Warming Arctic Is Big Trouble for Caribou in Unexpected Way
Mosquitoes are swarming earlier than ever, and they can kill calves
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2015 12:30 PM CDT
As Arctic temperatures warm, caribou in Greenland are becoming endangered by mosquitos, according to a new study.   (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

(Newser) – Global warming in the Arctic means earlier and more plentiful mosquitoes in Greenland, and that's bad news for the country's already shrinking caribou population, Alaska Dispatch News reports. A new study found that for every degree Celsius the temperature rises in Greenland, mosquitoes take 10% less time to reach full, biting adulthood. And less time spent as larva means more mosquitoes survive into adulthood. The study found that a 5-degree Celsius jump raised mosquito survival rates by 160%. In 2011, mosquitoes hatched around June 15; in 2012 it was June 1. That shift could mean trouble for caribou and the communities that depend on them. "If the mosquitoes are coming out right around that time, it’s when the herd is the most vulnerable," researcher Lauren Culler tells ADN.

Motherboard reports caribou birthing season is now beginning to coincide with peak mosquito season, and aggressive Arctic mosquitoes desperate for a meal have been known to kill calves. The only way for caribou to escape the swarms is to run to windy areas or glaciers. "Every moment that a caribou spends avoiding insects is another minute that they're not doing what caribou need to do so that they feed so that they can successfully raise calves," Culler tells Motherboard. But if warming trends continue, it's possible to imagine a future where mosquitoes hatch so early they die off before caribou calves are born. "It’s not all like a gloom and doom story for the caribou," Culler tells ADN. (Meanwhile, in Russia women compete to be bitten by mosquitoes.)