Moose Health as Indicated by Skeletal Tissue in Isle Royale National Park

KIP Seminar Series

Rolf Peterson, PhD
School of Forestry and Environmental Science
Michigan Technological University


Bones collected from moose dying of wolf predation and other causes reveal much about the long-term health of the population and the status of individual moose. There are three primary skeletal pathologies evident in this moose population: osteoarthritis, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis. All are age-related, affecting primarily moose over nine years of age, with males showing higher prevalence of all three pathologies. Males wear their teeth out faster than females and tend to die at a younger age. Osteoarthritis may have genetic as well as environmental causation, and it has been shown to increase late in life among moose born with nutritional restrictions. All of these pathologies are involved in vulnerability to wolf predation. Recent studies have revealed that moose body size fluctuates dramatically on a decadal time scale, most recently involving size reduction associated with increased population density and climate change. Upcoming studies will include fluctuating bilateral asymmetry which may reflect genetic or environmental stress.


Rolf Peterson has evaluated health of moose in Isle Royale National Park for the past 50 years, using as primary source material the bones of moose recovered in the field.  His PhD from Purdue University involved initial work in this area, and he has used similar approaches for wolf-related studies in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park. At Michigan Tech he has been on the faculty in Biological Sciences as well as in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES). Since retiring from his regular faculty appointment he has continued doing predator-prey research as a Research Professor in SFRES.  He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications from his research. 

Friday, November 1, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Advanced Technology Development Complex (ATDC), 101
1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931

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Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology


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