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Reindeer Shrinking in Size, Starving Due to Climate Change

Dec 13, 2016 05:43 AM EST
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Reindeer may not be able to carry Santa Clause for much longer as the specie is getting smaller and smaller. A new study presented at the British Ecological Society (BES) in Liverpool revealed that this noticeable shrinkage is due to climate change drastically limiting the food supply of the animal, according to a report from Phys.org.

The researchers revealed that the weight of adult reindeer in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic has dropped by about 12 percent over the past 16 years. Adult reindeer born in 2010 weigh about 106 pounds or 48 kilograms, while those born in 1994 were able to hit about 121 pounds or 55 kilograms.

Study leader Steve Albon of the James Hutton Institute in Scotland stressed the importance of this weight loss saying, "Twelve percent may not sound very much, but given how important body weight is to reproduction and survival, it's potentially huge."

The BES made a statement that pointed to climate change as a factor of the shrinking reindeer, explaining that the land surface temperature in the Arctic were higher by around 2.8 degrees Celsius than it was a hundred years ago. The higher temperature during winter leads to more rain, which "falls on snow and freezes."

The frozen water acts as a barricade between the reindeer and the lichen that the animal forages for in snow during long winter months. Because they have a more difficult time getting to their food, they tend to eat less and their weight suffers.

In the winter of 2013 to 2014, 61,000 reindeer died of starvation on the Yamal Peninsula, Siberia because of this rain-on-snow phenomenon.

Also, a factor is the rising number of reindeer population, which means the animals have more competition when it comes to food.

"So far  we have more but smaller reindeer," Albon described the reindeer situation in Svalbard, according to a report from The Guardian.

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