The PLoS ONE blog pick of the month for October is “Stressed Cattle and Elk” by T. DeLene Beeland of Wild Muse.
While there were several outstanding posts aggregated by ResearchBlogging.org this past month, the PLoS staff felt that DeLene’s use of a new scientific study to further a theory of her own showcased the importance of blogging in expanding scientific discussion.
As DeLene said:
When I was working on my master’s, I interviewed several cattle ranchers in the Southwest — namely, Arizona and New Mexico. I was looking for their beliefs and opinions about Mexican wolf reintroduction, and an oft-repeated claim was that the mere presence of the wolves was stressing their cattle, resulting in lower weights. And a skinny cow never made anyone any money, so that was a problem, they said. Wolf conservationists laughed in my face when I told them about this complaint.
The new study in PLoS ONE that DeLene covered argued that surviving a predatory attack is only half the battle for many animals. In fact, the results showed that both elk and cattle – species with very different anti-predator instincts – tend to move around much more when wolves are around, and the increased energy expenditure may have long lasting implications in the future health of the animal.
As DeLene pointed out:
The authors did not measure directly how these behaviors may change the energy budgets of the elk and cows, but they surmise there is a negative cost and that it may even affect reproduction. Perhaps they are planning to measure this cost in the future, or maybe they hope someone else will pick up the research torch and measure this in the future.
Along with our hearty congratulations, DeLene will receive a PLoS ONE T-shirt (as will all the authors of the PLoS ONE study she covered) as a small token of our thanks for promoting open-access science.
Photos via Flickr/ Tambako the Jaguar, julieabrown1, and SigmaEye