Experts discover why Rudolph's nose is red

Rudolph's nose is red because it is richly supplied with red blood cells which help to protect it from freezing and to regulate brain temperature.

This superior "nasal microcirculation" is essential for pulling Santa Claus's sleigh under extreme temperatures, reveals a study in the Christmas issue published on BMJ website today.

Tiny blood cells (known as micro-vessels) in the nose are vital for delivering oxygen, controlling inflammation, and regulating temperature, but few studies have assessed their function in detail.

Knowing how important this regulation is for flying reindeer, who have to deal with extremes of temperature while pulling a sleigh, researchers in the Netherlands and Norway set out to test whether Rudolph's infamous red nose was due to "a highly dense and rich nasal microcirculation" compared with human noses.

Using a hand-held video microscope, they first assessed the noses of five healthy human volunteers and found a circulating blood vessel density of 15 mm/mm2.

When the technique was applied to two reindeer noses, the researchers found a 25% higher density of blood vessels, carrying a super-rich concentration of .

They also found a high density of mucous glands scattered throughout the reindeer noses, which they say helps "maintain an optimal nasal climate during changing and extremes of temperature as well as being responsible for and acting as a barrier."

Infrared showed that reindeer do indeed have red noses.

"The microcirculation of the nasal mucosa in reindeer is richly vascularised and 25% denser than that in humans," say the authors. "These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in ."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer's cooling strategy revealed

Oct 27, 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 ...

Rudolph the Red Nosed blood vessel

Dec 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A spectacular Christmas image of a 'Rudolph' blood vessel in the brain has emerged as part of an experiment at Newcastle University.

Reindeer: have sweet tooth, easy to handle, will travel

Dec 23, 2005

Children who leave sweet treats out for Santa and his reindeer this Christmas are not too far off the culinary mark for a reindeer's dietary requirements. University of Queensland deer expert Dr Gordon Dry ...

NORAD and satellite technology help Santa deliver

Dec 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, the world's population is approximately 7 billion (6,979,978,073+) people. Santa Claus has had to adapt over the years to having ...

Is Father Christmas Breaking The 'Santa Laws'?

Dec 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- As if Santa Claus didn't have enough to do this time of year, a University of Derby Law expert says he can also add a sledge-load of official and legal paperwork.

Recommended for you

Seven US-based researchers share $1.3M eyesight prize

Sep 10, 2014

Seven U.S.-based researchers are sharing a €1 million ($1.3 million) prize from a Portuguese foundation for their work developing treatment for angiogenic diseases of the retina, the leading cause of blindness in the developed ...

Living liver donors ambivalent with donation

Sep 10, 2014

Living donors are important to increasing the number of viable grafts for liver transplantation. A new study published in Liver Transplantation, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and th ...

User comments