The Scientific Reason Why Reindeer Have Red Noses

We've all heard the story of Rudolph, the reindeer that saved Christmas because of his bright red nose. But while a nose that shines like a beacon through the fog may be the stuff of fantasy, Rudolph is far from the only reindeer with a red nose.

Of course, the story was rooted in myth. But there’s actually more truth to it than most of us realize. A fraction of reindeer—the species of deer scientifically known as Rangifer tarandus, native to Arctic regions in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and Scandinavia—actually do have noses colored with a distinctive red hue.

Now, just in time for Christmas, a group of researchers from the Netherlands and Norway have systematically looked into the reason for this unusual coloration for the first time. Their study, published yesterday in the online medical journal BMJ, indicates that the color is due to an extremely dense array of blood vessels, packed into the nose in order to supply blood and regulate body temperature in extreme environments.

How did they determine this? The study involved infrared imaging, comparing reindeer and human noses, and putting reindeer on a treadmill! Who says science isn't fun? Read all about the study at Surprising Science. Link

(Image credit: Ince et. al.)


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