How well do you know Rudolph? Or, how the reindeer has adapted to its extreme environment

Reindeers in natural environment, Tromso region, Northern Norway

Reindeer aren’t just good at flying through the sky on Christmas Eve – they’re also incredibly well adapted to their extreme Arctic environment.

  • Reindeer coats have two layers: a thick, woolly undercoat and a top layer of hollow hairs which keep the reindeer well insulated. The hollow hairs also help keep the reindeer afloat when they swim.
  • The pads on reindeer hooves change according to the season. In summer they’re softer and thicker, to help the reindeer to walk on marshy ground, while in winter they harden and get thinner, exposing more of the hoof to give the reindeer a better grip in snow and ice.
  • The underside of a reindeer’s hoof is hollowed out to help it dig for food in all that snow.
  • Tendons in the foot rub against the bones when a reindeer walks, making a clicking noise. These clicks help the herd to stick together when there’s low visibility.
  • Reindeer noses have the ability to warm each breath that comes in before it goes to the lungs and then cool the air on its way back out again.
  • Reindeer’s eyes are sensitive to ultraviolet light, which helps them to see better during those long Arctic winters. Their eyes also change in colour from golden yellow in the summer to blue in the winter.
  • A study has shown that reindeer don’t have a circadian rhythm. This allows them to keep to their busy schedules (alternating between grazing and sleeping) regardless of whether they’re in the season of long Arctic days or long Arctic nights.

Did you know?

In North America, non-domesticated reindeer are called caribou.

The Taimyr herd in Russia is the largest wild reindeer herd in the world – it’s estimated to number between 400,000 and 1,000,000 reindeer.

Both male and female reindeer have antlers – unlike any other species of deer.

Filming for a Norwegian “slow TV” programme on reindeer migration had to be stopped because the reindeer in question were migrating too slowly.

Think you know everything there is to know about reindeer? 

Here at Oxford Secondary we’re more than happy to let you join in any of the reindeer games.

So, without further ado, here is a little quiz about caribou.

    1. Rangifer tarandus have a circumpolar distribution native to which types of physical environments in northern Europe, Siberia and North America:
      A             arctic, tundra, taiga, mountainous
      B             arctic, subarctic, tundra, taiga
      C             subarctic, tundra, taiga, mountainous
      D             all of the above?
    2. Reindeer is the only deer species in which both the males and females:
      A             are typically the same size
      B             hibernate
      C             grow antlers
      D             all of the above?
    3. Reindeer are ruminants, and are also the only large mammals able to metabolize which winter food:
      A             gritting salt used on public roadways
      B             lichen
      C             pine needles
      D             eggnog?
    4. Some migratory North American caribou herds move the farthest of any terrestrial mammal. How far have they been known to travel in a year:
      A             up to 5,000 km
      B             up to 10,000 km
      C             up to 15,000 km
      D             up to 20,000 km?
    5. As an adaptation to their Arctic environment, reindeer have lost their:
      A             ability to swim
      B             circadian rhythm
      C             ability to reproduce more than once
      D             all of the above?
    6. The Svalbard reindeer is distinctive due to what physical feature:
      A             markedly short legs
      B             clicking knees as they walk
      C             red noses
      D             Santa hats?
    7. What weather hazard resulted in Rudolph saving the Christmas deliveries and becoming a hero:
      A            snow and ice
      B            fog
      C            light drizzle
      D            a tornado?

One thought on “How well do you know Rudolph? Or, how the reindeer has adapted to its extreme environment

  1. Stephen Schwab says:

    Lovely idea. Happy Holidays!

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