In Brief

Caribou Bones Reveal New Arctic Habitats

Caribou gather in Northwest Alaska to avoid insects.
Thousands of caribou gather just west of Alaska's Noatak National Preserve in early July, 2012, to avoid the harassment of insects. (Image credit: Kyle Joly / NPS)

In the dry and frigid Arctic, caribou antlers and skeletons survive on the landscape for thousands of years. For the first time, researchers are using these bones to track caribou behavior in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Both male and female caribou shed antlers, but only females shed them within a few days of giving birth. Researchers found a surprising number of antlers and newborn skeletons on river terraces in the Porcupine caribou herd's calving grounds. Tundra was thought to be the most popular calving turf.

With 170,000 animals, the caribou herd plays a critical role in the Arctic ecosystem. The study authors hope to extend their work to understand how the herd's behavior may have shifted with warmer or colder climate periods.

Read more: University of Florida

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Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.