Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Say Goodbye To Rudolph, Other Reindeer If Global Warming Continues

Date:
December 2, 2004
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
With increasing global warming, Rudolph and the rest of Santa Claus' reindeer will disappear from large portions of their current range and be under severe environmental stress by the end of the century. That finding comes from a new study that examined the archaeological record in southwestern France, where reindeer became locally extinct during two earlier episodes of warming roughly 10,000 and 130,000 years ago.

Reindeer.
Credit: Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service

With increasing global warming, Rudolph and the rest of Santa Claus' reindeer will disappear from large portions of their current range and be under severe environmental stress by the end of the century.

That finding comes from a new study that examined the archaeological record in southwestern France, where reindeer became locally extinct during two earlier episodes of warming roughly 10,000 and 130,000 years ago.

"There will be a direct impact of increases in summer temperature on reindeer well-being if global warming is allowed to proceed," said University of Washington archaeologist Donald Grayson, lead author of the study. "The number of southern reindeer will diminish dramatically as their range will move far to the north, and the number of reindeer in the north also will fall greatly."

Grayson and his colleague, Francoise Delpech, a French paleontologist at the Institut de Prehistoire et de Geologie du Quaternaire at the University of Bordeaux, will report their findings in a forthcoming issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

The pair examined the fossil record left in Grotte XVI, a cave above the Ceou River in the Dordogne region of France. The cave, which was occupied by both Neandertal and later Cro-Magnon people, has a very well-dated archaeological sequence from about 40,000 to 12,000 years ago. The sequence actually extends to about 65,000 years ago, but the older dates are less well documented.

Grayson and Delpech correlated the number of reindeer bones found in the cave with summer climate data from previously published paleobotany studies of pollen counts.

"As summer temperatures went up, the number of reindeer went down," said Grayson. "The warmer the summer, the fewer the reindeer. And when the Pleistocene Epoch ended about 10,000 years ago and summer temperatures soared, reindeer disappeared. Sometime between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago, reindeer became extinct from higher elevations in southwestern France."

He added that the Pleistocene extinction was not the first time that reindeer vanished from the region, noting that the animals were present in the glacial period prior to 130,000 years ago. However, he said there is no record of reindeer in southwest France during the Eemian Interglacial Stage, another period of warming that stretched from 130,000 to about l16,000 years ago.

The range of reindeer, as they are called in the Old World, and caribou, the name used for the same species in the New World, has varied over time. Today they extend from Scandinavia across northern Russia in Europe and roughly along the United States-Canada border in North America, although most of the population is in the far north.

Prior to global warming at the end of the Pleistocene the animals were found as far south as northern Spain and northern Italy in Europe. In North America they ranged into northern Mississippi in the southeastern United States and in into southern Idaho in the West.

Grayson said the idea of looking at summer temperature as a driving factor in declining reindeer populations is important and controversial. Biologists have linked declines in animal populations to a combination of changing climate and vegetation, increased rainfall and even insect harassment. He admits that there is no fossil record of rodent or small mammals to support the findings in Grotte XVI, but contends reindeer biologists have ignored summer temperature.

"Reindeer cannot physiologically tolerate high summer temperatures," he said. "They have almost no sweat glands and keep their insulation, a heavy pelt, in the summer. You would expect them to have trouble in high temperatures. Summer in those conditions would be the worst time for them because they have to eat a great deal to make up for the scarcity of winter food."

The National Science Foundation, the Sous Direction de l'Archeologie et Direction des Musees de France and the Conseil General de la Dordogne funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "Say Goodbye To Rudolph, Other Reindeer If Global Warming Continues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041201090232.htm>.
University Of Washington. (2004, December 2). Say Goodbye To Rudolph, Other Reindeer If Global Warming Continues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041201090232.htm
University Of Washington. "Say Goodbye To Rudolph, Other Reindeer If Global Warming Continues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041201090232.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World

Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) Two California companies are developing unmanned watercraft to study the ocean. The ocean drones can stay at sea for months to gather scientific data, patrol borders and protect endangered reefs. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins