Climate changes, and there goes the neighborhood

Ranges of rattlers and voles likely to shift drastically with warming

By Susan Milius

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PAST IS PROLOGUEShifts in vole species in California and Oregon have inspired researchers to reconstruct where voles lived during past climate variations to get an idea of how animals might cope, or not, with predicted warming.Jerry Kirkhart/Wikimedia Commons

PITTSBURGH ― Rattlesnakes and voles could be facing real estate meltdowns of their own, as climate change forecloses habitats or shifts livable conditions into new regions at speeds as much as a thousand times faster than prehistoric averages.

Even if global average temperatures increase by only 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2100, a level of warming considered virtually inevitable by climate scientists, 11 species of rattlesnakes across North America will have to cope with their ranges dislocating by 430 meters per year on average, paleobiogeographer Michelle Lawing of Indiana University in Bloomington said October 10 at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting.

If a more extreme scenario of 6.4 degrees C of warming  turns out to be accurate, shrinkage and shifts for rattlesnake ranges will average 2,420 meters annually, she and David Polly, also of Indiana, have predicted.

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