Planet Gore

A Story That Played Possum

I laughed when I saw this story pop through on Google alerts — it’s always good to keep track of endangered species, you know. 
Tom Nelson beat me to it, and asks some key questions:

White possum said to be first victim of global warming | The Courier-Mail

If they have died out it would be first example of something that has gone extinct purely because of global warming.”

Professor Williams, director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University, said the white lemuroid possum had been identified as highly vulnerable five years ago.
“It only takes four or five hours of temperatures above 30C to kill this highly vulnerable species,” he said.
“They live off the moisture in the trees in the cooler, high-altitude cloud forests and, under extreme heat, they are unable to maintain their body temperature.”
He said record high temperatures in the summer of 2005 could have caused a massive die-off.
“Prior to 2005 we were seeing a lemuroid every 45 minutes of spotlighting at one main site at Mt Lewis,” Professor Williams said.
“But, in three years, in more than 20 hours of intensive spotlighting, none has been sighted.”

1. If the warmth of 2005 killed them all, how did they get through the Medieval Warm Period?
2. If warming is so devastating to them, why were they allegedly so easy to find after the warm year of 1998 but prior to 2005?
3. As a rule of thumb, if we don’t see an animal after only 20+ hours of spotlighting, can we safely declare it extinct?
4. Is it a complete coincidence that this story is being released at the same time as the climate meetings in Poznan?  


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