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Secret of Scotland's Shrinking Sheep Solved
ScienceNOW Daily News ^ | 2 July 2009 | Nayanah Siva

Posted on 07/04/2009 2:18:03 PM PDT by neverdem

Enlarge ImagePicture of sheep

Slimming down. Sheep on the remote Scottish isle of Hirta have been getting smaller.

Credit: A. Ozgul/Science

Call it the case of the shrinking sheep. On the remote Scottish island of Hirta, sheep have been getting smaller, shrinking an average of 5% over the last 24 years. Don't blame evolution, though. Researchers say climate change is the real culprit.

The Hirta sheep belong to a breed known as Soay, after the remote Scottish island where they arose. One of the most primitive forms of domestic sheep, Soays first came to Hirta in 1932. Because Hirta is a remote island, its sheep have remained genetically isolated, and no other sheep have been brought in for breeding. That's made Hirta's Soays ideal subjects for scientific study.

In 2007, scientists first reported that the sheep were smaller than they had been in the past. This prompted biologist Arpat Ozgul of Imperial College London and colleagues to analyze body weight data going back 24 years. The researchers confirmed that the Soays had indeed been getting smaller. And, as they report online today in Science, the reason appears to be climate change.

In the past, Hirta's sheep gorged on grass during their first summer, the team notes, piling on the weight in order to make it through the island's typically harsh winters. But over the past quarter-century, Hirta has had unusually short and mild winters. As a result, Ozgul and colleagues propose, grass has become available for more months of the year, meaning the Soay sheep do not have to bulk up as much. In addition, Hirta's harsh winters used to kill small ewes born to young mothers. But now these small ewes survive--and because of their low birth weight, they never get as big as normal sheep. That drives down the average size of the entire population, the team reports. Further mathematical modeling allowed the researchers to propose that natural selection has played little--if any--role in the shrinkage of the Hirta sheep.

Malcolm Gordon, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, praises the study. But he says that other mechanisms may be at work. "Changing [environmental] conditions on the island ... [may] have led to changes in the chemical composition and nutritional value of the plant foods the sheep eat," he says, and that may have shrunk the sheep. Though at the end of the day, he says, climate change could still be the root cause.

Related Site

The Dynamics of Phenotypic Change and the Shrinking Sheep of St. Kilda


TOPICS: Science
KEYWORDS: agw; carboncult; climatechange; globalwarming; godsgravesglyphs; greenreligion; hirta; sheep; soay; stkildaarchipelago
That was the title of the citation. Here's the abstract:

Environmental change, including climate change, can cause rapid phenotypic change via both ecological and evolutionary processes. Because ecological and evolutionary dynamics are intimately linked, a major challenge is to identify their relative roles. We exactly decompose change in mean body weight in a free-living population of Soay sheep into all processes that contribute to change. Ecological processes contribute most, with selection—the underpinning of adaptive evolution—explaining little of the observed phenotypic trend. Our results enable us to explain why selection is not realized even though weight is heritable and why environmental change has caused a decline in Soay sheep body size.

I'm bigger than either of my parents. Diet couldn't have any thing to do with it, no way. It must be man caused global warming. This is utter crap for science!

1 posted on 07/04/2009 2:18:04 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
its sheep have remained genetically isolated, and no other sheep have been brought in for breeding,

75 years of in-breeding creating more and more runt offspring.

2 posted on 07/04/2009 2:21:19 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: neverdem
Climate change, Scottish sheep suffer most ! Film at 11.

Sheep dip! Snake Oil !

3 posted on 07/04/2009 2:21:39 PM PDT by csvset
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To: csvset

4 posted on 07/04/2009 2:23:47 PM PDT by umgud (Look to gov't to solve your everday problems and they'll control your everday life.)
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To: umgud

Global Warming.....!!The answer to our Obesity problem!!
who knew??


5 posted on 07/04/2009 2:25:05 PM PDT by Recovering Ex-hippie (Pray for Israel!)
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To: hinckley buzzard

And the smaller sheep who didn’t survive in the past are now surviving to adulthood. Isn’t that a good thing, that more survive because the winters aren’t as harsh????


6 posted on 07/04/2009 2:25:20 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: Dilbert San Diego

If more sheep survive because of milder weather, then the total number of sheep-pounds and sheep-wool goes up.

I don’t see any problem here.


7 posted on 07/04/2009 2:27:50 PM PDT by john in springfield
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To: hinckley buzzard

You nailed the real reason!
I think you should get Freepers Points for the correct answer.


8 posted on 07/04/2009 2:28:45 PM PDT by rod1
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To: neverdem
seriously?
9 posted on 07/04/2009 2:30:05 PM PDT by Doogle (USAF.68-73..8th TFW Ubon Thailand..never store a threat you should have eliminated))
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To: neverdem

I wonder if any of these jeenyuses had enough sense to do a study on what foods the sheep were eating, what were available 24 years ago and in what relative abundance versus today? I doubt if the sheep subsist on just grass. Even if they do, they are many varieties of grass. Some would be better food sources than others. I think what we are looking at here is another Kaibab waiting to happen.


10 posted on 07/04/2009 2:35:36 PM PDT by magslinger (Inside every father is a Bryan Mills waiting to get out.)
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To: neverdem

“Sheep lie! Sheep lie!”


11 posted on 07/04/2009 2:37:06 PM PDT by RichInOC (No! BAD Rich! (What'd I say?))
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To: neverdem
Island (Insular) Dwarfism is a well known phenomenon. Smaller size allows the survival of breeding populations, where food supplies are strictly limited. This is much more likely to occur when there is little or no risk from predation.
12 posted on 07/04/2009 2:44:32 PM PDT by 3niner (When Obama succeeds, America fails.)
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To: neverdem
They note no changes in the quality or texture of the fur/hair during this period. A deficient diet should show such changes almost immediately. Same health, same product, just smaller? Smells like bs to me.
13 posted on 07/04/2009 2:46:27 PM PDT by allmost
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To: neverdem
Note that if "climate change" is involved, then the result MUST be bad. Therefore the headline can't be the obvious conclusion "Global Warming Increases Sheep Population." We can't have that! What possible black cloud can we find in this situation? Ah, I know...."Global Warming Makes Sheep Smaller."
14 posted on 07/04/2009 2:51:02 PM PDT by denydenydeny ("I'm sure this goes against everything you've been taught, but right and wrong do exist"-Dr House)
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To: xcamel; neverdem; AFPhys; steelyourfaith; MHGinTN; 3niner
So: Is there more crowding (due to larger population)?

Is there poorer diet in these fields? (So only smaller survive, so sheep grow less in the same time frame?)

Is there more inbreeding?

Is there better diet - so fewer small sheep die?

Are there fewer predators, so smaller sheep can stay alive?

...

No answers to the above, and the above are not addresses in the article = It must be global warming!

A full 1/4 of one degree change in global temperatures in 30 years = GLOBAL CATASTROPHE! Small sheep!

15 posted on 07/04/2009 2:56:38 PM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: neverdem
Researchers say climate change is the real culprit

Then there's no hope...soon they will be the size of rodents.

16 posted on 07/04/2009 3:13:52 PM PDT by Dixie Yooper (Ephesians 6:11)
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To: rod1
I think you should get Freepers Points for the correct answer

Someday Freeper Points will be worth more than US currency.

17 posted on 07/04/2009 3:16:09 PM PDT by Dixie Yooper (Ephesians 6:11)
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To: neverdem

Wasn’t there research done in the past that basically shows creatures stuck on an island will grown smaller versions of themselves over time, whereas the mainland creatures will pretty much maintain normal sizing? Or am I mis-remembering?


18 posted on 07/04/2009 3:16:24 PM PDT by IYAS9YAS
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To: 3niner

Thanks for that. I should have read more of the responses. I was asking about insular dwarfism, but didn’t know what it was called. I just remember that I’d heard about the condition in the past.


19 posted on 07/04/2009 3:18:06 PM PDT by IYAS9YAS
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To: neverdem

It’s the wool. They leave them out in the rain. Everyone knows you can’t wash wool in warm water.


20 posted on 07/04/2009 3:26:12 PM PDT by dangus
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To: 3niner
Island (Insular) Dwarfism is a well known phenomenon.

OK . . .

. . .but don't forget about Island Gigantism !!


Galapagos Giant Tortoise

21 posted on 07/04/2009 3:29:24 PM PDT by skeptoid (AA, UE, MBS [with oak leaf clusters])
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To: neverdem

“But over the past quarter-century, Hirta has had unusually short and mild winters. As a result, Ozgul and colleagues propose, grass has become available for more months of the year, meaning the Soay sheep do not have to bulk up as much. In addition, Hirta’s harsh winters used to kill small ewes born to young mothers. But now these small ewes survive—and because of their low birth weight, they never get as big as normal sheep”.

Dman that global warming! It’s going to give us milder winters and longer growing seasons. Ctap! We’re all gonna die.


22 posted on 07/04/2009 3:33:16 PM PDT by saganite (What would Sully do?)
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To: umgud

That is hilarious!!!!!

parsy, who has lived thru a few of these changes


23 posted on 07/04/2009 3:40:41 PM PDT by parsifal ("Knock and ye shall receive!" (The Bible, somewhere.))
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To: neverdem
They should study Key deer for wer


24 posted on 07/04/2009 3:45:12 PM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . The boy's war in Detriot has already cost more then the war in Iraq.)
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To: Dixie Yooper
Yes, rodent sized creatures with foot long hair!

Woolbearing rats ~ the mind boggles.

25 posted on 07/04/2009 4:06:27 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: neverdem

On Islands off of the coast of Southern California the skeletons of Mammoths have been discovered in, Identical in every respect to their larger kin they were only 4 ft tall. Must have been the SUVs driven by the Clovis Indians.


26 posted on 07/04/2009 4:09:04 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (We have nothing to fear but Obama himself.)
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To: neverdem
Are these wild sheep or domestic ones? If they are being farmed, there is always the chance for selective breeding and or eating. If everyone in London wants large mutton shanks, then the big sheep are slaughtered while the smaller ones lead their happy sheep lives of bleating, mating and occasional body shaving.
27 posted on 07/04/2009 4:15:45 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Chrysler and GM are what Marx meant by the means of production.)
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To: magslinger
I wonder if any of these jeenyuses had enough sense to do a study on what foods the sheep were eating, what were available 24 years ago and in what relative abundance versus today?

Hmmm, introduced from somewhere else to a place where they were not native? To be a valid indicator of GW wouldn't all populations of those sheep have to be shrinking alike? Not just the transplanted population. Have they never heard of adaptive radiation?

28 posted on 07/04/2009 4:20:30 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (We have nothing to fear but Obama himself.)
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE

The leftists fools want to believe, so they decide to believe lies. The actual global temp scale shows a decrease globally over the last decade, IIRC. It’s like Al Goreghoul has been selected to be a guru for no reason other than arbitrary choice, so he will be believed even if the scientific evidence is contradictory. It’s magic thinking ...


29 posted on 07/04/2009 4:29:08 PM PDT by MHGinTN (Believing they cannot be deceived, they cannot be convinced when they are deceived.)
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To: neverdem

So these “scientists” never heard of Scotland’s Shetland Islands? Shetland sheep, Shetland ponies and Shetland sheepdogs...all small.


30 posted on 07/04/2009 8:01:52 PM PDT by LibFreeOrDie (Obama promised a gold mine, but he will give us the shaft.)
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To: neverdem; rdl6989; Little Bill; IrishCatholic; Normandy; According2RecentPollsAirIsGood; ...
 


Beam me to Planet Gore !

31 posted on 07/07/2009 3:36:09 AM PDT by steelyourfaith ("The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money" - Lady Thatcher)
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To: neverdem
The meat of the article

As a result, Ozgul and colleagues propose, grass has become available for more months of the year, meaning the ....... Further mathematical modeling allowed the researchers to propose that natural selection has played little--if any--role ....

In other words they haven't a clue.

32 posted on 07/07/2009 11:43:31 AM PDT by jpsb
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

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This topic is from July 4th.
The Hirta sheep belong to a breed known as Soay, after the remote Scottish island where they arose. One of the most primitive forms of domestic sheep, Soays first came to Hirta in 1932. Because Hirta is a remote island, its sheep have remained genetically isolated, and no other sheep have been brought in for breeding. That's made Hirta's Soays ideal subjects for scientific study.
To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
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33 posted on 08/04/2009 1:59:20 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__Since Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: 3niner; SunkenCiv
Thanks for the point on island (insular) dwarfism. A professor of environmental biology should be on to this, but his politics/religion seem to be blinding him.

His argument makes no sense on it's face. Milder winters would lead to putting on less body fat during the summer, not lead to smaller overall body mass.

34 posted on 08/04/2009 2:24:51 PM PDT by colorado tanker (I'd like to trade in this clunker - President Obama.)
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To: neverdem; SunkenCiv
Further mathematical modeling allowed the researchers to propose that natural selection has played little--if any--role in the shrinkage of the Hirta sheep.

A new study, to be released as soon as I can find a journal to publish it, finds that Climate Change/AGW leads to more and more biased modeling.

My models predict that we are at a tipping point, and that if something isn't done immediately, then in the next ten years, there will be a catstrophic dearth of scientific findings whose conclussions are NOT related to Climate Change/AGW.

35 posted on 08/04/2009 2:40:00 PM PDT by ApplegateRanch (The mob got President Barabbas; America got shafted)
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To: neverdem
Did somebody say sheep ? Image and video hosting by TinyPic
36 posted on 08/04/2009 2:56:38 PM PDT by ComputerGuy (Williams/Sowell 2012 -or- Sowell/Williams 2012)
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To: neverdem

I figured the Scots had developed a height & distance game throwing ‘em into the ocean.


37 posted on 08/04/2009 2:58:18 PM PDT by Deb (Beat him, strip him and bring him to my tent!)
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To: neverdem

Isn’t this the well known phenomenom of genetic drift in isolated island populations?


38 posted on 08/04/2009 3:56:10 PM PDT by JerseyHighlander
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To: 3niner

I didn’t read the comments before posting my own comment. You hit it on the head, I think we have here researchers of an extremely peculiar bent, Anthropological Global Warming Alarmists who are also Anti-Darwinists.
These guys don’t get invited to any of the science conferences after hours cocktail parties.


39 posted on 08/04/2009 4:00:53 PM PDT by JerseyHighlander
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To: neverdem

It’s definitely global warming:

1) Warmer weather means warmer winters, with Fall running later and Spring beginning earlier.

2) More temperate weather means shepherds are out among the sheep more.

3) The stress and caloric output of running away from amorous Scottish shepherds reduces sheep weight.

There. Global Warming strikes again, can there be any doubt?


40 posted on 08/04/2009 5:09:07 PM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast (I love my country, but I fear it, for it does not love me.)
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To: Dilbert San Diego
Sheep or anything with low birth weight are not prone to being small. The genes control that as well as amount of feed. If the winters are less harsh, then small born sheep would grow more not less.

I agree with the shrinking breeding population, called sympatrick breeding populations...no outside genes coming in.

Bulking up would be a yearly thing, and growth is altogether a different thing. They would grow to their potential if nutrients are available.

This is some crappy dim trying to push global warming etc, which does NOT exist. If anything it is global cooling. We have had two hot days all summer, now the leaves are turning.

BA

41 posted on 08/04/2009 6:35:30 PM PDT by Battle Axe (Repent, for the coming of the Lord is nigh.)
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To: neverdem
"Researchers say climate change is the real culprit."

DING! DING! DING! I KNEW THERE WAS A *GOOD* REASON!

42 posted on 08/06/2009 8:35:14 AM PDT by Mr. K (THIS ADMINISTRATION IS WEARING OUT MY CAPSLOCK KEY DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!!!!!)
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