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5 years ago

Reindeer shrinking: Climate change is causing reindeer to become stunted

TomoNews US
TomoNews US
SVALBARD, NORWAY— Santa may need more than just nine reindeer to pull his sleigh this year, as researchers find the iconic Arctic animals are shrinking in size.

According to a study presented at the British Ecological Society, an adult reindeer in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic weighed 55 kilograms in 1994. In 2015 one weighed just over 48 kilograms, a 12 percent decrease.

Before, the animals could simply brush snow off and eat moss and lichen during the region’s eight-month-long winters. But with temperatures going up, rain that falls on existing snow ends up freezing a hard layer of ice on the ground that keeps the reindeer from their food, in effect starving them.

Lack of nourishment has lead to stunted growth and has caused pregnant females to either abort their babies for survival or give birth to smaller calves.

In summer, warmer weather brings in an abundant food supply that results in more, yet smaller reindeer, as well as more competition for scarce food during winter.

Scientists believe there’s a possibility that even higher temperatures could lead to shorter winters, making food more available for reindeer to produce heavier offspring, according to Science Magazine. For now though, that remains a distant hope.

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