The Endangered Animal Bracket, Round 5: Sea Turtles Vs. Pelicans

CREDIT: PATRICK SMITH
CREDIT: PATRICK SMITH

Welcome back people. If you don’t already know, this is March Sadness — ClimateProgress’ educational bracket tournament of animals impacted by climate change and other environmental threats. For whichever animal wins, ClimateProgress will devote resources for a deep-dive feature article exploring the story behind what’s ailing your chosen critter. Read the rules here.

Today is our last first-round battle before we reach the Sweet Sixteen. Yesterday, voters in our Hooves and Horns category faced some tough choices, but four ultimately came out on top. Narwhal was the big winner, the seventh seed beating our our number two seed, Rhino. In addition, Elephant advanced over Horned Lizard; Moose beat out Saola; and Mountain Goat just eked out a win over Reindeer.

Which animal will advance this time? It’s up to you. Vote in the embedded tweets below, on Twitter with the hashtag #CPMarchSadness, or on our Facebook page.

Sea Turtle vs. Pelican

CREDIT: shutterstock
CREDIT: shutterstock

Sea turtles learn to lay their eggs on specific beaches. But what happens when sea level rise shifts the location of those beaches? The result is actually a shift in sex — when the turtles do lay their eggs, they do so on warmer beaches, which actually causes more females to be born. This throws the reproductive future of the species into chaos.

Pelicans — specifically, baby pelicans — are already having a rough go with climate change. Scientists have found that, due to warming, pelicans are breeding little earlier in the spring than they should. It’s a complicated process, but ultimately that means that baby chicks are being born early, and then freezing to death.

Which do you want to know more about? Vote below.

Sage Grouse vs. Peregrine Falcon

CREDIT: Shutterstock
CREDIT: Shutterstock

The Audubon Society says loss of habitat — largely through fossil fuel extraction — is the greatest threat to the Greater Sage Grouse, a spike-tailed, double-yolk-breasted prairie bird known for its splendorous mating displays. The bird has already lost more than half of its original 290 million acres of habitat in the West, which is also being ravaged by increasingly severe wildfires.

Prolonged, heavy rains in the Arctic are causing peregrine chicks to drown or die of hypothermia, according to a 2013 study. The chicks’ fluffy down is no match for harsh rains, which have been on the increase in the Canadian Arctic from 1981 to 2010, a trend that’s consistent with predictions of climate change’s effect on precipitation.

Your choice will determine the winner!

Oyster vs. Butterfly

CREDIT: AP/Shutterstock
CREDIT: AP/Shutterstock

Not many would likely consider oysters “cute” per se, but their large contribution to the American economy has made their imminent decline all the more painful. Scientists predict that ocean acidification, a symptom of human-caused warming, threatens the hatcheries and nurseries where baby oysters mature.

For butterflies, warming temperatures could mean that a range of species start their flight seasons earlier than usual. This is bad news: if butterflies emerge from their chrysalises or from hibernation too early, they could encounter a frost and die from cold, or perish from starvation if the plants they depend on for food haven’t bloomed yet.

Which one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen for a chance at an in-depth feature story?

Lobster vs. Red Knot

CREDIT: Shutterstock
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Lobsters face a similar threat to oysters, in that ocean acidification could harm babies during their developmental stages. In addition to acidification, though, the overall warming of the ocean is bad for them too. According to the University of Maine, warming in Gulf of Maine may increase the prevalence of “lobster shell disease,” an unsightly sickness which stresses the lobster and often leads to death.

Red knots are some of the migratory bird world’s most amazing fliers, travelling up to 18,000 miles every year. But the bird dines on horseshoe crabs, and a drop in the crabs’ numbers and an increased potential for climate change-induced mismatches — in which the birds arrive before or after the crabs lay their eggs, leaving the birds without food — are threatening red knots. Climate change was the main reason that the rufa red knot was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act last year.

Vote for your favored critter below.

***TOURNAMENT UPDATES:Day 1–3/19: Paws and Claws pt. 1 — Polar Bear vs. Wombat; Tasmanian Devil vs. Pangolin; (voting closed) WINNERS: Polar Bear and Pangolin.Day 2–3/20: Paws and Claws pt. 2 — Lemur vs. Koala; Panda vs. Wolverine (voting closed) WINNERS: Koala and Wolverine.Day 3–3/23: Fins and Flippers — Sea Lion vs. Sea Horse; Penguin vs. Manatee; Walrus vs. Sea Otter; Whale vs. Salmon (voting closed) WINNERS: Sea Horse, Sea Otter, Whale, and PenguinDay 4–3/24: Horns and Hooves — Elephant vs. Horned Lizard; Rhino vs. Narwhal; Saola vs. Moose; Mountain Goat vs. Reindeer (voting closed) WINNERS: Elephant, Narwhal, Moose, and Mountain Goat.Day 5–3/25: Shells and Wings — Sea Turtle vs. Pelican; Sage Grouse vs. Peregrine Falcon; Oyster vs. Butterfly; Lobster vs. Red Knot (voting closed)Day 6–3/26: Polar Bear vs. Pangolin; Koala vs. Wolverine (voting NOW OPEN)Day 7–3/27: Sea Horse vs. Whale; Sea Otter vs. PenguinDay 8–3/30: Elephant vs. Mountain Goat; Moose vs. NarwhalDay 9–3/31: Sea Turtle vs. Red Knot; Butterfly vs. Peregrine FalconDay 10–4/1: TBDDay 11–4/2: TBDDay 12–4/3: THE FINAL FOUR: TBD Day 13–4/6: THE CHAMPIONSHIP: TBD