View from the Zoo: Antlers are the fastest growing tissue in the world

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Back in November the staff at Flamingo Land welcomed two lovely reindeer, a female called Esker and Gunter her brother to entertain visitors for the festive season.

However many of our visitors noticed that Gunter did not have his antlers over Christmas, however, they are now making a comeback.

Reindeer antlers fall off annually and then grow back again even bigger every year. Antlers are covered in a network of blood vessels and have a special type of fur called velvet.

This is the fastest growing tissue in the whole world with Gunter’s growing up to half an inch every single day!

In the wild, reindeer live in arctic and subarctic regions. They are brilliantly adapted to living in cold and snowy conditions and use their antlers for display and fighting but also use them as snow ploughs to clear paths through the thick snow.

Reindeer are the only type of deer where both males and females have antlers.

At Christmas-time the male’s antlers have already fallen off and it is only the female reindeer whose antlers remain. This makes Santa’s sleigh pulling team an all-female crew.

Reindeer have a few other adaptations for life in the snow. The knees of reindeer make a clicking sound as they walk. This enables reindeer to find each other when it is hard to see in difficult weather conditions like blizzards.

Reindeer hooves also adapt depending on the condition of the ground. Hooves become hairier and harder in winter to act as snow shoes and become soft and spongy again in spring.

In the coldest weather reindeer also grow more fur around their mouths, like a fury moustache to keep them warm.

They are also one of the few animals that have fur within their nostrils so even the coldest air is slightly warmed up as they breathe 

It will only take a few months for Gunter’s antlers to be fully grown and in the meantime Eskers will be falling off too!

The reindeers can still be seen next to the lemur walkthrough, as you know a reindeer is for life not just for Christmas.