New research published in the journal Science today claims that climate change may be causing Arctic reindeer to decrease in size.
Due to warmer winters in Norway, rain has been falling onto snow. This then freezes solid for up to eight months of the year. Sadly the reindeer living in these parts cannot access the grass and moss they eat, so they go hungry.
Over the past two decades, the size of the average Arctic reindeer has fallen by a whopping 7kg, a 12% drop in body mass. This news doesn’t bode well for reindeer populations, with females under 50 kg giving birth to much smaller calves. Arctic reindeer can even terminate pregnancies if they don’t get sufficient food.
The scientists said: “Over the last two decades, a period of pronounced warming in both the summer and winter, we have witnessed a decline in mature skeletal size and body mass of successive cohorts of wild reindeer on Svalbard.”
On the plus side, however, warmer summers have allowed the reindeer population to grow, despite the offspring being much smaller in stature. The smaller animals may struggle in winter, but they prosper in the hot summer months as their bodies dissipate heat much more easily.