Monday, October 24, 2016

Can dinosaurs save us from Climate Change?

One of the recent developments in paleontology is the possible resurrection of the dinosaurs. As fascinating as realizing a Jurassic-Park scenario may be, I’m not so sure spending our time and money on such an ‘accomplishment’ is such a good idea. As our world quickly and disastrously warms, our best and brightest should be finding out exactly how Climate Change is most likely to unfold and how we can adapt to that. Stopping and maybe even reversing Climate Change would be good too.

This notion of bringing back dinosaurs isn’t as fantastic as you might think. Soft Tyrannosaurus Rex tissue has been discovered and may include some of ancient DNA we may use for reconstruction. Check this out:  

Dinosaurs: The Hunt for Life The hunt for life within the long-dead bones of dinosaurs may sound like the stuff of Hollywood fantasy, but one woman has found traces of life within the fossilised bones of a T rex. Dr Mary Schweitzer has seen the remains of red blood cells and touched the soft tissue of an animal that died 68 million years ago. Most excitingly of all, she believes she may just have found signs of DNA. Her work is revolutionising our understanding of these iconic beasts. (2013-14, BBC)

Besides being a mob of rapacious creatures that kept our ancestors rat-sized for millions of years, T-rex and the whole family of dinosaurs (actually of the clade Dinosauria) were victims themselves of a climate change. They didn’t adapt to the climatic changes that came as a result of a 10-mile asteroid plunging into our planet, blanketing the skies with sun-blocking soot. They died off wholesale. If anything, bringing the dinosaurs back to a world we are warming up would most likely make the world better fit for them, not us.  

This idea (albeit a remote one) of bringing back dinosaurs reminds me of the present attempts to bring back another fossil of sorts, a living fossil. In places like Rochester and around the state there is a concerted effort to bring back the large populations of lake sturgeons we used to have.

Comeback of lake sturgeon continues When determining water quality, scientists can study samples for things such as temperature, bacteria, dissolved oxygen, nutrients and toxic substances. Or they can just see how the sturgeon are doing. Dubbed “living fossils,’’ lake sturgeon with their bony backs and side plates are an ancient bottom feeding fish that once supported a robust commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes into the early 1900s. Overfishing, pollution and loss of habitat led to a drastic population decline and extirpation from many bodies of water. But what man ruined, man is fixing. (October 21, 2016) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Our state’s environmental officials are attempting to preserve and increase the Lake Sturgeon that can grow as large as “7+ feet and 300+ pounds.” This primitive fish is listed as ‘threatened.’

Lake Sturgeon Fact Sheet: The American Fisheries Society has listed the lake sturgeon as threatened in all the states where it occurs. Although it is difficult to determine the specific causes of lake sturgeon population declines, several factors have been blamed, including: over exploitation of stocks due to high demand for their eggs (caviar) and smoked flesh; construction of dams that cut off spawning and nursery areas; and possibly byproducts of urban and rural development such as pollution and channelization that caused degradation of habitat.” (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

I suppose it’s comforting to believe we can bring back the lake sturgeon in large numbers. However, is it even possible with Climate Change? Are we wasting our time trying to reestablish a creature that probably won’t survive very long anyway? Here’s what the National Wildlife Federation says: 

“Climate change is expected to further threaten this fish as rising water temperatures greatly decrease the quality and quantity of spawning and nursery habitats. Climatic variability could also disrupt the timing of sturgeon reproduction and length of optimal fish growth periods as environmental cues shift and warming waters affect stream ecological processes and ecosystem health. Lake sturgeon are also vulnerable to changes in water levels and increased runoff associated with extreme weather and climate change.” (Global Warming and the Lake Sturgeon)

And another thing, shouldn’t our media tell the whole story about reintroducing wildlife into our environment, an environment that is getting warmer and perhaps not suited for some species that used to thrive in our past environment?

Wouldn’t it be wiser to help the species we need to foster critical ecosystems by prioritizing efforts to provide passageways through our urban areas and infrastructures, so that they (and we) can adapt to Climate Change?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to disparage either dinosaurs or sturgeons. They were very cool in their day. We can learn a lot about adaptation from these creatures, but our focus should be on the creatures we need to survive the great warming we have created. 

Time passes. 

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