Mother Yaks Are the Real Climbers

June 16, 2014

In a new study, researchers show that wild yak mothers are found on higher ground than their male counterparts. The scientists expect this is an adaptive way to avoid predators and to access more nutritious food.

In wild yak societies, it turns out that mothers are a step above the rest. According to a recent WCS-led study, yak mothers with young are found on steeper terrain and at higher elevations than males, or females without young.

Not only are mothers found on mountainous slopes averaging 15,994 feet, but they also travel in groups of about 30. Males, who frequent the valley bottoms, are typically seen in groups of two.

According to the researchers, wild yaks offer an opportunity unique in today’s world—to study a species relatively unharmed by humans. Their habitat is just so remote. “Neither habitat destruction nor fragmentation are issues in the yak’s home in far western China,” said lead author Joel Berger, of WCS and the University of Montana, “and so there are amazing opportunities to learn about why males and females respond differently to climate change and biological challenges.”

Read the press release >>
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