar behaviour has been observed in other species, including giant anteaters and cheetahs.

According to American scientists, the return of sea otters to Californian swamps helps save this environment from the effects of climate change. Sea otters eat the crab Pachygrapsus crassipes, which digs burrows and destroys marsh grass. As a result of crab activity, the edges of the swamps turn “into Swiss cheese” and are vulnerable to the impact of large waves and storms. While otters do not reverse coastal erosion, they restore it to its natural rate.

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