5 Species Most Likely to Survive a Climate Change Disaster

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


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.



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.



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.


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


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

all amazing life forms :) I am sure there are MANY others (bacteria especially) that will not only survive but flourish

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara3 years ago


Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

William B.
William Bowblis3 years ago

I have to disagree that humans wouldn't be among the survivors. We are one of the most adaptable species that have ever existed. Civilization, on the other hand doesn't stand a chance. It might we well to remember that while humanity is likely to survive, most individuals would not. It would also be well to remember that all of the easy to obtain natural resources have already been exploited, so there's little chance another technological civilization could ever arise.

Tomoko Harris
Tomoko Harris3 years ago

You do not mention the house cat and is tough and adapting! Lots feral cats they make a living well.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Thanks, what about rats and mice?

Mark Stephen Caponigro
Mark Caponigro3 years ago

At present, with fairly noticeable seasonality in the temperate zones, cockroaches tend to require environments created by human beings. I.e., once human beings go extinct, their water supply ceases and their buildings fall into disrepair, conditions will not be better for cockroaches than for many other arthropods. As it is, in the US, the invasive German cockroaches (the smaller kind) tend to do better up North than the American cockroaches, aka palmetto bugs (the larger kind, and more solitary), whose natural range is in the South.

It is likely true that highly mobile animals who like to wander, such as wolves and coyotes, and who can eat many kinds of food, stand a better chance of getting through an extinction event than others. That is probably how the ancestral birds, who are really a kind of dinosaur, got through the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period: birds are now the most mobile of modern terrestrial vertebrates, and they were among the most mobile back then. So probably generalist birds should be on this list of potential survivors, such as corvids.

Dee D.
Dolores D.3 years ago

It was interesting to read about the Amazonian Trees.....

Madeline O.
Madeline O.3 years ago

So to the people who don't believe in climate change:
Unless you're a werewolf start taking it seriously.