Benjamin Rey, Andrea Fuller, Duncan Mitchell, Leith C. R. Meyer, Robyn S. Hetem

Biology Letters

Published date July 19, 2017

Drought-induced starvation of aardvarks in the Kalahari: an indirect effect of climate change

  • States that aardvarks' survival may be threatened by climate change via direct and indirect effects of increasing heat and aridity
  • Implants biologgers into six adult aardvarks resident in the semi-arid Kalahari to measure their current physiological plasticity
  • Observes that, following a particularly dry and hot summer, five of the study aardvarks and 11 other aardvarks at the study site died
  • Finds that body temperature records revealed homeothermy (35.4–37.2°C) initially, but heterothermy increased progressively through the summer, with declining troughs in the nychthemeral rhythm of body temperature reaching as low as 25°C before death, likely due to starvation
  • Finds that activity patterns shifted from the normal nocturnal to a diurnal mode
  • Concludes that extirpation of aardvarks, which play a key role as ecosystem engineers, may disrupt stability of African ecosystems