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Reindeer: Nomads of the North

Meet live reindeer at the ’Tis the Season for Science holiday exhibit.

The IMHO Series examines the intersection of technology and culture. The first book in the series looks as what it means now that our world has become so wired.

Illustration by Jon Krause

A beautiful pair of reindeer (scientific name: Rangifer tarandus) have made themselves at home in the California Academy of Sciences’ East Garden as part of the new holiday exhibit ’Tis the Season for Science, exploring the fascinating adaptations of animals in winter. The six-year-old male and four-year-old female both have shaggy brown fur and rather large antlers. Reindeer are the only species of deer in which both the males and the females have antlers: males for jousting during competition for females, females (possibly) for fighting during competition for food.

To arrive at Golden Gate Park, the pair traveled up the freeway in a trailer from Tehachapi, California, a journey which takes about six hours by car. Had they hoofed it, it would have taken them about ten days. It may sound like a long trip on foot when compared to drive times, but reindeer actually migrate farther than any other land mammal, up to 33 miles each day and 3,000 miles per year! Here are some other interesting facts about reindeer:

·      For life in the snow, reindeer have developed broad hooves that function like snowshoes, and sensitive noses that can smell food buried beneath the snow.

·      Lichens and mosses are a reindeer’s favorite food.  They prefer one species of lichen so much that it’s actually called “reindeer lichen.”

·      Reindeer and caribou are actually members of the same species that live in different parts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic – reindeer are domesticated and live in Eurasia and wild caribou live in North America.

·      Reindeer are not currently endangered. However, potential threats to their survival include: petroleum exploration and development (Alaska and Canada), poaching (Russia), habitat loss and climate change.

Visit ’Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences through January 6 to meet the reindeer and experience indoor snow flurries, step inside a giant Snowman Theater and view fascinating specimens.  Find out more about these antlered herbivores during “Reindeer Rendezvous,” a new program at 12 pm daily. Purchase tickets at calacademy.org

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Added: 2017-03-07

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