Climate change has been blamed for failed crops, drought, severe storms, and rising seas—but these major shifts in weather and climate are only part of the story. Already, climate change is having a profound effect on ecosystems around the world, upsetting and altering the lives of numerous species of animals.
Here are six animals that are struggling to cope with the changes wrought by climate change.
1. Clownfish are Going Deaf
Photo credit: Leszek.Leszczynski/Creative Commons
That's right, the adorable reef-dwellers that served as inspiration for Disney's Nimo are losing their hearing due to ocean acidification. This means that the fish are suddenly less able to respond to the presence of predators, threatening their survival.
2. Evolution Could Go Wild
The conventional wisdom is that evolution happens slowly, over the course of a great many generations. Some new research, however, suggests that faced with rapidly changing environments due to climate change, plant and animal species maybe be able to kick adaptations into high gear. More research is needed, some scientists have already witnessed evolutionary changes in select species happening at an accelerated rate.
3. Coral Stops Growing
Coral—the foundation of the "rainforest of the ocean"—responds directly to increases in temperature, according to research. Unfortunately, this response is largely negative, with growth rates slowing to a near standstill.
4. Bird Species Die Off
Recent research has stumbled upon an alarming trend: As average temperature increases, many bird populations decline. The survey, conducted by the University of Utah, found that warming of 3.5 degrees Celsius may result in 600-900 extinctions of land bird species.
5. Animals Could Get Bigger...
Researchers in California have found that birds around San Francisco Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore have slowly gotten bigger over the last 27 to 40 years. The finding was particularly interesting because it counters some conventional wisdom about how animals will respond to climate change.
6. ...Or They Could Get Smaller
That conventional wisdom suggests that animals—and cold blooded species in particular—will shrink in size as the global average temperature increases. Some research, too, has extended this trend to certain mammals.