Friday, June 18, 2010

Snakes vanishing, likely cause is climate change

Why vanishing snake colonies have 'large-scale implications' for humanity
The Toronto Star: The first documented evidence of the baffling disappearance of up to 90 per cent of snake colonies in five disparate spots on the globe has 'large-scale' implications for humanity... And the 'most obvious cause, intuitively, would be climate change,' biologist Jason Head of the University of Toronto, told the Star.

'Snakes are top predators in their ecosystem,' says Head. 'They are regulators on rodents. If we remove that regulator, you can expect an increase in the number of disease vectoring (carrying) animals.' Venomous snakes are taking the biggest hit in the findings, which has serious consequences for medicine, said Head. 'Snakes are not an insignificant component of human society... There are large-scale implications' to the disappearance of some kinds of snakes, including the role of snake venom in medicine. 'You can draw your own conclusions.'

A recently published study in the journal Biology Letters involving painstaking research in England, Nigeria, Australia, Italy and France discovered eight species in 17 snake populations in those widely different climates that had 'declined drastically,' said Dr. Christopher Reading, lead researcher for the study. 'In some of the populations, the decline was 70 to 90 per cent... And the fact that it happened at all of the same time, irrespective of geography, indicates there is something at a higher level behind it.'...

'The scale and precision of this study' impressed Head. And while researchers were careful not to pin the mysterious decline on any one cause, the vastly different geologies of the regions, from tropical to temperate, suggested 'one ultimate driving mechanism,' with climate change the clearest culprit. 'It's alarming, to be honest,' Head said.
Image source here.