Startlingly, wildlife biologists have begun tracking what seem to be wild-animal obesity trends, too. Over the past 40 years, yellow-bellied marmots in the Colorado Rockies, country rats in the north-eastern United States and blue whales off the coast of California have become chubbier and chubbier.
We imagine that in the wild, animals will eat until they are full and then stop. But given the chance, many wild fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals overindulge. Abundance plus access – the twin downfalls of many a human dieter – can challenge wild animals, too.
Mark Edwards, an animal nutritionist in California, noted: ‘We are all hardwired to consume resources in excess of daily requirements. I can’t think of a species that doesn’t.’
Looking at records with Arpat Ozgul of Imperial College London, he saw that marmot numbers had been fairly stable since the mid-1970s, but in 2001 they suddenly began growing by an average of 14.2 marmots per year. Between 1976 and 2001 the population had gained an average of 0.56 marmots per year.
When the team analysed the body mass figures of 1190 marmots collected between 1976 and 2008, they found another trend. Again, weights were relatively stable up until around 2000, and rose sharply after that. “They’re getting fatter,” says Blumstein.
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