Climate change could drive the greater bamboo lemur to extinction

A new study on the greater bamboo lemur shows how climate change can push certain species to extinction.
By Jose Jefferies | Nov 01, 2017
Climate change may bring the critically endangered greater bamboo lemur to the brink of extinction, a newstudypublished in Current Biologyreports.

The mammals are an interesting case because they have adapted to a lifestyle that mimics the growth cycle of bamboo. Normally, the lemurs eat the plant until the dry season comes, at which point they switch to the nutrition-less bamboo culm. The dry period typically lasts from August to November. Once it ends, the mammals go back to eating their normal protein-rich diet.

However, a group of international researchers have found that pattern may no longer exist,Tech Timesreports.

The team analyzed 2,000 lemur feedings over an 18 month period and found that climate change has caused the rainfall season to be delayed by as much as three months.

While that lack of water does not harm the bamboo, it does force the lemurs to live off of culm much longer than they are used to. That not only deprives them of nutrients, but it can damage their teeth as well.

The animals once populated all of Madagascar, but global warming has caused populations to move to the eastern side of the island. That has allowed them to survive for now, but massive deforestation could soon make it so they have nowhere to go.

Researchers hope to prevent such an extinction by buildingbamboo corridors in the rainforest to supply the lemurs with ample food. They hope that could give the species -- which first became classified as Critically Endangered in 1996 -- a way to bounce back.

"In comparison to human-induced habitat loss directly driving populations to extinction, climate change drives prolongation of the dry season,"the team wrote in their study, according toBits of Science. "Hence, P. simus populations in both protected and unprotected areas would be affected, suggesting that protecting the existing habitats might not be enough to guarantee the continued existence at the face of ongoing climate change.Increasing dryness of bamboo would most likely threaten all bamboo specialists, despite their physiological adaptations to have low daily energy expenditure and to cope with chemical defenses of bamboo."

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