Monday, June 4, 2007

Mankind set to wipe out another dinosaur species (like we did all the others)

My God! Whatever shall we do?

The survival in New Zealand of a "living fossil" which has remained unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs is threatened by global warming.

The lizard-like tuatara has survived ice ages, volcanic eruptions and the depredations of Maoris and Europeans, but now faces extinction because of rising temperatures.

The sex of baby tuataras is determined by the temperature of the soil in which the eggs are laid.

Cooler temperatures produce female hatchlings, while warmer soil results in males. A modest rise in temperature on the offshore islands which form the last stronghold of the spiny-backed creature could spell disaster, producing too many males and not enough females.

Wait! What's this about?

Scientists say their slow rate of breeding makes it hard for them to adapt to global warming.

"They've certainly survived the climate changes in the past but most of those have been at a slower rate," said Jennifer Moore, a researcher from Victoria University in Wellington.

"So you wouldn't expect these guys to be able to adapt to a climate that's changing so rapidly."

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in a report in February that global temperatures would rise by 3.2 to 7.2 Fahrenheit during the course of this century.

Oh, wait. You mean that temperatures haven't varied from one year to the next by a few degrees? In the last 220 million years, with all of the Krakatoa-scale volcanic events that have plunged the Earth into years without summer? With the numerous Ice Ages and Warm Ages that have occurred? With the repositioning of New Zealand itself from one point on the globe to another due to tectonic drift?

No, of course the tuatara can't adapt this time. Because this time it's dealing with man-made climate change, and like Mrs. Olsen used to say, "That's the richest kind."

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