According to experts, even the world’s fastest animal cannot overcome the effects of climate change.
Cheetah populations are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures because hot days make them more nocturnal, putting them in greater competition with other predators such as lions and African wild dogs, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Biological Sciences.
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University of Washington researchers studied the effects of temperature on the timing and timing of activity of four species of large carnivores in Africa, including lions, leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs.
They found that temperature shaped species’ activity patterns, making most species more nocturnal and less active as temperatures rose, University of Washington wildlife biologist and study lead author Kasim Rafiq told ABC News.
The researchers note that the most significant shift has been in cheetahs, which are typically a diurnal species, or a species that spends its waking hours during the day. Cheetahs showed the most significant shift to nocturnal life in warmer conditions, leading to increased overlap with other carnivores.
In 2011, researchers fitted the animals with high-resolution GPS tracking collars and were able to see how changes in temperature affected their activity over a period of time, Rafiq said.
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The data showed that during warmer temperatures, cheetahs, which tend to be more active during the day, began to shift their activity to more encounters with lions, which they tend to avoid in normal situations, Rafiq said.
“The reason for this is that we think it’s too hot for them to be active during the day, so they become more nocturnal, like people do in some countries where they try to avoid the midday heat,” he said. : .
This is problematic because lions, cheetahs, leopards and African wild dogs share the same territory and sometimes eat the same foods, but they don’t always get along, Rafiq said.
Larger species, such as lions, tend to dominate smaller species and will injure or kill them, Rafiq said. If he kills it and the lion meets them, the lion will steal their food, he said.
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The limiting hierarchy shows how climate change is forcing smaller predator species to adapt their behavior to avoid larger species, “because they’re just not competitively strong enough,” Rafiq said.
While there have been many studies examining how climate affects species, few have been done on larger species, especially big cats, largely because it is too difficult to collect the data needed to make these decisions over long periods of time. Rafik. said:
“It’s just logistically very difficult,” he said.
Botswana Wildlife Conservation, which aims to protect vulnerable wildlife species, has been collecting data on large carnivores for more than 30 years, Rafiq said.
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Research into how climate change will affect future species is currently a “hot topic,” Rafiq said, adding that the University of Washington’s Abrams Lab is currently studying the effects of global warming on other large mammals, such as whales, mountain lions and deer. : as well as penguins in Argentina.
Why cheetahs will be particularly vulnerable to climate change, according to new research that originally appeared on abcnews.go.com.
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