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Visit by Dr Philip Stott to Veterinarians in Greenland

5 December 2017

Question: What similarities do Hong Kong and Greenland have?

Answer: They both have red and white flags, neither has much by way of livestock, and that’s about it.

At 290 per 1000 km2, Hong Kong is probably the densest jurisdiction for veterinarians in the world, whereas the figure for Greenland is 0.004 per km2, probably the lowest of any jurisdiction. However, there are eight veterinarians in Greenland, and Dr Philip Stott visited them recently and presented talks to them and wildlife officers about rabies control and diseases in hares.

The primary purpose of the visit was to explore the logistics associated with a study of the adaptation of ruminants to arctic conditions. As things stand at the moment the study is to be focussed on reindeer and moose, but the proposal is to extend that study to musk-oxen. Sheep and white-tailed deer on or adjacent to the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, will be used as mid-latitude comparators. The project will test hypotheses seeking to explain why results in an earlier published study were not consistent with textbook accounts of the purine degradation pathway in mammals. That study had been conducted in Heilongjiang Province, China, and had found that the moose Alces americanus excretes extremely low urinary concentrations of allantoin and high concentrations of uric acid, very similar to those of humans. The results of this study were published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research (‘The moose, purine degradation and environmental adaptation’, DOI:10.1007/s10344-014-0865-5).

Musk-ox habitat, Kangerlussauq, Greenland:
Remote, harsh, and inhospitable even in summer.

Exposure to extreme cold is known to cause oxidative damage, and we suggest that the retention of uric acid by the moose represents an adaptation enabling the species to survive at high latitudes.

The department is currently looking to recruit a PhD student to carry out research into the role of uric acid in the environmental adaptation of ruminants. Click HERE for more information.