Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reindeer Games

Well it is the beginning of December so time for a holiday post.  Today's featured animal will be the Reindeer also known as the Caribou.  I thought it would be fun to outline some points that would make Reindeer a great animal to pull Santa's sleigh.  They live in both Tundra and Borreal Forrest areas, both of which are very cold.  Reindeer fur has an undercoat and topcoat to help combat the extreme cold.  The undercoat is dense and wooley, while the top coat is longer with hollow air-filled hairs. 
Only the most impressive animal will do for Santa, and a reindeer's antlers certainly look fancy.  Both the males and females grow antlers but the males grow them noticeably larger.  The age of the deer determines when their antlers fall off.  The older males loose them in December the younger males loose them in spring.  Reindeer antlers are the largest compared to their body size.

Something you may not realize about Reindeer is they have a very special nose.  No, it doesn't glow red like Rudolf's.  They have nasal turbine bones that increase the surface area dramatically. This allows incoming air to be warmed by the deer's body heat before being transported to the lungs.  The moisture is also captured from the wet cold air before the warmed air is expired.  The moisture can be used to moisten dry air or even be reabsorbed back into the body via capillaries.

Why were Reindeer chosen to pull Santa's sleigh?  Well, I think it is because they are the only mammal to see ultraviolet light!  They can see wavelengths at around 320 nm much better than humans who tap out at 400 nm.  This is likely because Reindeer live in the Arctic where the world is often covered in snow and relatively monotoned.  Seeing ultraviolet helps certain objects stand out. 

Now that you see the many features of Reindeer you can see why Santa loves them. 
Happy Holidays to everyone,

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