Antlers – Fast and Furious
Ambience: Moose chewing, calling
They’re the largest antlered animal in the world and a lot faster that you’d expect them to be. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Peterson: Well, moose are big creatures, so moving is a big deal, sort of like an elephant. So, we tend to think of them as slow-witted, but they’re very well adapted for what they do, and they can run about twice as fast as a human, the best sprinters.
Rolf Peterson is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Michigan Tech University. He studies the the moose population on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.
Peterson: The moose is the largest antlered animal left on Earth. There used to be much larger antlered forms during the Pleistocene, but they’ve all gone extinct. So, moose are the biggest antlered animal we have left, and it’s the reason why bull moose, which is the only portion of the moose population that grows antlers, why they live shorter lives, because they have to put so much energy into growing antlers each year. And then after the mating season is over, they detach, and then they have to start growing them all over again the next year. And so, they have to mine their skeleton, literally, take minerals out of their skeleton to build big antlers. And as they get older, and their teeth wear down, they have a harder time replacing those minerals in their skeleton.
And what about those antlers?
Peterson: They’re significant among the bulls, because the bigger bulls can shoo the littler bulls away. They do this mostly with displays. They just show off their antlers, but sometimes moose also fight, fight violently for position. The antlers are the basis for competition among the males, and we think-this part we know less about. We think that’s how females select bull moose as their mate. It’s all female choice. So, what we think cows-cow moose are looking for are symmetrical antlers, and then bigger. Bigger is better for moose.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.