Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow and Reindeer

Julie here. It's snowing! It's not technically the first snow of the year, but it is the first time snow has stuck to both the grass and the pavement. I'm hoping it will still be around after school so that we can go horseback riding in it. 

The snowglobe conditions outside make it seem more believable that Christmas is only 2 weeks away. We are all getting excited, especially Bethany, since it will be her first Christmas Eve and Christmas morning here. 

For science class, each of us is researching a different arctic animal. I'm researching reindeer, and I thought I would share some interesting reindeer facts with you.

- In North America, reindeer are called caribou.

- The word "reindeer" comes from the Old Norse word "hreinin," meaning "horned animal." The word "caribou" is based on the French word for "snow-shoveler."

- Reindeer's double-layer coats are such effective insulators that when they lay in the snow, the snow doesn't even melt.

- Reindeer are the only species of deer that have been widely domesticated, though there are still large populations of wild reindeer.

- Reindeer are strong swimmers.

- In most reindeer populations, both male and female reindeer grow antlers (males grow bigger ones). Reindeer are the only species of deer in which females grow antlers.

- Mature male reindeer shed their antlers in early December. In my mind, that means one of the following: 
1. Santa replaces his reindeer sled team with young males every year
2. Santa's reindeer team is female
3. Santa's reindeer team is made up of males wearing fake antlers
4. Something about the magic that makes Santa's male reindeer fly also keeps them from losing their antlers 
* I like to think it's #2 :)

- Northern populations of reindeer tend to be smaller and whiter in color, while southern populations tend to be bigger and darker in color.

- Reindeer footpads adapt to changing seasons. In summer when the tundra is soft and wet, they become sponge-like to give the reindeer extra traction. In winter when the tundra is hard and icy, the footpads shrink and tighten to expose the hoof rim, which allows the deer to dig through snow and helps keep the deer from slipping.

- Scientists think that reindeer are one of the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. 

And now for pictures of some of the reindeer subspecies.

Tundra Reindeer:

Barren-ground caribou (NW Canada, W Greenland)

Mountain reindeer (Arctic tundra of Eurasia)

Peary caribou (NW Canada and the Nunavut Islands)

Porcupine caribou (Alaska, the Yukon, and NW Canada)

Svalbard reindeer (Svalbard islands of Norway)
Woodland Reindeer:
Finnish forest reindeer (Finland and NW Russia)

Migratory woodland caribou (boreal forests of Canada and far northern contiguous US - not Alaska)

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