Readers’ wildlife photographs

August 1, 2014 • 1:12 am

From Stephen Barnard in Idaho, Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in velvet (the covering of their horns).

The “velvet” is skin that protects and nourishes the cartilage that is the foundation material for the antler. Later, the cartilage turns into bone, and, when the bone dies, the velvet is shed, leaving the mature antler which is simply dead bone.

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17 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Sweet! You are really “out there” when the light is good. Nice shot of those muleys.

    I can just smell the dew in the long grass and the dry air in early morning.

  2. Even after all this time, I find it quite remarkable that deer grow these every season (to say nothing of moose). It is a pretty spectacular example of a biological organism’s ability to take in raw ingredients and very rapidly build structures out of it. Yes there are loads of other examples, of other organisms building bigger or more impressive structers faster, but for some reason this particualr example continues to amaze me. You mean to tell me these things grow giant bone structures on their heads every few months?!?!?! Remarkable!

    1. Err…that should read every year, not every season. I think ‘every spring season’ was going through my head and it didn’t make it to my fingers…

    1. According to Wikipedia, antlers are indeed bone.

      What you’re probably (mis)remembering is that antlers are not horn, which made of keratin (like fingernails).

      Chitin is basically polymerized sugar, and is what arthropod shells are made of. As far as I know, vertebrates don’t use it. (But I’m not a biologist either.)

  3. Part of my youth I grew up in Reno, NV. Many mule deer in that state as well. I think they are the largest deer in North America. Is that correct? Beautiful animals and special to catch them in velvet. I also found this interesting factoid.

    Deer antlers are among the fastest growing tissues known to man. Growing as much as a ½ inch per day during peak development. The development process can vary greatly depending upon the genes and nutrition of each deer.

  4. Years ago I read a semi-humorous paper on the natural history of the jackalope, in which the author had gone around to diners and bars in the American West cataloging the various types of jackalope trophies on display.

    What he found, as I recall, was that the vast majority of purported jackalopes are in fact jack-a-mule-deer, with a smattering of jack-a-red-tailed-deer, and only a handful of “genuine” jackalopes made with real antelope horns.

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