Even by Adapting, Wild Dogs Are Threatened by Climate Change

African wild dogs are adapting to climate change by giving birth later, and that is threatening their survival, according to biologists at the University of New South Wales.

What to Know

  • The African wild dog is an endangered large carnivore with a global population of fewer than 700 packs (fewer than 7000 individuals) dotted across the African continent in isolated subpopulations.

  • African wild dogs typically raise their pups during the cooler months each year. They are adapting to rising temperatures using a cue that, because of climate change, no longer accurately predicts the best conditions for reproduction or survival.

  • The average birthing date of wild dogs now occurs more than 3 weeks later than it did three decades ago. This shift almost perfectly reflects an average daily temperature increase of 1.6° C over that period.

  • Pups born in cooler months are more likely to survive, but the cooler period of the year is getting shorter. Because of these temperature shifts, wild dogs are now inadvertently rearing their pups in warmer temperatures, with survival rates are lower.

  • Pack size is tied to wild dog survival and success, and fewer surviving pups means fewer future helpers to find food, which results in fewer pups the next year, which in turn results in even fewer helpers.

This is a summary of the article, “Climate Change Is Causing Endangered African Wild Dogs to Give Birth Later – Threatening Their Survival,” published on the University of New South Wales Newsroom on November 7, 2022. The full article can be found on newsroom.unsw.edu.au.

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