Nasal gazing reveals why Rudolph's nose is so very red
Scientists in the Netherlands appear to have solved one of the mysteries of Christmas by confirming that Santa’s lead reindeer, Rudolph, did in fact, as the song says, have a redder than usual nose.
The research by a team from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, published in the British Medical Journal, compares the nasal structures of humans with those of reindeer – specifically two adult reindeer from Tromsø in Norway, near the North Pole – and reveals why Rudolph was chosen to guide Santa’s sleigh.
The paper, Why Rudolph’s nose is red: observational study, by physiologist Can Ince, shows that reindeer have 25 per cent more blood vessels in their noses than humans – allowing them to control their body temperatures more efficiently in the freezing Arctic climate.
The two reindeer and five human volunteers underwent vigorous treadmill tests to get their blood coursing – as it does invariably on Christmas Eve.
Infrared thermographic images taken during the intensive exercise showed definitively that the change in nose colour fondly imagined by children around the world every year is more than just a seasonal myth.
Infrared images of the reindeer’s heads after their treadmill exertions showed “the presence of a red nose”, says the paper, going on to enthuse: “As this effect cannot be properly justified in a static image, we produced a video recording.”
Red blood cells
“Using hand-held vital video microscopy used for imaging human nasal microcirculation in health, interventions and disease, we were able to solve an age-old mystery,” Prof Ince said. “Rudolph’s nose is red because it is richly supplied with red blood cells, comprises a highly dense microcirculation, and is anatomically and physiologically adapted for reindeer to carry out their strenuous annual flying duties for Santa Claus.”
Remember all that when you hear the hooves on the rooftops this Christmas. But shhh, not a word to the children!