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Snake decline likely in America, too, say biologists

The drastic snake decline seen across five countries in Europe and Africa is likely happening in America as well, says Dr. Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas.

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Of note with the recent study on snakes was that the affected populations were in both protected and non-protected environments, hinting at something happening on a global scale.

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Global warming is already believed to have caused the extinction of 12 percent of Mexico’s lizard populations since 1975, according to a May 14 report by Barry Sinervo of the University of California in Santa Cruz. His study, published in the magazine Science, argues that nearly 20 percent of all lizard species could be extinct by the year 2080.

Dr. Sinervo delivers a “disturbing message: Climate-forced extinctions are not only in the future but are happening now,” scientists at the University of Washington, Harvard, and Berkley write in a related article titled “Are Lizards Toast?”

“With warming, lizards will spend longer periods in refuges, reducing foraging time, such that net energy gain becomes insufficient for reproduction; extinction ensues,” they write.

Turning point?

Aside from global warming and climate change, loss of diversity and fungus-related diseases (as caused the extinction of the Golden Toad in Costa Rice) are theories for why animal life is dying off at such a rapid pace.

“It’s all of these things at once and it’s turning into the perfect storm of conservation crisis,” says Brown at the University of Kansas. “It’s like a snowball rolling downhill.”

He adds: “The hope is that we call attention to this and the role of these animals in the ecosystem.… Hopefully we look back and realize that 2010 was the year that we recognized this.”

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