What Red Nose? Reindeer Don’t Have Colour Vision, New Study Shows

What Red Nose? Reindeer Don’t Have Colour Vision, New Study Shows

Even if Rudolph had a red nose, his reindeer friends wouldn’t have been able to see it.
According to recent research from the UK, all reindeer suffer from poor colour vision.

Scientists working at Exeter University say reindeer have evolved a particularly strong
ultraviolet vision at the expense of colour vision. This adaptation helps reindeer see food
and predators in the chilly Arctic environment.

In particular, researchers said this UV-sensing vision is handy for finding edible lichens
buried in the snow. In addition to moss, reindeer's live off of a mostly vegetarian diet
mainly consisting of grass, willows, and birches.

In addition to finding food, this UV vision helps reindeer from becoming a predator’s
lunch. Many wolves living in the Arctic have white fur, which they use to blend in with
the snowy environment. Although it might be difficult for humans to easily see these
wolves, reindeer can see a contrast between the UV-deflecting snow and the wolf’s UV-
absorbing fur.

Researchers conclude that “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” ignores some basic facts of
reindeer biology. In the future, perhaps they’ll better explain the various “reindeer
games” mentioned in the beloved Christmas carol.

Also called caribou in the wilderness, reindeer are mostly found in Arctic and Subarctic
regions. There are currently two million reindeer split between Alaska and Canada and
five million more in Eurasia.

This research was presented Exeter University’s annual Science of Christmas gathering.
To read more about this festive event, please visit this official webpage.

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