November 30, 2023

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Why cheetahs will be particularly vulnerable to climate change, according to new research

Why cheetahs will be particularly vulnerable to climate change, according to new research

Researchers have discovered how rising temperatures affect cheetah behavior.

Even the world’s fastest animal cannot outrun the effects of climate change, according to experts.

Cheetah populations are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures because hot days force them to behave more nocturnally, putting them in greater competition with other predators such as lions and African wild dogs, according to a study published in the journal. Biological sciences Wednesday.

Researchers from the University of Washington studied the effect of temperature on the timing of activity and overlap among four species of large carnivores in Africa, including lions, cheetahs, leopards and African wild dogs.

They found that temperature shapes species’ activity patterns, making most species more nocturnal and less active as temperatures rise, Qasim Rafiq, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington and lead author of the study, told ABC News.

The researchers said the most significant shift was in cheetahs, which are typically diurnal species — or those that spend their waking hours during the day. Cheetahs showed the most significant shift toward nocturnal living in warmer conditions, resulting in increased overlap with other carnivores.

In 2011, researchers put high-precision GPS tracking collars on the animals and were able to look at how changes in temperature affected their activity over a period of time, Rafiq said.

Rafiq said that the data showed that during times of high temperatures, cheetahs, which tend to be more active during the day, began to shift their activity to periods where there was more overlap with lions, which they tend to avoid under normal circumstances.

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“The reason for this is that we think it is too hot for them to be active during the daylight hours, so they become more active at night, in the same way that people do in some countries where they try to avoid the midday heat,” he added. .

This is a problem because lions, cheetahs, cheetahs and African wild dogs occupy the same territory and sometimes eat the same foods, but they don’t always get along with each other, Rafiq said.

Rafiq said that larger species, such as lions, tend to dominate smaller species, and may harm or kill them. He said that if a cheetah was killed and a lion came across them, the lion would steal their food.

The founding hierarchy explains how climate change is forcing smaller predatory species to modify their behaviors to avoid larger species “because they are not competitively strong enough,” Rafiq said.

While there are many studies looking at how climate affects species, only a few have been conducted on larger species, especially big cats, mostly because it is extremely difficult to collect the data needed to make these determinations over the long term. A long period of time, says Rafiq. He said.

“It’s just something that’s very logistically challenging,” he said.

Rafiq said Botswana Wildlife Conservation, an organization aimed at protecting vulnerable wildlife species, has been collecting data on large carnivores for more than 30 years.

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Research into how climate change will affect species in the future is currently a “hot topic,” Rafiq said, adding that Abrams’ laboratory at the University of Washington is currently studying the effects of global warming on other large mammals such as whales, mountain lions and deer. And also penguins in Argentina.