Friday, January 19, 2018

Mothers and Young Struggle as Arctic Warms

The Earth's largest land mammal of the polar zone -- muskoxen -- suffer when winter snows turn to rain, then ice.

This is a mother muskox with her calf. (Credit: Joel Berger) Click to Enlarge.
A new study from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and partners reveals for the first time the ways in which wild weather swings and extreme icing events are negatively impacting the largest land mammal of the Earth's polar realms--the muskoxen.  The paper demonstrates that while this denizen of the Arctic and other cold-adapted species have spectacular adaptations, the previously unknown effects of rain-on-snow events, winter precipitation, and ice tidal surges are costly for the animals, if not deadly.

Muskoxen mothers can provide safety to their calves by warding off predators, and offer health in the form of good nutrition during pregnancy.  In the wild, bigger babies are more likely to survive.

The new study finds, however, that for juvenile muskoxen, growth is hindered because mothers cannot access food when it rains in winter instead of remaining cold and snowy.

"It's a bit like trying to eat a salad that has had water dripped all over it and then is re-frozen to the point that it cannot be cracked," explains lead author, Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Barbara Cox University Chair at Colorado State University.

Read more at Read more at Mothers and Young Struggle as Arctic Warms

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