Science & Tech

Reason behind mountain goats becoming nocturnal sparks concern amongst scientists

Reason behind mountain goats becoming nocturnal sparks concern amongst scientists

The Alpine ibex in the wild

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Mountain goats are being pushed into a more nocturnal lifestyle because of climate change, scientists have found.

The Alpine ibex, a species found in European mountainous regions, is more likely to be active at night when the days get hotter, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Sassari, Sardinia, used GPS collars to track the activity of the goats from May to October between 2006 and 2019.

The research also found that the ibex was more active at night even in areas where there are more night-time predators, suggesting that the goat needs to escape heat more than it does the predators.

Dr Francesca Brivio, who co-authored the study, said: "We expected higher levels of nocturnal activity in Switzerland where wolves [one of the animal’s main predators] were not present, but we found the opposite.

"We found that activity is higher in the areas with wolves."

"We can expect that during the night when the temperature is lower other animals will shift their activity towards the nocturnal hours.

"If during the day it is too hot to eat or to be active, they will prefer to perform all their activities, like foraging, at night."

It is not the first time human-caused global heating has been found to be driving animals to increase their night-time activity.

Another study in the journal Nature, in 2020, found various herbivores seek to escape the heat by sheltering during the day.

Brivio added: "As they are animals adapted to diurnal activity, being active during the night is probably harder.

"Their movement in the rocky slopes where they live is probably more difficult, which could make the foraging efficiencies and foraging strategies less efficient.

"Although we did not collect data on this, we can conjecture that their capacity to acquire food will be lower [during the night] and this will have consequences on fitness and population dynamics."

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