When Animals Take the Night Shift

Image credit, Esther Aarts

Excerpt from article:

…”And look at climate change: In 2014, unusually low temperatures in southern Texas, brought about by a countrywide polar vortex, killed green anole lizards that lacked genes for “cold hardiness,” explains Shane Campbell-Staton, the UCLA biologist who documented the die-off. The elimination of these lizards genetically reconfigured the Texas green-anole population, which Campbell-Staton suspects will help the lizards better withstand future temperature drops.

The Darwinian effects of increased nocturnality may be even more far-reaching. Researchers have long known that animals avoid sharing the same physical spaces as humans, driven away from us by the overwhelming threat they sense from our mere presence. (In fact, some evidence indicates that nonlethal human activities such as hiking or picnicking induce nearly as much terror in wild animals as does hunting them.) Gaynor believes that as nocturnal behavior becomes more entrenched, more radical adaptations may follow: Formerly day-dwelling mammals could acquire traits suited to navigating in the dark, such as larger corneas, more sensitive ears, and a stronger sense of smell. To attract mates, animals might have to develop nonvisual reproductive rituals; as they begin relying more on sound for communication, vocal pathways might morph, changing the noises the animals make.”

Read full article published in The Atlantic here.

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