I have got a big rotating space station (radius is 5 km and length is 30 km) which provides its occupants the luxury of full terran gravity and atmosphere. The biggest part of the cylinder's inner surface is covered by forest (which provides us with oxygen), small lakes, fields and farmland. Now, I have decided to get into the wool and mutton business. A transport ship with 50 Rhön sheep, each originating from a different herd, 45 of them being female and 5 being male, all 2 to 3 years old, has just arrived. The sheep were separated into 5 herds of 9 female sheep and 1 male and marked using colors to control breeding.

My questions are:

  • Since there are no seasons on a space station, can my sheep breed all year round? I would like to do it herd-wise, meaning that one herd will be lambing in January and February, one in march and April and so on.

  • Do my sheep need to adapt to the Coriolis effect? Will they behave strangely and stop giving milk/breeding when they notice that they actually are in a rotating cylinder?

  • What is actually the minimum size of a sheep herd for genetic sustainability? Do I have to let the 5 herds interbreed?

  • What adaptions to the environment of a space station will the sheep produce after thousands of years?

  • I have chosen Rhön sheep because they are adapted to bad weather and cold environments; they also are able of using the sparse vegetation that will probably be available in my space station before a full biological system is worked out. Is any other type of sheep better? Should I use multiple different sheep breeds?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In the novel 2312, space habs of that form carry all sorts of animals and have become wildlife sanctuaries. I recall a story were bees needed to be specially bread, but in general stories ignore the details and assume the hab is suitibly designed to hold the animals. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ Sheep are so ridiculously stupid (from experience) that I think you'll be fine even without the luxuries you've already provided (gravity, weather, etc.). That is not an answer, just a heads up. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Sep 29, 2015 at 21:30

2 Answers 2

  • With same season year round and no predators, the sheep are expected to breed all times non-stop. You would have to separate the males from females at times when you don't want them to breed.

  • Sheep aren't space scientists and they won't find or figure that out. You can stop worrying about it.

  • No idea on that. You should read about cheetahs for that context as they have the least genetic diversity of all mammalian animals.

  • Too speculative. Too broad, too. You might want to import a fresh stock from home planet if the later generations of sheep start showing adverse effects. Or ... you might want to save some tissues of the original sheep for cloning in case no further shipments are available.

  • The best idea is to first import several types of sheep and test them for compatibility. Then select one breed that looks most suitable AND is large enough to provide enough quantities of meat and wool to cope for the herding effort.

  • $\begingroup$ I think sheep defines a sterotype of uniformity and conformity. "Baaa, and so say we all!" $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? No no loser, run away, fool. None for the master, none for the dame. Stop asking me for it, you are being lame! Ahem ahem. So ... err ... $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2015 at 17:00

Assuming high lift costs I must object to your plan.

You should bring 50 female sheep from 50 separate sources. There's no good reason to boost a ram, for the same lift cost you can boost semen from thousands of different sheep--and there's the solution to your genetic diversity issue also.


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