Frozen fauna – Frossen fauna

Skid marks on the ice

By Jørgen Rosvold
Dark stripes have appeared on the normally white surface of a snow patch in central Norway. Photo: Jørgen Rosvold, NTNU University Museum

Someone has dirtied an ice patch in the Knutshø mountians in central Norway. A pungent odor fills our nostrils as we ascend the mountain side and reach the formerly shining white surface. It smells deeply of dung and animal.

The unusually warm summer of 2014 has revealed a highly uncommon sight on Norwegian ice patches. A deep layer of reindeer dung, mixed with wind blown material, has melted out of the ice and covers large parts its surface. In some places the depth reach more than 30 cm. How long it has taken for the tons and tons of dung to accumulate can only be speculated. It does, however, paint a picture of herds of reindeer returning to the site year after year for centuries, or even millennia, seeking shelter from the summer heat. Today, the dung fertilize the streams running off from the ice patch, providing valuable nutrients for plants and animals downstream.

A deep layer of reindeer dung have melted out of the ice. Photo: Jørgen Rosvold, Ntnu University Museum

The philosophical moment is quickly ruined when one of the dangers of field work (not considered in the HSE risk assessment report) is revealed, as I slip and slide down three meters of dung covered icy slope getting covered in the smelly ancient substance. Luck is, however, on my side as I look down and notice three perfectly preserved fragments of a large reindeer antler in the muck. Biological treasures of the past!

Antler fragments and bones emerge in the layer of reindeer dung. Photo: Jørgen Rosvold, NTNU University Museum


Leave a Reply