PHYSIOLOGICAL AND NUTRITIONAL ADAPTATIONS OF MOOSE TO NORTHERN ENVIRONMENTS
Moose (Alces alces) exploit the boreal forest where food resources have high nutritive value during brief summers, and low quality and availability during long winters. To accommodate to this fluctuating environment, moose store large quantities of fat during summer and fall which helps to offset their winter energy deficit. Annual rhythms are keyed to this cycle. Intake rates vary seasonally and correspond with nutrient quality and forage availability. Moose are hyperphagic in summer and reduce food intake during winter. Activity budgets vary among environments and seasons with foraging and resting/ruminating occupying most of their time. Metabolism follows a circannual cycle that peaks in mid-summer with a nadir in late-winter; peak metabolism corresponds to maximum energy intake and storage. Moose are classified as seasonally adaptable concentrate selectors that choose the diet primarily of browse foliage and twigs. This diet is high in lignin as well as readily digestible nutrients. Energy and protein requirements are similar to other cervidae. Body composition, like metabolism and intake, is dynamic seasonally. Nutritional adaptations stabilize energy balance and allow moose to withstand energy shortages in a fluctuating environment.
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