Allocating protein to reproduction in arctic reindeer and caribou. Academic Article uri icon


  • Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) and caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) use body stores (capital) and food intake (income) for survival and reproduction. Intakes of low-nitrogen (N) food declined in winter and increased in spring (51-83 g dry matter kg(-0.75) d(-1)). Reindeer calved before regaining food intake, whereas caribou calved 28 d later. Body N was conserved by minimizing oxidation of amino acid N to urea. Maternal protein stored from early winter was used for 96% of fetal growth in reindeer but only 84% of fetal growth in later-birthing caribou. Both subspecies rely on maternal body protein for 91% of the protein deposited in the neonate via milk over the first 4 wk. All females lost body protein over winter, but lactating females continued to lose protein while nonreproductive females regained protein. Net costs of lactation above maintenance were greater for N (110%-130%) than for energy (40%-59%). Large fat stores in reindeer spare body protein from oxidation in winter, whereas in caribou, less fat with the same body protein favors migration when food is inadequate. The resilience of Rangifer populations to variable patterns of food supply and metabolic demand may be related to their ability to alter the timing and allocation of body protein to reproduction.

published proceedings

  • Physiol Biochem Zool

author list (cited authors)

  • Barboza, P. S., & Parker, K. L.

citation count

  • 85

complete list of authors

  • Barboza, Perry S||Parker, Katherine L

publication date

  • November 2008