5 Species Most Likely to Survive a Climate Change Disaster

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand! It was originally published on December 12, 2012. Enjoy!

Survival of the fittest. This basic tenet of evolution explains why the dodo bird no longer exists and why humans have opposable thumbs.

Adaptation is key to survival, no matter how many fingers you’ve got. The ability to adjust to whatever conditions Mother Earth sends our way determines whether obstacles lead to extinction or to a new generation.

Human-accelerated climate change is a disaster waiting to happen. We’ve already seen the superstorms and drought it can create. Although we can work to slow climate change, there’s no way to stop it completely. This reality means adaptation will once again become the most important strategy for survival.

One thing’s for sure: the Earth will continue to exist as it has for eons. The question is, what will be left behind to inhabit it?

Below are five species known for their resilience and ability to survive in adverse conditions. They are the most likely to survive a climate change disaster. Spoiler: humans don’t make the list.

Amazon trees

Amazon rainforest

Photo Credit: CIFOR/Flickr

A study published in the latest edition of Ecology and Evolution found that a certain Amazon tree species has the ability to survive for millions of years. According to recent tests, some trees in Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, French Guiana and Bolivia are around 8 million years old, meaning they’ve already lived through period of much warmer temperatures.

However, the study is at odds with other recent research based on ecological niche-modeling scenarios, which predicted tree species’ extinctions in response to relatively small increases in global average air temperatures. Still, the study authors acknowledge that while the trees might be able to withstand temperature changes, they’re still susceptible to deforestation.

Wolves and coyotes

wolf

Photo Credit: Mark Kent/Flickr

Climate change represents a particular threat to mammals. Recent research suggests a safe haven could be out of reach for nine percent of the Western Hemisphere’s mammals, and as much as 40 percent in certain regions. The animals just won’t move swiftly enough to outpace climate change.

There are some mammals for whom roaming is a way of life, however. Wolves and coyotes are used to wandering vast tracts of wilderness in search of food, water and safe shelter. Studies show that these traveling carnivores are some of the few species that could keep pace with a changing climate and the relocation of natural resources.

Ants

ants

Photo Credit: Eric Bonkhz/Flickr

These industrious creatures are already lauded as one of the world’s most adaptable species. As some of the planet’s oldest known insects, ants were recognized for their can-do attitude way back when the Greeks wrote their famous myths.

Their colonial culture means that ants already know how to work together to guarantee survival of their queen and, thus, the species. There are approximately 20,000 different species of ants, with colonies of millions located all over the world. They were here long before humans, and the odds are good that they’ll be here long after.

Algae

algae

Photo Credit: Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

Called one of the world’s most resilient and versatile species, algae is a strong contender in the race to survive climate change. Why?

Well for starters, algae is an incredibly simple organism. Consisting of just a single cell, algae only needs a tiny amount of water, sunlight and nutrients to grow and multiply. Once of the few species that has been around since the beginning of evolution — remember the primordial slime? — there are over 200,000 varieties known to man. The chances of more than a couple making it through are pretty good.

Cockroaches

Madagascar hissing cockroach

Photo Credit: liz west/Flickr

As gross as they may appear, you’ve got to applaud the resilience of the cockroach. The bane of residential exterminators, these creepy crawlers have an amazing ability to survive in the most dire of circumstances.

In laboratory experiments performed at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., entomologist Christopher Tipping discovered that American cockroaches could survive for several weeks in a jar after having their heads removed! Often cited as the species most likely to endure a nuclear attack, climate change will be a walk in the park for the durable cockroach.

Related Reading:

We Can (and Should) Care About Both People And Animals

It’s Time For Climate Change Adaptation

Migratory Birds Struggle To Adapt To New Climate

Photo Credit: Jeremy Goldberg/Unsplash

349 comments

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran24 minutes ago

noted

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 hours ago

Laura R., I may be wrong about a lot of things, but I intend to win this war with no strings attached! I love this planet and all life on it, and my wish is to make this world a better place for everyone's benefit. I have a huge collection of animal books, and figurines that I cherish deeply, and I just hate the idea that all the animals will be nothing more than just a sad memory... I care deeply for this world and the wonders from within... My love for the Earth is beyond anything you could possibly imagine...

Callie R.
Callie R.4 hours ago

Thanks.

Laura R.
Laura R.5 hours ago

Hope you are right Patricia H.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 hours ago

Brandy S., they will survive humans, as long as we keep fighting for their survival. NEVER say never, no matter how bad the situation looks!

Brandy S.
Brandy S.5 hours ago

Wolves, coyotes and trees may very well be able to survive climate change, but they are never going to survive human beings.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 hours ago

Marilyn J L., it could work! You'll never know unless you try! But, that simply doesn't mean we should wait and find out for ourselves. We have to keep fighting for everyone's future. Plant plenty of trees, and keep pushing for eco-friendly energy sources!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 hours ago

Marilyn J L., it could work! You'll never know unless you try! But, that doesn't mean we should wait and found out for ourselves. We have to keep fighting for everyone's future. Plant plenty of trees, and keep pushing for eco-friendly energy sources!

Donna T.
Donna T.5 hours ago

thank you

Valentina R.
Valentina R.8 hours ago

Hurray for Wolves and Trees!