The ever-growing temperatures registered at the top of the world are definitely bad news for polar bears and other Arctic denizens, but the insects human hate the most appear to be thriving in the warmer weather: local mosquitoes welcome it with open wings.
According to research published on September 15, rising temperatures offered the Arctic bloodsuckers a great chance to speed up their pupal stage and grow emerge sooner. Consequently, what’s good news for the greatly expanding populations of mosquitoes is bad news for the caribou, whose blood covers most of their diet.
Researchers said the discovery is one of the more complex consequences of climate change, as sensitive regions like the Arctic have mostly unpredictable reactions. You know why Arctic mosquitoes prosper here? It’s because they particularly enjoy the shallow tundra ponds formed by the springtime melting snow.
Researchers monitored each life stage of the mosquito populations living in their natural habitat in ponds near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. They also recreated the warming climate conditions in lab experiments as to measure the effects that temperature has on the time a mosquito for development.
Results showed that a rise by 2°C in Arctic temperatures – which is incidentally what a UN panel predicted for Arctic warming this century – is the equivalent of a 53 percent increase in the chances that a mosquito would mature to adulthood.
The current increase in temperature has already shortened the mosquitoes’ pupal stage with two weeks; the accelerated growth means better chances of survival, because it cuts down the time they spend in the ponds, where diving beetles, their main predator, is more likely to eat them.
Strange consequences were recorded; according to study author Lauren Culler, an ecologist at Dartmouth College’s Institute of Arctic Studies, the caribou have been observed to prefer the top of a windy ridge, even though they have less food of an inferior quality. It turns out they were running away from the biting insects that live in lower altitudes with higher temperatures.
Dr. Culler warned that such an unbalance in the caribou and mosquito populations could have a dire effect on the caribou, whose health could see a dramatic dive if the animals spend more of their time running away from insects and less time looking for high-quality food.
But it’s not all good news for the mosquitoes; they may be prospering in the short term. But the warming Arctic would eventually kill them if they emerge earlier than the apparition of the animals whose blood they eat.
Image Source: Shorebird Science