Climate change

Throughout its history, Earth’s climate has undergone radical changes, but today a new phase of climate change has begun, this time with a unique cause – human activity. 

Emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, are trapping the sun’s heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere, and warming the planet. This is causing many habitats to change: the oceans are becoming more acidic, summer is arriving earlier in some regions, and species are having to adapt or migrate to survive.

As well as widely highlighted creatures such as polar bears, other lesser known species are under threat. These include bryozoans and brachiopods, while others, including the grooved brain coral, have been seriously affected by natural changes in temperature in the past. Find out more about them.

  • Female Chorthippus parallelus
    Chorthippus parallelus (meadow grasshopper) - 03/09/2010

    Chorthippus parallelus is the most common and widespread grasshopper in England, Wales and Scotland. It is usually green or brown and well camouflaged in its grassland habitats, but occasionally adult females are a striking pink colour. Find out more about this eye-catching grasshopper and the perils it faces.

  • Cinctipora elegans
    Cinctipora elegans - 23/03/2010

    Cinctipora elegans is a bryozoan species found on the sea-bed around New Zealand. It currently faces threats from trawling and ocean acidification. Find out more.

  • Corallina officinalis
    Corallina officinalis (common coral weed) - 26/08/2010

    Corallina officinalis is a calcified red seaweed found in rock pools on seashores around the world. It appears as pink and red tufted patches on rocks around the rim of rock pools and often provides a home for other sea creatures.  Find out more about the life of this pretty seaweed.

  • Diploria labyrinthiformis
    Diploria labyrinthiformis (grooved brain coral) - 18/01/2010

    This species of brain coral lives in shallow water habitats. Like other corals with calcium carbonate skeletons, it is at risk from ocean acidification. Learn more.

  • A large Elephas antiquus tooth from Barnstaple, Devon
    Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus - 02/07/2010

    Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus  the straight-tusked elephant was a notably large-bodied elephant, with long, almost straight, tusks. commonly found across Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene between 50 and 780 thousand years ago. Straight-tusked elephants seem to have become extinct duaring the last global ice age. Find out more about Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus.

  • Emiliania huxleyi coccospheres, artificually coloured to show the individual coccospheres
    Emiliania huxleyi - 08/06/2010

    Emiliania huxleyi is one of the most beautiful and widespread single-celled organisms. Although it is minute, it can form huge oceanic algal blooms that can be seen from space. Find out more about this coccolithophore.

  • Erythromma viridulum (small red-eyed damselfly) maleand female
    Erythromma viridulum (small red-eyed damselfly) - 26/06/2010

    Erythromma viridulum the small red-eyed damselfly thrives in southern Europe and northwest Africa near ponds and lakes that are rich in vegetation. As our climate warms, these elegant insects are flying further afield and have settled in new habitats as far north as Germany and Britain. Find out more about Erythromma viridulum.

  • Microscopic view of Hydrodictyon reticulatum
    Hydrodictyon reticulatum (water net) - 17/02/2010

    Hydrodictyon reticulatum (water net) is a widespread alga common in ponds, lakes and rivers and regarded by many as a nuisance. Find out more about water net, including why climate change is believed to have led to its rapid spread in the British Isles.

  • Khaosokia caricoides
    Khaosokia caricoides - 20/11/2010

    The khaosok sedge is a rare and unusual species that was first discovered in southern Thailand in 2001. It is a robust perennial with many drooping leaves and flowering stems. It lives on inaccessible, and seemingly inhospitable, limestone cliffs, where it relies on rainwater for its moisture. Read on to find out more about this sedge and the other plant species discovered recently in similar habitats.

  • Lingula anatina
    Lingula anatina - 06/02/2010

    This primitive brachiopod has often been referred to as a living fossil (having changed little over time), however recent studies suggest otherwise. Find out more about the interesting Lingula anatina.

  • Pleurochaete squarrosa
    Pleurochaete squarrosa - 05/07/2010

    European populations of Pleurochaete squarrosa are currently spreading in north-western and central Europe, making the species an ideal candidate for the study of distribution of Mediterranean bryophytes in relation to climate change. Find out more.

  • Auto kenozooids
    Tennysonia stellata (Tennyson’s star bryozoan) - 06/08/2010

    Tennysonia stellata is a bryozoan or moss animal found in the sea off South Africa. Tennysonia stellataforms star-shaped colonies with a hard calcium carbonate skeleton that provides a habitat for a variety of species on the sea-bed. Despite its hard skeleton, fossils of this animal have never been found. Find out more about this beautiful creature.

  • Varanus prisca, the giant monitor lizard
    Varanus prisca (giant monitor lizard) - 28/01/2010

    Varanus prisca was the largest lizard ever to live on land and is closely related to the Komodo dragon. Find out more about this sharp-toothed predator.

  • Arocatus longiceps
    Arocatus longiceps (plane tree bug) - 11/12/2010

    Arocatus longiceps is a true bug that was first spotted in Britain in 2006. By 2007 it was common here in the Museum’s wildlife garden, but its identity remained a mystery for months afterwards. Find out more about this insect and why it was difficult to identify, and follow its travels across the globe.

  • Macrocystis pyrifera
    Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp) - 06/10/2010

    Macrocystis pyrifera, is a giant among seaweeds. Its fronds can grow up to 45m long in a single season and it forms extensive underwater forests that create the base for an ecosystem of hundreds of marine animals. For years it has been harvested for commercial purposes. Find out how this seaweed is exploited, and what threatens its survival.

  • Daubenton’s bat flying over water
    Myotis daubentonii (Daubenton's bat) - 28/08/2010

    Myotis daubentonii is a medium-sized bat found close to waterways around the British Isles. It roosts near canals, and in moated castles and old waterworks, and catches its prey of small flies as it skims the water surface like a hovercraft. Find out more about this fast-flying bat and its favourite haunts.

  • Platycoma sudafricana
    Platycoma sudafricana - 16/11/2010

    Platycoma sudafricana is smaller than a pinhead, and is found living freely in marine environments in South Africa. This nematode worm can withstand extremes of temperature and salinity, and probably feeds by scraping plant particles from single grains of sand. Take a closer look at this tiny animal, and discover how nematode populations can be used to study environmental change.

  • Symsagittifera roscoffensis
    Symsagittifera roscoffensis (mint-sauce worm) - 13/12/2010

    Symsagittifera roscoffensis is a small, free-living marine worm that relies on symbiotic algae for nutrition. The photosynthetic algae give the worm its green colour and its common name, the mint-sauce worm. Read on to find out more about this simple acoel worm, its ability to regenerate, and the evolutionary questions it may help to answer.