Biologists find the Arizona black rattlesnake on ‘extinction trajectory’


Share post:

A combination of drought and fire has put the Arizona black rattlesnake on an “extinction trajectory,” according to University of Arkansas researchers.

Biologists find the Arizona black rattlesnake on 'extinction trajectory'
Arizona Black Rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus) [Credit: Chad M. Lane, Flickr]

The research team, led by U of A biologists Marlis Douglas and Michael Douglas, published its findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

The researchers recommend that the rattlesnake be designated as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. This would allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop regulatory protections adjusted to the needs of the species.

The Arizona black rattlesnake is found at higher elevations in Arizona and western New Mexico. The researchers collected DNA from 118 specimens of the rattlesnake and analyzed its genetic structure. They found both a shrinking population and a reduction in its movement across an already limited range.

“Wildfire, which is occurring more frequently due to drought in western North America, has greatly reduced the forest habitat within which this snake lives,” said Michael Douglas, professor of biological sciences and Twenty-First Century Chair in Global Change Biology.

The forested area of the Colorado Plateau has shrunk by 27 percent in the last 13 years. The researchers recommend that the plateau should be promoted as an example of ecosystem vulnerability.

“The rattlesnake is an apex predator so if it isn’t doing well it is often an indication that other levels of the ecosystem are not doing well either,” said Marlis Douglas, associate professor of biological sciences and Bruker Chair of Life Sciences.

Source: University of Arkansas [May 03, 2016]



Related articles

Alpine archaeology reveals high life through the ages

An international team of archaeologists led by experts from the University of York has uncovered evidence of human...

Caveman instincts may explain our belief in gods and ghosts

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits....

Mycenaean tombs discovered in Southern Greece

Tombs dated back to the Mycenaean period 1600-1100 BC have been discovered near the town of Kiveri in...

Witch hunts in Papua New Guinea linked to jealousy

On a tropical island where most people live in huts, assailants armed with guns, machetes and axes stormed...

New fossil site in China shows long recovery of life from the largest extinction in Earth’s history

A major new fossil site in south-west China has filled in a sizeable gap in our understanding of...

Saltville dig unearths fossils from Ice Age

The Saltville dig may be over, but the search into the history — Ice Age history — continues....

We’ll leave the lights on for you ET

Looking up at the night sky -- expansive and seemingly endless, stars and constellations blinking and glimmering like...

Hoard of Roman coins found in Bath

More than 30,000 Roman coins were found by archaeologists working in Bath in 2007, it has been revealed.  The...