Honey, I shrunk the sheep

July 9, 2009

Sheep are shrinking in Scotland as a result of milder winters, recent research from Imperial College London suggests. The study, undertaken in collaboration with other universities, found that the less harsh weather has resulted in a wild breed of Scottish sheep, the Soay, found on the island of Hirta, getting smaller, despite the evolutionary benefits of possessing a large body. Tim Coulson, from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, said: "Owing to climate change, grass for food is available for more months of the year, and survival conditions are not so challenging - even the slower-growing sheep have a chance of making it, and this means smaller individuals are becoming increasingly prevalent." The sheep's average body size has decreased by about 5 per cent over the past 24 years, the study found.

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