|Wild Life of the World: A Descriptive Survey|
of the Geographical Distribution of Animals.
London, F Warne and Co, 1916.
As the holiday season goes into full swing, the festive days of late December bring a dazzling array of familiar images--shiny packages with ribbons and bows, snowy rooftops and fir trees, and of course the ubiquitous Rangifer tarandus. Whether pulling sleighs or playing games, these antlered animals feature prominently in decorations throughout the holiday season. If you've ever watched the holiday cartoons broadcast at this time of year, you could be forgiven for thinking that reindeer are an especially uniform species, intolerant of differences. But what of reality? As it turns out, in real life reindeer exhibit a remarkable range of diversity.
Distinguishing them from other deer, reindeer are the only species in which both the male and female grow antlers. Within the species, reindeer display notable variations in size, shape and color. According to The Animals of World: Brehm's Life of Animals (1895) a comparison of tame and wild reindeer would reveal such differences just in the size and shape of the hooves that one could easily see how they might be considered belonging to separate species. Antler size and fur coloration are also known to vary in the different regions of the reindeer's circumpolar habitat. Even within individuals, coloration changes with the seasons, bringing on a more greyish-white hue for the snowy winter months.
|Verzameling van uilandsche en zeldzaame vogelen.|
Amsterdam, J.C. Sepp, 1772-1781.
Other subspecies include the Dawson's caribou (Rangifer tarandus dawsoni) which once roamed the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and is now presumed extinct. While some information can still be derived from the DNA extracted from bones, fur and other remains of Dawson's caribou and other extinct species, the vast majority of scientific knowledge on their appearance and behavior is locked in rare or hard to find literature.
|The animals of the world. Brehm's life of animals.|
Chicago, A. N. Marquis, 1895.
While we can't bring the species and subspecies that have gone extinct, we can preserve our knowledge of them to help avoid future extinctions. By making this knowledge widely available, we can become better stewards to those species that are still here and especially to those recovering from diminished populations.
The BHL currently provides access to over 42 million pages and over 87,000 images and is changing the face of research methodology. Scientists around the world are using BHL to identify and classify species, facilitate further scientific research, and support conservation efforts to help prevent future extinctions. The ongoing growth of BHL is supported in part by our dedicated patrons whose gifts support the digitization of additional literature, technical development of the program, and improvement of data curation. We hope you'll take a moment to review how your donation can be put to work and will consider supporting BHL this holiday season!
|The wild beasts of the world.|
London, T.C & E.C. Jack, 1909
Thank you and Happy Holidays!