Santa's reindeer that live near the North Pole are shrinking as the global climate gets warmer, researchers say.
Adult reindeer on a chain of Arctic islands north of Norway now weigh only about 106 pounds on average, down about 15 percent from 120 pounds in the 1990s, Norwegian researchers found, Reuters reported.
“Warm summers are great for reindeer but winters are getting increasingly tough,” said co-lead study researcher Steve Albon from the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, Reuters reported.
When the climate warms even slightly, snowfall will often turn to rain that freezes on contact, blocking the reindeer’s access to the plants they need to survive in winter.
The adverse conditions lead to more female reindeer starving and giving birth to smaller young that don’t grow up to be as large as they otherwise would, the scientists said. The warmer summers lead to more pregnancies, which lead to more competition for food and may also be contributing to the reindeer shrinking, according to Science Daily.
Santa may need more reindeer to pull his sleigh if they are smaller in size. But the adverse conditions caused by climate warming also could lead to a die-off if numbers become too large or weather conditions become worse in future years, scientists warn.
The study, which tracked the weight of 10-month-old reindeer calves and returned to measure and weigh them when they became adults, was presented to the British Ecological Society annual meeting in Liverpool on Monday.
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