Despite the growth in knowledge about the effects of a warming Arctic on its cold-adapted species, the mechanisms by which these changes affect animal populations remain poorly understood. Increasing temperatures, declining sea ice and altered wind and precipitation patterns all may affect the fitness and abundance of species through multiple direct and indirect pathways. Here we demonstrate previously unknown effects of rain-on-snow (ROS) events, winter precipitation, and ice tidal surges on the Arctic's largest land mammal. Using novel field data across seven years and three Alaskan and Russian sites, we show arrested skeletal growth in juvenile muskoxen resulting from unusually dry winter conditions and gestational ROS events, with the inhibitory effects on growth from ROS events lasting up to three years post-partum. Further, we describe the simultaneous entombment of 52 muskoxen in ice during a Chukchi Sea winter tsunami (ivuniq in Iñupiat), and link rapid freezing to entrapment of Arctic whales and otters. Our results illustrate how once unusual, but increasingly frequent Arctic weather events affect some cold-adapted mammals, and suggest that an understanding of species responses to a changing Arctic can be enhanced by coalescing groundwork, rare events, and insights from local people.
Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) populations experienced widespread reduction and extirpation due to the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. We examined genetic variation within four microsatellite markers and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) d-loop in one prefur trade population and compared it to five modern populations to determine potential losses in genetic variation. While mtDNA sequence variability was low within both modern and extinct populations, analysis of microsatellite allelic data revealed that the prefur trade population had significantly more variation than all the extant sea otter populations. Reduced genetic variation may lead to inbreeding depression and we believe sea otter populations should be closely monitored for potential associated negative effects.