November 17, 2008
…the antilopine wallaroo, a type of kangaroo that lives in wet, tropical areas of Australia.
Two researchers at James Cook University (reporting in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology) used computer models and field observations to predict how the geographic ranges of four kangaroo species would change as temperatures rise over the next 50 years. Even half a degree Celsius in temperature rise would lead to smaller ranges for the kangaroos. (CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, predicts that temperatures in that country will rise, on average, 0.4 to 2.0 degrees Celsius by 2030 and 1-6 degrees by 2070.)
The worst prediction was for the antilopine wallaroo, whose range would shrink by 89% with just a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature, which could happen by 2030 in its northern Australia home. And the 6-degree rise, possible by 2070, could lead to extinction, according to the researchers. What I find most alarming by this paper is that the antilopine wallaroo is listed currently as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List; it has “no known major threats.” What does this imply for species already at risk?
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.