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Skinny Aardvarks: A Testament to Climate Change

Alana Cree, Staff Writer

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What does the famous childhood cartoon character, Arthur, have in common with global warming?
Whether your science teacher mentions it or the president blatantly denies it, we have all heard the term “global warming.” The connotations of this term are often negative as one is likely to imagine the ice caps melting, CO2 in the atmosphere, or skewed weather patterns. I’ll bet the first thing that comes to mind is not a shivering, malnourished aardvark.
In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa, a nocturnal aardvark sunbathing is not a regular sight. Scientists from Witwatersrand University in South Africa decided to track six aardvarks in order understand the cause for their abnormal sunbathing habits. Their findings were alarming, to say the least. An aardvarks’ body temperature, which is traditionally close to that of humans (98.6 degrees), has reached almost 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Aardvarks have the ability to maintain inner body temperatures, but their lack of nourishment has led to starvation, causing death in large numbers. In addition, global warming has had a dramatic effect on the weather patterns in the aardvark’s desert habitat. Longer drought periods have created a hotter and drier climate. Although the aardvarks are being affected, it is not their heat intolerance that has caused their quick decline.
The university’s scientists discovered that the animals were dying off because food supply was limited. As the scientists mention, “Soil moisture directly affects activity, development and survival of subterranean insects such as ants and termites, on which aardvarks depend.” Although climate change is an indirect cause of the dwindling aardvark populations, a decline in aardvark numbers will have an immense impact on African systems. This is because aardvarks are “ecosystem engineers,” or burrowers that create homes for multiple rodent species. Without them, many animals may suffer a loss of shelter.
The demise of aardvarks in Africa may not seem like it relates to us in any way. Who cares if a funny looking animal goes extinct? The truth is that the loss of aardvark populations can serve as proof that climate change results in a domino effect, affecting all species. A skinny aardvark might be a glimpse into our possible future.
Maybe the extinction of Arthur the Aardvark, a childhood icon, will force us to make a difference before it’s too late.

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Skinny Aardvarks: A Testament to Climate Change