There is a species of sheep that survives completely on seaweed. on the island of north ronaldsay in scotland, a wall was built around the island to protect crops from sheep grazing, limiting them to the shoreline where they have adapted to survive.

North Ronaldsay sheep

The North Ronaldsay or Orkney is a breed of sheep from North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island of Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland. It belongs to the Northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds, and has evolved without much cross-breeding with modern breeds. It is a smaller sheep than most, with the rams (males) horned and ewes (females) mostly hornless. It was formerly kept primarily for wool, but now the two largest flocks are feral, one on North Ronaldsay and another on the Orkney island of Auskerry. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists the breed as “vulnerable”, with fewer than 600 registered breeding females in the United Kingdom.

The semi-feral flock on North Ronaldsay is the original flock that evolved to subsist… Continue Reading (8 minute read)

14 thoughts on “There is a species of sheep that survives completely on seaweed. on the island of north ronaldsay in scotland, a wall was built around the island to protect crops from sheep grazing, limiting them to the shoreline where they have adapted to survive.”

  1. Farkerisme

    Next up: Orca beginning to eat surprising amount of sheep in Scotland

  2. tobotic

    This is interesting, but they appear to be a breed of sheep rather than a separate species.

    If allowed to keep evolving without cross-breeding with other kinds of sheep, they might eventually form a different species, but not for many thousands of years. The Orkney Islands are very threatened by rising sea levels, so it’s unlikely they’ll remain isolated on North Ronaldsay for that long; they’ll either drown or be moved to the Scottish mainland.

  3. Thatdewd57

    “Meat from the North Ronaldsay has a distinctive flavour, described as “intense” and “gamey”,[3] due, in part, to the high iodine content in their diet of seaweed.”

    Was curious what they would taste like and Wikipedia did not disappoint.

  4. uncertein_heritage

    They should have just adapted to climb over the wall.

  5. HighOnGoofballs

    Damn we need some of those here. Already have wild chickens and cats on the island and a huge seaweed problem, seems like a great fit

  6. fishboy3290

    The rule of the land is to do whatever Ronaldsay

  7. dissapointo

    Maybe they’ll evolve into woolly crabs!

  8. CrankyLeafsFan

    Did the sheep pay for the wall?

  9. fludblud

    The most interesting thing is that the dyke was only built in 1832, which means all these unique physiological adaptations such as resistance to higher salt levels in water or the greater ability to absorb copper from seaweed to the point that regular grass in now toxic to these sheep, all evolved in less than 200 years.

    This is all extremely encouraging news for the topic of biodiversity and rewilding as it means that not only can we bring species back from the brink of extinction, but the timeframe for existing animals to evolve into *new* species to fill the ecological niches left by extinct species or even brand new manmade environments is far shorter than previously thought.

  10. imanAholebutimfunny

    hey must have the knarlyest gas

  11. TittyRotater

    That’s how you get capricorn

  12. jaxn_slim

    I wonder if their meat tastes like Lagavulin.

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