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Reindeer parasites, weather and warming of the Arctic

Abstract

The protostrongylid nematode Elaphostrongylus rangiferi parasitizes reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and may cause severe disease and death. A relationship between particularly warm summers and the occurrence of the parasite has been suggested. The hypotheses of a positive relationship between the abundance of the parasite and summer warmth were tested by yearly examination of the density of larvae of E. rangiferi in faeces of reindeer in northern Norway. In addition to summer temperature, summer precipitation and reindeer density were included. The abundance of the parasite increased with increasing summer temperature. It is predicted that warming of the Arctic will increase the abundance of E. rangiferi and cause more disease and death in reindeer.

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Acknowledgments

The field and laboratory work was carried out at the University of Tromsø, while the digitalization of data and analysis and writing were done at the University of Oslo. I thank Ingos Matte Siida and Ravna Jon Siida for permitting the use of their reindeer and help with the sampling. I thank T. Kaino, S. Kaino, E. Andersen, K. Bye and W. Hemmingsen who assisted in laboratory and field work. G. Halvorsen helped building the database. Drs S. Albon, N. Chr. Stenseth and A. Stien gave constructive comments on drafts of the manuscript. Financial support was received from The Research Council of Norway and Reindriftens utviklingsfond.

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Correspondence to Odd Halvorsen.

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Halvorsen, O. Reindeer parasites, weather and warming of the Arctic. Polar Biol 35, 1749–1752 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-012-1209-0

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Keywords

  • Reindeer
  • Nematode
  • Elaphostrongylus rangiferi
  • Summer temperature
  • Global warming