Longer summers in the Arctic have resulted in a generation of mosquitos large enough to kill a baby caribou.
The caribou is a common hoofed mammal that lives in the tundra of the Arctic Circle, Scandinavia, Siberia, Northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. They have been a constant source of food for the settlers of the region for thousands of years, but their habitat is rapidly changing and scientists from the Dickey Center’s Institute for Arctic Studies at Dartmouth University have blamed climate change for their rapidly declining numbers.
According to a report from the Atlantic, postdoctoral researcher Lauren Culler spend the summers of 2011 and 2012 studying the rapidly proliferating mosquitoes in the Arctic region. As the planet warms, the polar regions are expected to experience the most rapid and dramatic changes. With summertime hanging around much longer in the Arctic, larger mosquitoes have a longer window of time to breed and prey on the blood of mammals in their habitat.
Mosquitoes hatched early and left late over the two summers in the Arctic. They grew faster, and more of them survived into adulthood. Caribou are a prime target for mosquitoes, and the shifted mosquito schedule has made their mating cycles, which follow the sun, almost unbearable.
The massive swarms of Arctic mosquitoes harass breeding caribou to the point where they will forego finding food for their calves to escape the insects. Many pregnant caribou deliver malnourished calves because of the menace posed by the mosquitoes.
As the bugs continue to take over the Arctic during the warmer summer periods, they may be placing too much pressure on caribou populations. Climate change will have unexpected consequences for the many ecosystems it affects, and giant mosquitoes are only one of them.