Around the world #2
Around the world is an illustrated series highlighting the impact of climate change on animals and plants around the world.
With wool eight times warmer than sheep wool, the Musk Ox can happily cope with temperatures as low as -40oC. Unfortunately for these majestic creatures, overheating during increasingly warm summers is the least of their worries. New diseases are spread by parasites that survive better in the warmer months while soft snows of winters are replaced by rainfall that freezes over, forming layers of ice that the oxen cannot break through to reach their grazing pastures. Calves are particularly at risk as they have no topcoat to protect them from the rain: the wet wool jus sticks together and the calf eventually dies of cold. The oxen have started to migrate further north – but eventually there will be no further to go.
A ‘living fossil’, the Tuatara is the single surviving species of the order Rhynchocephelia, and their New Zealand lineage traces back 200 million years. They are especially unique in that have two rows of teeth in the upper jaw, a ‘third eye’ (a light sensitive area on their head), and no external ear. They live for at least 60-100 years, possibly even up to 200 years, and only lay eggs once ever 4 years. They were almost wiped out by the introduction of Polynesian rats to their islands – but intensive breeding (and rat extermination) programmes have helped settle numbers. However, the warming temperatures herald a new problem: the sex of tuatara young depend on the temperature at which the eggs hatch. Warmer temperatures mean more males hatching and an accelerated decline in the number of adult females, leading to possible extinction in just a few decades.
Helen ‘Nell’ Hugh-Jones is an illustrator based in London. She loves the clarity of working in black ink which she then works over either in watercolour or digitally (as here). Nell is currently illustrating children’s books, designing wedding stationery and interior design brochures.