Climate change may be shrinking goats ... and could lead to less bacon

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Climate change may be shrinking goats ... and could lead to less bacon
Mountain goats on an alpine pasture, View from Oberberg towards Pfitsch valley, South Tirol, Italy
This photo released by the Regione Autonoma Valle D'Aosta, shows an albino mountain goat with its mother pictured Sunday, June 24, 2007, by Forest rangers in the Les Laures valley in the Val d'Aosta region, in the northwestern Italian Alps. Rangers following up on reports of sightings by hikers snapped photos of the albino Capra ibex, also known as steinbock, climbing with its mother at an altitude of about 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). This is the only one ever documented, the only one ever seen, said Christian Chioso, a regional wildlife official. He said albinism is rare in any species and has not been previously documented among the Capra ibex, a type of wild mountain goat with large curved horns that lives in craggy mountainous areas. Chioso estimated that the animal is about a year old. (AP Photo/Regione Autonoma Valle d'Aosta, HO)
Passeirer mountain goats, Ober-Glanegg alpine pasture, Timmelsjoch ridge, Hinterpasseier, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy, Europe
Shrinking goats could lead to smaller cows.
Smaller cows leads to less steak.
Pigs could also shrink.
Smaller pigs means less bacon, perhaps even a shortage.
Here's a goat in a sweater.
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By RYAN GORMAN

The effects of climate change on goats could lead to a bacon shortage in the future.

Wild mountain goats in Italy are shrinking due to global warming, scientists have found. They weigh, on average, 25 percent less than they did as recently as 30 years ago.

The goats have shrunk as average temperatures have risen from 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the results of a study published in the science journal Frontiers in Zoology.

A number of animals have gotten smaller as the climate has warmed, but the change is most pronounced in the mountain goats roaming the Italian Alps, researchers found.

Scientist Stephen Willis, the lead author of the study, admitted he and colleagues "don't know enough about how extreme climate might affect the population of this species" and also did not expect such a drastic change in a short period of time.

The study was conducted by weighing goat yearling carcasses collected by hunters starting in the 1980s.

They chose yearlings to make sure all samples were the same age and began searching for causation when they observed the shrinking animals.

The food supply has not dropped in the Alps as it has in other places, the scientists found.

Willis and his team believe the goats are too hot to eat and spend more time resting in that heat, causing them to not eat as often.

"It's been known that these animals spend more time resting when it's hot, so that led to the idea that maybe it's the climate directly that is changing their behavior, rather than the indirect means of affecting their food," wrote Willis.

The less the goats eat, the less they grow. The smaller the animals remain, the more able they are to handle higher temperatures.

Another theory has also been floated, according to National Geographic.

The goat population in the area has exploded as a result of hunting restrictions. More goats competing for food means less food to eat.

An expert who spoke to National Geographic cautioned that if goats are shrinking due to climate change that this could foretell an effect on the world's food supply in decades to come.

"If climate change results in similar behavioral and body mass changes in domestic livestock, this could have impacts on agricultural productivity in coming decades," said Clifford Rice, a wildlife biologist with Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Farm animals, including pigs, that eat less produce less meat –- and bacon.

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