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Morphological and behavioral adaptations of moose to climate, snow, and forage

Lundmark, Caroline (2008). Morphological and behavioral adaptations of moose to climate, snow, and forage. Diss. (sammanfattning/summary) Umeå : Sveriges lantbruksuniv., Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae, 1652-6880 ; 2008:67
ISBN 978-91-86195-00-7
[Doctoral thesis]

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This thesis focuses on the behavioural and morphological adaptations of moose to snow and climate: specifically, seasonal migration, habitat choice, and following behaviour, plus the relationships among morphology, climate, snow, and seasonality. I examine intake and availability of winter forage, and perform one of the first large-scale tests of a widely used optimal foraging model by videotaping free-ranging moose making their own choices. The study of seasonal migration and habitat choice showed that the effect of snow differs with variation in snow severity: in locations with large differences in snow depths in a short distance, snow depth is important, but in locations where snow depth is less variable, snow quality emerges as more important. The thesis is one of the first to use a new method to evaluate the importance of snow quality. Testing between competing hypotheses to explain morphology, the importance of snow was further emphasized relative to temperature and latitude. In snowier areas, moose had larger hooves and longer legs than expected from their size and age. Morphology both conformed to, and was in opposition to some of the most well-known ecogeographical rules: in areas with cold winters, moose were heavier (Bergmann’s rule) and had shorter ears (Allen’s rule). There was also some evidence that moose morphology was related to heat stress during summer. The quality of the two main winter forages (birch and willows) differed within and between species. Willows had more available browse, and lower levels of secondary defence compounds than birch, but also less nitrogen and more fibre. These differences in forage quality also emerged in the test of the Spalinger-Hobbs model, as moose preferentially fed on willow, which was also the faster food to ingest. Most importantly, the analysis revealed that the foraging parameters varied within a foraging bout, and thus parameterizing the model from only the first few minutes of a bout would greatly mis-estimate intake. In the face of climate change, my results emphasize the need for research relating behaviour and morphology to environmental conditions. As moose are well adapted to snow and winter conditions, climate change may have negative consequences on southern populations as temperatures will rise, and some ranges may become unsuitable.

Authors/Creators:Lundmark, Caroline
Title:Morphological and behavioral adaptations of moose to climate, snow, and forage
Series Name/Journal:Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
Year of publishing :2008
Number of Pages:56
ALLBall, John P., Nordengren, C., Wallin, K.2001. Partial migration by large ungulates: Characteristics of seasonal moose ranges in northern Sweden. Wildlife Biology 7 (1): 39-47. Lundmark, C., Ball, John P. 2008. Living in Snowy Environments: Quantifying the Influence of Snow on Moose Behavior. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 40(1): 111-118. Ball, John P., Lundmark, C., Ericsson, G., Danell, K., Wallin, K. 2008. Scandinavian moose meets Bergmann, Allen, and Rensch: Morphological variations along a climatic gradient. Manuscript. Nordengren, C., Hofgaard, A., Ball JP. 2003. Availability and quality of herbivore winter browse in relation to tree height and snow depth. Annales Zoologici Fennici 40 (3): 305-314. Nordengren, C., and Ball, John P. 2005. A field assessment of the Spalinger-Hobbs mechanistic foraging model: Free-ranging moose in winter. Can. J. Zool. 83: 518-526.
Place of Publication:Umeå
ISBN for printed version:978-91-86195-00-7
Publication Type:Doctoral thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agrovoc terms:elks, behaviour, adaptation, animal morphology, climate, winter, foraging
Keywords:moose, adaptations, behavior, morphology, winter, climate, snow, forage, optimal foraging
Permanent URL:
ID Code:1800
Department:(S) > Dept. of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Deposited By: Caroline Lundmark
Deposited On:10 Nov 2008 00:00
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 10:14

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