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Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer's cooling strategy revealed
Date:10/26/2011

Insulated in a luxuriously thick winter coat, reindeer are perfectly prepared for the gripping cold of an Arctic winter. But the pelt doesn't just keep the cold out, it keeps the warmth in too: which is fine when the animals are resting, but what happens when they are active and generating heat? Usain Bolt would never sprint in a fur coat so how do exercising reindeer avoid overheating? Arnoldus Blix from the University of Troms, Norway, explains that the animals have three tactics: panting with their mouths closed to evaporate water from the nose; panting with the mouth open to evaporate water from the tongue; and activating a cooling system that selectively cools the blood supply to the brain. But how do they coordinate these different strategies for protection? Intrigued, Blix and his colleagues Lars Walle from the University of Oslo, Norway, and Lars Folkow, also from Troms, decided to monitor reindeer brain temperatures, breathing rates and the blood flow through several major blood vessels in the head, to find out how active reindeer keep cool in winter. The team publish their discovery that reindeer use three strategies to keep cool and only resort cooling their brains with a heat exchanger when their temperature becomes dangerously high in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org.

'Reindeer are the best animals to work with; once they trust the trainer they will do anything for you,' explains Blix. So, the team trained reindeer to trot at 9km/h on a treadmill in temperatures from 10 to 30C to get the animals warmed up while they recorded the animals' physiological responses. In the early stages of the run their breath rate rocketed from 7breaths/min to an impressive 260breaths/min. Blix explains that the animals were inhaling chilly air through their noses and evaporating water from the mucous membranes to cool blood in the nasal sinuses before sending it back to the rest of
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Contact: Sue Chamberlain
jeb@biologists.org
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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