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Rudolph’s Nose Gets the Attention, But His Eyes Are Cooler

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 19:10
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I just have to share this cool 60-second Scientific American podcast from my friend, science writer Allie Wilkenson.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is famous for his bright, glowing nose, but for real-life reindeer, there’s another sensory organ that is way cooler: their eyes.

Photo by Alana Sise via Flickr Creative Commons. 

Allie says:

“The color of Rudolph’s nose has long been the talk of the town. But the color of his eyes may be more interesting. Because Arctic reindeers’ eyes change color with the seasons—from gold in the summer to deep blue in the winter.

Changes to a tissue layer in the eye called the tapetum lucidum are responsible for the color change, the purpose of which seems to be to change the sensitivity of the retina to different wavelengths of light….

…By extending the reindeers’ visual range, this unique adaptation allows them to see better in the continuous darkness of winter in the Arctic reindeer’s habitat.

Perhaps Rudolph with his nose so bright wasn’t needed to guide Santa’s sleigh after all. He could have used any reindeer with its eyes so blue.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Get Involved! Protect wildlife with David and the National Wildlife Federation. 



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