The season is here to contemplate how reindeer fly. The article below
seems to make more sense than most I have read, but I actually thought
that since the middle of the 20th century, the reindeer flew based on
electronics, mechanics, hydraulics, computers, power cells, and other
modern marvels. What do you think?
This is a SERIOUS matter, for fun and the season....
How Do Reindeer Fly?
by Deb on December 13, 2010
There is a very good reason Santa lives at the North Pole that is the
native habitat of the Flying Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus volaris.
Without these unique creatures Santa could not make it around the world
to deliver presents. While there are many flying animals who could help
Santa pull the sleigh, reindeer have the advantage that they are already
well adapted to extreme cold because they live in Arctic regions. This
allows them to fly very high and take advantage of the thinner
atmosphere to go quickly.
The Flying Reindeer have co-opted normal ruminant anatomy to achieve
lift. Ruminants like cows have four stomachs to help them break down
reindeergrass and especially cellulose. However, in areas where
reindeer live they have had to switch their diet because of the very
sparse vegetation. Much of Scandinavia was covered by glaciers in the
last ice age which scoured away the arable soil, leaving very old
crystalline rocks. These rocks support lichen, the main diet of the
reindeer. The lichen is also breaking down the rocks, which contain
many mineral deposits including iron, copper, nickel, zinc, silver and
gold, and the reindeer eat large amounts of metals along with their
normal food. Metals react with acid, including stomach acid, to produce
hydrogen gas, and when they want to fly the Flying Reindeer collect and
store this gas in another of their stomachs which is able to greatly
enlarge. Hydrogen is of course lighter than air, and allows the
reindeer to lift in the same way as Zeppelins did.
Once in the air, the reindeer need to move forward. They do this by
taking advantage of a cold weather adaptation, their thick fur coat.
The Flying Reindeer have developed the coat on their legs to be
extremely thick and long, with dense matted inner fur and long smooth
guard hairs as an outer layer. This configuration allows their legs to
act as oars or paddles and they can row through the air.
The Flying Reindeer has another advantage for Santa, although
technically it is not the reindeer but their food. Many of the lichens
the reindeer eat are phosphorescent, which means they glow in the dark.
In winter reindeer find their food by using their noses to push aside
the snow covering the lichens. This means they are rubbing their noses
across the lichen and many small glowing particles get stuck to their
nose and muzzle. The effect looks as if their nose is glowing and
allows them to see at night.
So now at Christmas you will be able to keep a lookout for Santa and his
Flying Reindeer, carrying him quickly and safely around the world, and
know how they are doing it.