March 30, 2007
Yoram Yom-Tov of the Zoology Department of Tel Aviv University in Israel recently measured 555 lynx skulls at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. He wanted to see if a warmer Alaska affected the size of lynx. Instead, he found something else.
After measuring the skulls of lynx taken by trappers in the last 50 years, Yom-Tov wrote to Howard Golden of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for trapping records and found that lynx were smaller in years when there were many lynx. Their decreased size might be due to increased competition for their favorite food-snowshoe hares, he said.
Yom-Tov also spent hours measuring Alaska marten and masked shrew skulls, and found that they both seem to be getting larger in the last 50 years, possibly because the animals put energy into growth that they formerly used to survive a longer winter.
This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community.
Ned Rozell [firstname.lastname@example.org] is a science writer at the institute.