- First of all, the common name of Reindeer applies to a specific variety of deer with a total of 15 subspecies. All of these live as native to specific, and rather harsh, sections of the world. Further, the same awesome animal also goes by the name of caribou in parts of its native range. Indigenous People in parts of its range depend on it for their very survival.
- In addition to the simple facts of its great beauty, one very special fact sets this remarkable creature apart from all other known animals. This characteristic actually formed as a unique adaptation to the climate in which the species evolved. Quite amazingly, the beautiful reindeer remains the only known mammal to possess the ability to see in ultraviolet light.
- Though still numerous, the population of this amazing mammal unfortunately appears to be in decline. The primary reason for this seems to be climate change, much like many species around the world today. However, several other factors also threaten the magnificent animal. These include two separate parasites that threaten several local populations.
Reindeer Physical Description
The color of the fur of the Reindeer varies considerably, both in individuals and with the season. This represents yet another uncommon trait that the creature displays. The coloring generally ranges from off-white to a dark brown. Additionally, the fur sometimes develops a most striking mottled pattern.
The truly majestic animal also displays a mild degree of sexual dimorphism, much like many other mammals. That’s because, in its case, contrary to popularly held belief, both sexes develop antlers. This also sets it apart from related species, because it’s the only species whose females grow antlers.
However, the antlers of the mature female generally develop as significantly smaller than those of the males. Yet overall, the antlers of this beautiful ruminant average up to 39 in (100 cm) in length. Furthermore, they also attain an impressive average of 53 in (135 cm) in total width.
The mature males of the marvelous species grow larger than the females and average roughly 7 ft (2.13 m) in length, and weigh an average of 400 lb (182 kg). A few rare males sometimes attain a weight of as much as 700 lb (318 kg). Typically, an adult also stands an average of 59 in (150 cm) tall at the shoulder.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Cervidae
- Genus: Rangifer
- Species: R. tarandus
Reindeer Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The powerful and majestic Reindeer evolved as native to the Arctic and subarctic regions of the world. However, the impressive animal also migrates within its region of habitation. This includes much of the tundra regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This range once extended much further south than it does today.
Being a large ruminant, the fascinating Reindeer primarily feeds upon a wide variety of local native plants. However, these most commonly include, reindeer moss, grasses, sedges, and the leaves of willows and birches. However, it also feeds on lichen. This makes it the only known large mammal able to consume lichen.
Unfortunately, despite its relatively large size, it in turn falls prey to a number of powerful predators. These naturally vary, depending upon the region of the world the animal inhabits. Animals such as golden eagles and wolverines often prey on the young. But, only polar bears and brown bears feed on mature individuals.