Climate change may hit Australian saltwater croc numbers: research

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-20 11:15:11|Editor: liuxin
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SYDNEY, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Climate change may have a larger impact on saltwater crocodile populations than previously thought, with the reptiles' nesting periods particularly susceptible to flooding or drought, a latest Australian research has found.

The freshly laid embryos of saltwater crocodiles that were studied in Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory did not exhibit arrested development in low-oxygen environments, unlike those of turtles. It meant that the large predators may lack the ability to delay nesting for extended periods of time during adverse weather conditions, Sean A. Williamson, a Monash University researcher who lead the report on the findings, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"So with climate change we know that particular areas of Australia are going to start receiving more rainfall or potentially less rainfall ... if there are more extreme flooding events, then this could be detrimental for crocodile nesting and mean that the mothers' reproductive efforts each year are less likely to succeed," said Williamson.

The saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile and there are about 100,000 of them in the wild in the Northern Territory, which has vast coastal wetlands and rivers that offer an ideal habitat for the animals, according to the local government. The crocodile is a "critical part of aquatic ecosystems" as a key predator, and related farming and tourism activities are valuable parts of the economy, it said.

The latest findings offer novel information about the development of reptiles and the impact of adverse nesting conditions on them, said Williamson.

"It's of ecological importance because that means that their reproductive assets ... are probably wasted. It's also important for crocodile managers and zoos."

The report was published in the Royal Society Open Science scientific journal.