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Friday, December 2, 2022
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Friday, December 2, 2022
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    Climate crisis leads to animals sparring over salt

    AFP – The climate crisis is having some unexpected consequences, especially in the area of biodiversity. One such example can be witnessed in Glacier National Park, in the United States’ (US) Montana. There, mountain goats and Canadian bighorn sheep are engaged in a merciless war for squares of salt.

    Two researchers from Colorado State University Joel Berger and Forest P Hayes observed this strange struggle between species in 2019 during a trip to Glacier National Park. They saw goats and bighorn sheep spar for several hours over a small patch of freshly melted

    salt.
    These salt reserves are coveted by both of these species because of the sodium and other life-sustaining nutrients they contain. Many of them have been inaccessible to these animals for a long time because they were frozen at a certain altitude, as scientists explained in a study recently published in Frontiers In Ecology And Evolution.

    The climate crisis and the resulting rise in temperatures have changed that, accelerating the melting of the glaciers in the US National Park. As a result, goats and bighorn sheep have been seen competing for control of these salt patches. The researchers expected that these high-altitude battles would be won, in turn, by each of the two species, given that they have similar physical characteristics.

    Mountain goats and bighorn sheep are competing for control of salt patches in Glacier National Park. PHOTO: ETX

    But after months of observation, they found that the mountain goats always gained the upper hand over their opponents. “We were surprised that the mountain goats won,” Berger told The Washington Post.

    While these goats are naturally more belligerent than bighorns, they don’t need to use violence to make their rivals back off.

    “Regardless of site, goats initiated every interaction, and most involved passive approaches (73 per cent of 106) whereby subordinate sheep walked or skipped away,” the study indicated.

    Although these interspecies conflicts may seem insignificant, researchers say they are evidence of a profound change in biodiversity. They are even likely to be more common as a consequence of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats for many animal species.

    “As we’re seeing potential shifts in resource availability and increases in scarcity, it’s increasingly likely that this is going to happen more often,” Hayes told The Washington Post. “So understanding these conflicts and ramifications for interacting species is really important.”

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