Aardvarks Might Be Doomed Because of Climate Change

Aardvarks (Orycteropus afer) are probably the most endearingly doofy-looking animals ever to grace the African continent. These Seussian snufflers look like someone threw an anteater, a rabbit, a pig, and an armadillo into a smelter. Aardvarks have entered the consciousness of millions of children as both the first animal in any alphabetic listing, and the species ID of the titular character of the animated series Arthur. This all makes findings in a new paper published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters particularly hard to hear: Climate change may kill off large numbers of aardvarks, to the point of regional extinction (or ‘extirpation’) in many areas.

Currently, aardvarks seem to be doing alright for themselves. They are found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, barring the hottest and driest parts. However, as climate change progresses, the areas that aardvarks live in are predicted to get hotter and drier, with longer and more frequent droughts. Considering aardvarks’ avoidance of toasty, desert regions, the coming climatic shift is more than a little ominous for the species. A team of South African scientists studying the physiological flexibility of aardvarks received a glimpse into how this scenario could play out by tracking the body temperatures and movements of aardvarks during a brutally hot and dry summer—conditions that closely replicate Africa’s predicted future climate.




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