May 25, 2016

These animals relied on each other for 100 million years. Now climate change is killing them both.

Australia
by
Sarah Kaplan
,
Washington Post
One of the studied flatworm species. Photo: David Blair, Washington Post
One of the studied flatworm species. Photo: David Blair, Washington Post

Climate studies show that patterns of warming at the ocean's surface are significantly related to greenhouse gas emissions, and that sea surface warming has widespread consequences for marine species. A 2013 literature review of 208 studies and 857 species found that only 24 percent of the studied species showed no response to climate change.[1] The same study identified a mean rate of marine species shift of 72 kilometers per decade, with some highly mobile organisms expanding at rates up to 470 kilometers per decade.

Hoyal Cuthill...is the lead author of a study...on the long — and probably doomed — relationship between Australia's 37 species of spiny mountain crayfish (members of the genus Euastacus) and their 33 species of flatworm symbionts (called temnocephalans).

As the continent warms, crayfish need to migrate to higher and higher altitudes to escape the high temperatures. But, as Hoyal Cuthill pointed out, at some point mountains have peaks. Trapped between the sky and the rising heat, endangered euastaceans — 75 percent of the entire genus — will likely perish. With no place for them to live, the flatworms will quickly follow