It’s a bleak time for most species on the planet.
Scientists believe the earth is entering a mass extinction — the sixth one in the planet’s history — and human-caused climate change is soon to be the number one killer of organisms on planet Earth.
With shrinking polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events all predicted for a world in which global warming is allowed to proceed unchecked, it’s a grim time indeed for life on the third rock from the sun.
But some species, it seems, are getting off the hook.
These organisms actually show signs of adapting to climate change, and some are even experiencing benefits like range expansion and increased population — meaning while everyone else is going extinct, these are the guys who will still be thriving.
In a recent study, scientists moved a population of anoles from a cooler environment to a warmer one to simulate rapid climate change. They found that anoles who moved faster and were more active during the day were better at snatching up food and out-competing their rivals, giving them a higher chance of surviving.
Anoles reproduce fast enough that scientists think the hardiest ones could have a shot at passing on these superior genetic qualities and raising up a population better adapted to the heat -- one that might make it in a warming world.
In a study published earlier this year, scientists found that long-tailed tits were much likelier to survive another year if they experience a warm, dry breeding season. Raising chicks in cold, wet weather can be hard on the little birds, upping their chances of dying before the next breeding season. As global temperatures rise, the birds may see experience warmer springs and longer lives as a result.
A study published last year suggested that climate change could enable Asian tiger mosquitoes to significantly expand their North American range. An invasive species originally introduced from Southeast Asia, the insect has already spread throughout the southern half of the United States.
Asian tiger mosquitos are vectors for a number of nasty diseases, including West Nile virus and Dengue fever, making them a significant public health concern. At the very least, its continued expansion could mean much itchier summers are coming soon for northern residents.
Zebrafish who incubate and hatch in warmer waters could be better at adapting to extreme temperatures, according to a study published two years ago in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists observed differences in the warm-water fish's muscle composition and gene expression that made them superior swimmers, better able to handle temperature variations in the water.
The researchers don't know how high water temperature could get before it starts to harm the fish, rather than help them -- but their findings suggest zebrafish may have an edge in the warming waters caused by global climate change.
The pine beetle is known for wreaking havoc on forests -- and its job may be getting easier as global temperatures rise. Beetle populations are growing and spreading and some scientists believe climate change is to thank. This is good news for the beetle, but bad news for the trees they call home. Beetle infestations can kill off huge clusters of trees, as shown in the photo to the right: All those brown patches are caused by beetles.
A study published in Science showed that the brown argus butterfly was able to expand its range by nearly 50 miles in just 20 years -- a tremendous jump for the once-rare insect. Historically, brown argus butterflies have preferred to lay their eggs on just one plant, the rockrose. But the researchers found that in warmer temperatures, the butterflies were more likely to rely on a second species of plant as well -- the dovesfoot geranium -- enabling them to stretch their wings and spread out further than before.
Researchers found that changes in wind intensity over the Southern Ocean have allowed the albatross to fly faster and spend more time foraging for food. The result: better breeding success and bigger body mass for the birds. Climate change is expected to continue altering global wind patterns, which could be a boon for these sea faring avians.
These species may stand to benefit from climate change, or at least be suited to adapt to the changing conditions it causes. For a look at the flip side of the coin, check out
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