Quirks and Quarks

Climate Change Good for Mosquitoes, Bad for Caribou

Warmer conditions will cause mosquitoes to emerge in ever greater numbers when caribou are calving and least able to avoid the bloodsucking pests.

Mosquitoes may emerge earlier and increase in greater numbers to torment caribou and calves

Mosquito trap in a pond in Greenland (Lauren Culler)
The destabilizing effects of climate change are expected to benefit some species and disadvantage others. According to new research by Dr. Lauren Culler, a post-doctoral researcher and Arctic ecologist  at the Dickey Center for Arctic Study at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and her colleagues, Arctic mosquitoes might be one of the winners.

Mosquitoes in the Arctic are notoriously ferocious, swarming maddeningly in their search for a blood meal, and making life a misery for humans and wildlife like caribou. Dr Culler found that warmer winters lead to earlier emergence of the mosquitoes, and may accelerate their growth, development, and boost their populations, which means that more hungry mosquitoes might be around just when caribou are having their calves.

Mosquito attacks can distract mother caribou from foraging, meaning they have less energy and milk for their calves, and there have even been reports that, in particularly bad mosquito seasons, calves have been killed by relentless mosquito attacks.

Related Links

- Paper in Proceedings B
- Dartmouth College release
CBC News story
The Atlantic article
National Geographic article