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Vitamin D: Sheep More Fertile With It

Jan 13, 2016 03:45 PM EST
Wild sheep on St. Kilda in Scotland's Hebrides
Greater levels of Vitamin D were recently linked to better fertility and reproductive success, found a study of wild sheep on a remote island in Scotland's Hebrides chain.
(Photo : University of Edinburgh)

Vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, prevails again. That is, a recent study of wild sheep found that high levels of Vitamin D were connected with higher fertility and success in reproduction.

The study was led by the University of Edinburgh and took place on an island in the the far North that has short winter days, in Scotland's Hebrides chain, according to a release.

Scientists on the team are hoping that further research will help us learn how well these results apply to people and other mammals.

In the study, the team kept track of amounts of a marker known to be linked to Vitamin D, doing this with the blood of an untended population of Soay sheep, on an island called St. Kilda. This is the remotest part of the British Isles. 

According to their findings, sheep that were hopped up on higher concentrations of Vitamin D in their blood at summer's end had more lambs in the next spring.

This is the first possible evidence that Vitamin D status for a wild animal has something to do with an evolutionary advantage.

After exposure to sunlight, animals' skin produces Vitamin D. This is as true for sheep as it is for humans. It's also possible to consume Vitamin D in certain plants.

The study findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"Examining the non-skeletal health benefits of vitamin D in humans is challenging because people are exposed to different amounts of sunlight each day. Studying the relationship between skin and dietary sources of vitamin D - and long term health outcomes - is more straightforward in sheep living on a small island," noted Dr. Richard Mellanby, at the University of Edinburgh. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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