Over the past 16 years, the weight of adult reindeer in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic has dropped by 12 percent, likely due to global warming, said study findings presented to a meeting at the British Ecological Society (BES) in Liverpool.
By the time they reached adulthood, reindeer born in 2010 weighed just over 48 kilogrammes (106 pounds), compared to 55 kg for those born in 1994.
"Twelve percent may not sound very much, but given how important body weight is to reproduction and survival, it's potentially huge," study leader Steve Albon of the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, told AFP.
Previous research had shown that when the average adult weight in April is less than 50kg, the population as a whole declines, he added.
Albon and his fellow researchers blame climate change for the shrinking reindeer.
Scientists say land surface temperatures in the Arctic were about 2.8 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit) higher last year than when records began a century earlier.
Warmer winters mean more rain, which falls on snow and freezes, the BES explained in a statement.
- 'Catastrophic die-offs' -
The ice prevents reindeer from getting to the lichen which comprises the bulk of their winter diet and for which they usually forage in the snow.
Lichen are complex organisms comprised of a fungus living in symbiosis with an alga or bacterium.
"The reindeer starve, aborting their calves or giving birth to much lighter young," said the BES.
Oh, so sad, but here's an inconvenient truth:
Reindeer numbers have increased over the past two decades, said the research team, so greater competition for food likely also contributed to their smaller size.
Catastrophic die-offs from global warming, yet the population is increasing. A real news aggregator would at least attempt to explain this conflicting data, but the entire coverage of global warming is limited to shrieking the term and sitting back in smug satisfaction.
Here'a another question that a real reporter might have addressed: the Norwegian climate is at its highest average level since the 1930s. Who did reporters blame warm temperatures on then?