Reptiles, unloved and overloved

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According to an unprecedented study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one in five reptiles are at risk of extinction. Snakes, lizards, turtles and other alligators all over the planet are being hunted and, above all, their habitats are being destroyed.

Goodbye, snakes, turtles, crocodiles… Reptiles are not immune from the sixth mass extinction and the already declared extinction of thousands of species of birds, insects, fish and mammals. And it is man who is responsible for the destruction of the rainforests, where most species of reptiles live (there are 6,000 in total on the planet, 96% are snakes), according to a study. International Union for Conservation of Naturepublished April 27th. This is the first serious study of the state of their populations in the world, often reptiles do not enjoy great sympathy, as the authors note…

Unjustified bad reputation

But who are these snakes that hiss over our heads? The hissing is produced by the air ejected by the snake, and it is impressive, frightening. Especially people. Reptiles get bad reviews for good and mostly bad reasons. A controversial 2006 study wanted to demonstrate why.

It is said that during the evolution of primates, for more than 50 million years, snakes were so cruel to primates that they left an imprint of fear in our brain.summarizes Xavier Bonnet, from CNRS Biological Research Center in Chise. But we are not very convinced of this, because the main predators and dangers to primates are clearly carnivorous mammals, much larger than snakes.

As for venomous snakes, which actually cause a lot of deaths in agricultural regions, they send out a range of signals to avoid confrontation. Therefore, there is no real connection between the fear of snakes and the danger they pose. Snake charmers are found in places where the most dangerous snakes are found. And people are afraid of snakes where there are no snakes. »

Despite their important role in the balance of ecosystems, reptiles are disappearing because they are too scary. Unloved or overloved. For their skin or for their taste. Human predation is taking its toll. ” In Cambodia, Tonle Sap Lake was teeming with snakes. The people who ate them by the millions eventually led to their demiseXavier Bonnet says In China, the consumption of all kinds of animals, in particular turtles, has pushed the species to the brink of extinction. Even before disappearing. »

When Reptile Habitat Disappears

But the main reason for the extinction of reptiles is the destruction of their habitat. And in Western Europe, intensive farming does them great harm. A study published in the coming days CNRS, led by Gaetan Guillet in a city in western France for 20 years, thus showing that 75% of the green lizard population has disappeared. 90% even for the adder.

The problem arises due to the intensification of agricultural technology associated with the destruction of hedges.allocated Olivier Lourdaisresearcher at CNRS and co-author of the study. Of the observed populations, one was in field crops, and it is clear that the number of snakes is negatively correlated with plot size. As soon as there is a transition to intensive crops, in this case to intensive corn, the population drops. »

All over the world, reptiles are vulnerable. And global warming is not helping. ” A prosperous population is able to adaptsummarizes Xavier Bonnet. For a weakened population, because its habitat has disappeared, the slightest additional impact brings it completely to its knees. I call it a death blow. »

Move on : an IUCN study published April 27 in the journal Nature [Article en anglais]

See also: IUCN Red List, almost 28% of studied species are endangered

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Are reptiles cold-blooded animals? »

Reptiles are not cold-blooded except in cold weather. And they are hot-tempered when it’s hot. They are, and this is the correct term, exothermsunable to produce their own heat. This also applies to insects and fish, and this is an advantage: there is no need for energy to regulate their temperature, as in mammals. But this is also a disadvantage, which obliges to hibernate when it is too cold, and hibernate when it is too hot. But at any time of the year, faced with a reptile, it is advisable to keep cool.

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