Not Tonight, Dear, I'm Down with Climate Change
Let's talk about sex, baby. And climate change. Several recent studies have found ties among sex, climate change, and environmental pollution. Here's the roundup:
1. Polar-bear penis bones are shrinking in Eastern Greenland, says Christian Sonne of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, possibly because of the high prevalence of pollutants such as PCBs and DDT. Tinier penises + difficulty finding food because of global warming = DOOM.
2. A new study by Paul Donald of the U.K. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has found one-third more male birds out there than females, despite the fact that just as many hatchlings of each sex are born. This is bad news for conservation efforts, which are likely overestimating the size of populations by extrapolating from the number of males. The researchers also found that the sex ratio was greater in threatened species. Shorter female lifespans = less horizontal mambo = less hatchlings = DOOM.3. The sex of loggerhead-turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which the egg is incubated. Warmer temperatures give rise to females, while cooler ones yield males. Warming temperatures in the United States mean that southern populations of loggerheads are becoming dominantly female, which means less breeding going on. Yup, you got it: DOOM.
4. The Australian central bearded dragons are facing a similar problem. Their sex can be "switched" by heat—researchers in Australia found that incubating genetically male eggs at higher temperatures (between between 34°C and 37°C) went on to hatch females. If the lizards don't adapt fast enough to warming temperatures, the males, and consequently the entire species, may be wiped out altogether. Doubleplus DOOM.
5. The Galápagos penguin may be experiencing post-El Niño stress disorder, with the result that populations have declined by more than 60 percent. Researchers from the University of Oxford found a 30 percent chance that the species will disappear entirely within 100 years, if El Niño events continue to happen with the same frequency. A doubling of these events could lead to an 80 percent extinction within 100 years. Need we even say the D word?