Thursday, 7 March 2013

Camels and Climate Change: Will We Be As Lucky?

Lots of space given in the last couple of days to the discovery of fossil bones of ancient camels that once roamed the Arctic about 3.4 million years ago.  Camel-like animals are still found in South America--llamas are their cousin, after all--but it seemed that nobody really thought they might have walked their way across the top of the world when sea levels were much lower.

But wooly camels, well adapted for chilly weather, apparently did just that.  Not that the Arctic was as cold as it is today: scientists estimate that aveage temps were 2 to 3 degrees warmer than now.  The reconstructions of the beasts from what few fossils that have survived are sort of a kick, but what is really interesting is the kind of reflection their evolution and travels should incite.

So temperatures go up?  Some animals might be able to take advantage of the changes: storing food in humps works just as well in snow-bound regions as it does in the desert.  The key is how quickly beasts with traits useful in the changing climate can reproduce.

Now the question is: are we going to keep up with pace?

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