The doom of the Rock ptarmigan birds due to climate change

Climate change is bringing the end of the Rock ptarmigan birds.

Because of its winter coloration, the ptarmigan has become easy prey for predators.

The Aragonese Pyrenees are a unique biogeographical island with a unique environment that provides great habitat for sheep, mouflons, Pyrenean goats, fallow deer, chamois, and roe deer.

Unfortunately, climate change is not new to this wealthy enclave, as evidenced by the fact that rainfall has reduced by 2.5 percent and temperatures have increased by 1.2 degrees Celsius during the last half-century.

These changes are having an impact on their ecosystems, putting some species on the verge of extinction.

The ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus pyrenaicus) is adapted to live in arctic-alpine environments and is common in northern hemisphere tundra (Eurasia and America) and major mountain massifs (Alps, Urals and Scottish mountains).

It does, however, live in our peninsula, notably in the Pyrenean peaks, from whence it gets its scientific name.

The Pyrenean alpine lizard, or Pyrenean alpine lizard, is the species’ southernmost population on the European continent. It appears to have become isolated on its peaks about twelve thousand years ago, when the glaciers receded at the end of the last glacial period, leaving it vulnerable to global warming.

The ptarmigan is a gregarious galliform bird belonging to the Phasianidae family. There are already over thirty subspecies described, and it is quite easy to differentiate it from the common partridge since it is significantly smaller, measuring roughly 35 cm in length.

It eats mostly leaves, fruits, seeds, berries, and lichens, with some insects thrown in for good measure. Its organism devotes the autumn months to conserving energy reserves in preparation for the severe winter ahead.

There are three annual disguises.

Nature has been gracious in bestowing upon it certain adaptive advantages. On the one hand, its moult and the landscape are in sync, and the bird changes its plumage three times a year; on the other hand, it has physiological mechanisms that give it a high isothermal capacity, allowing it to sleep buried in the snow. When the Pyrenean winter begins, the ptarmigan builds a hole in the snow, where it huddles and enjoys a temperature 10 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.

In order to blend in with the color palette of the environment, this bird changes its plumage three times a year. During the fall months, it takes on an ochre-gold hue; at the conclusion of the season, it is splashed with white; finally, with the exception of the tail, it turns pure white when the snow blankets the entire landscape with its mantle. It gets its name from the lovely winter disguise it wears.

The ptarmigan manages, or at least used to manage, to elude the ever-scrutinizing gaze of foxes, goshawks, and golden eagles thanks to its mimicry. The lack of snow, on the other hand, is giving it serious problems because its whitish colouring shows out against the ochre ridges, making it an easy target for the golden eagle. In summary, what was once an evolutionary prize has now turned against it, putting it on the verge of extinction if not addressed.

 

Article Author Gerluxe   Image: Wikipedia