Mammals: December 2010 Archives

Santa (Dew) Claws

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Rudolph Red-Nose Reindeer.jpgYou probably remember the names of the nine famous reindeer doing warm-ups this season: Prancer, Dancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, and, of course, Rudolph. But most likely you don't know the following interesting facts about caribou. (Which are really the same thing. You must caribou about that.)

Julius Caesar.jpg
Did you know that Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Julius Caesar all saw reindeer? Caesar's description of it was:

"There is an ox shaped like a stag. In the middle of its forehead a single horn grows from between its ears, taller and straighter than the animal horns with which we are familiar. At the top this horn spreads out like the palm of a hand or the branches of a tree. The females are of the same shape as the males, and their horns are the same shape and size."
                -Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Chapter 6.26)

Female reindeer stay in herds. Males are solitary, but join the girls during the breeding season. Like elk, the males win a group of females by rutting. Male reindeer horns fall off in the winter, but female horns don't. 

Reindeer often make a clicking sound that leads people to think they have hurt ankles. However, this species of deer has dew claws (these look like high heels) on the hooves. This sound is normal. Perhaps reindeer think they're cool tap dancers for doing it. 

Reindeer have predators: wolves, wolverines, bears, and coyotes. Reindeer prey on lichens, sedges, and other grasses, digging them out with their hooves in winter. In captivity, they are fed grains.

And, just to be on the safe side, I'll say most. But most reindeer do not have red noses!

Walking Bear in A Winter Wonderland

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Polar Bears Play Fight.jpgA polar bear, or an Ursus maritimus, is a type of bear that lives in the Arctic. It eats ringed seals and leaves its mother at one to two and a half years old. In the space between then and when they can mate the adolescent bears are called subadults.

In the fall, a pregnant female polar bear will dig a den where she spends the winter without eating anything. In the spring she comes out, normally with a litter of two cubs. Then, she makes her way with them down to the shore, where she catches a ringed seal, fish, or scavenges the remains of an animal (a beached whale, for instance) for the family's first meal. She will never go back to the den. 

In her den, a polar bear does not hibernate, in the technical sense. A hibernating animal is classified by a slower rate in breathing and a lower body temperature. She does not do any of these things. The female polar bears will fight any male bears who are near her showing signs of aggression against the cubs, even though male bears clearly have the advantage: a male weighs up to 1300 pounds, whereas a female weighs only 600. 

Contrary to popular belief, a polar bear does not hide its dark nose while waiting at a breathing-hole made by a seal. This was a misconception started by the fact that the cream-colored fur makes for good camouflage.

Unfortunately, polar bears are becoming endangered because of global warming, like in the movie Arctic Tale. Polar bears already overheat after excessive activity and it is worse for them the hotter it gets. (Just so you know, in Alaska a new refuge for these playful bears was created last Wednesday with 187,157 square miles in it. Click Here for more information.)
    
Polar Bear Fast Facts:

The longest-lived polar bear celebrated her last birthday when she was 42. Her name was Debby and she lived in a Canadian zoo.

When polar bears run, they can get very hot. This is due to extremely thick insulation underneath their fur, and, of course, their fur itself. 

Polar bear paws are covered in small bumps, which help them not slip on ice.

A polar bear is also known as an ice bear, nanook, sea bear, or walking bear.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Mammals category from December 2010.

Mammals: June 2010 is the previous archive.

Mammals: January 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.