Smaller Arctic Reindeer Reflect Adaptation to Arctic Eco Collapse

Species is down sizing in order to adapt to new conditions on the tundra, where it rains instead of snows

According to new research from the James Hutton Institute, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the Arctic reindeer species is getting smaller and their body mass as a whole is now 12% less. This real time evolution is  a result of long term changes to their habitat related to fast moving climate change, directly caused by their inability to get to their food source. The average mass has dropped from 121 lbs in 1994 to 106 lbs in 2016.

Reindeer hooves have adapted over tens of thousands of years to punch through the crust of snow that normally covers the tundra in late fall. However, the Arctic climate is changing twice as fast as the rest of the planet, which means weather patterns have shifted significantly. Fall now brings heavy rains, which freeze in an ice layer that is often several inches thick. The reindeer are unable to get through to the grass beneath the ice.

As the reindeer herds shrink, the Sami ethnic group in northern Sweden has suffered an epidemic of depression, with fully 1/3 of young people having attempted suicide.

Largest Siberian Herd Down 40%

The largest reindeer herd on the planet has shrunk from 1,000,000 to about 600,000 in the past decade and a half. Russia’s Taymyr Peninsula herd has been decimated by increasingly violent floods driven by climate change, which causes more animals to drown during migration.  It is also more difficult for the herds to find cooler temperature (and escape mosquitoes, another affliction moving north that is going to change a lot of other things) as the Arctic warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

 

 

 

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