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Rattlesnakes may like climate change

Rattlesnakes may like climate change

A new study finds that rattlesnakes are likely to benefit from a warming climate

When it comes to climate change, not all organisms will lose out. A new study finds that rattlesnakes are likely to benefit from a warming climate. A combination of factors makes a warming climate beneficial to rattlesnakes that are found in almost every part of the continental United States but are especially common in the Southwest.

When it comes to climate change, not all organisms will lose out. A new Cal Poly study finds that rattlesnakes are likely to benefit from a warming climate.

A combination of factors makes a warming climate beneficial to rattlesnakes that are found in almost every part of the continental United States but are especially common in the Southwest.

Rattlers are experts at thermoregulation. Researchers found that, when given a choice, the snakes prefer a body temperature of 86-89 degrees Fahrenheit, a much warmer temperature than they generally experience in nature. The average body temperature of coastal rattlesnakes in the study was 70 degrees, and for inland rattlers it was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We were surprised to see how much lower the body temperatures of wild snakes were relative to their preferred body temperatures in the lab," said Hayley Crowell, a graduate student researcher and project lead. "There are a lot of ecological pressures in nature that could prevent rattlesnakes from basking, such as the risk of increased exposure to predators. A warmer climate may help these snakes heat up to temperatures that are more optimal for digestion or reproduction."

Longer periods of warmer temperatures would also give rattlesnakes a longer active season, giving them more time to hunt and feed. Because snakes are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, they cannot regulate their body temperatures like warm-blooded animals. Instead, they rely on their surroundings to provide heat, which restricts their activity in cold weather.
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