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11 things you may not know about reindeer

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What do we really know about reindeer, other than what popular myths and festivals tell us? Mental Floss has set to answer some of our questions. And here are a few of their 11 points:

Reindeer and caribou are the same thing. Historically, the European/Asian reindeer and American Caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same. There are two major groups of reindeer, the tundra and the woodland, which are divided according to the type of region the animal lives in, not their global location. The animals are further divided into subspecies, ranging from nine to thirteen depending on who is doing the classification. At least one subspecies, the Arctic Reindeer, is already extinct. (The reindeer/caribou thing could technically get more complicated in the future—check out this Discovery News article for more details.)

This one’s kinda cool:

Just recently, researchers at University College London discovered reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. While human vision cuts off at wavelengths around 400 nm, reindeers can see up to 320 nm. This range only covers the part of the spectrum we can see with the help of a black light, but it is still enough to help reindeer see things in the glowing white of the Arctic that they would otherwise miss. Things like white fur and urine are difficult, even impossible, for humans to see in the snow, but for reindeer, they show up in high contrast.

And this is just amazing:

While not all reindeer migrate, some of them travel further than any other migrating terrestrial mammal. A few populations of North American reindeer travel over 3,100 miles per year, covering around 23 miles per day. At their top speed, these reindeer can run 50 miles per hour and swim at 6.2 miles per hour. During spring, the migration herds range from 50,000 to 500,000 individuals, but during the winter the groups are much smaller as the reindeer have entered mating season and competition between the bucks begins to split up the crowds. Like many herd animals, the calves learn to walk fast—within only 90 minutes of being born, a baby reindeer can already run.

Another 8 things you didn’t know about reindeer can be found here: Mental Floss.

More stories about animals.

Photo credit: Fotolia.com

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