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Smaller, Lazier Goats May Be Less Prepared for ‘Freakishly Harsh Winters’

“Honey, climate change shrunk the kids” was the title of Jim Meyer’s post last week on grist.org, reporting that Alpine chamois mountain goats are 25% smaller now than they were 30 years ago.

The results come from a Durham University study that is consistent with past research on the species impact of a warming climate. “Previous studies have fingered climate change as the culprit in shrinking other species, from fish to salamanders to polar bears,” Meyer writes. “But in those cases, the shrinkage could be attributed to other factors such as a reduction in food supply, changes in prey behaviour, or exceedingly cold pool water.”

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In this case, though, the researchers found that “the goats get lazy. They spend more time resting and less time eating. This may be a good strategy in the short term, as larger animals in the same species don’t do as well when it’s hotter.” But “if the seasons don’t warm equally, or if freakishly harsh winters become more common, it could go badly for the goats.”