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New research by Briana Abrahms shows that top predators 'trap' themselves trying to adapt to climate change

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 14:30

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biology Assistant Professor Briana Abrahms and her colleagues report that over a 30-year period, African wild dogs in Botswana shifted their average birthing dates later by 22 days. This adaptation allowed African wild dogs to match the birth of new litters with the coolest temperatures in early winter. Yet as a result of this significant shift, fewer pups survived their most vulnerable period because temperatures during their critical post-birth “denning period” increased over the same time period, threatening the population of this already endangered species.

This study shows that African wild dogs, which are distantly related to wolves and raise young cooperatively in packs, may be caught in a “phenological trap,” in which a species changes the timing of a major life event in response to an environmental cue — but, that shift proves maladaptive due to unprecedented environmental conditions like climate change.

Kasim Rafiq, a UW postdoctoral researcher in biology, is one of the co-authors of the study.

Read the full article in UW News.

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