Consider the reindeer. It’s one of nature’s most adaptable animals capable surviving cold snowy winters with exceptional vision, strong antlers and even feet adapted to run in the snow.
Reindeer are a symbol of the holiday season, having played a significant role in “T’was the Night before Christmas” Clement Moore’s holiday poem that has defined the mythology of Santa Claus and his journey on Christmas Eve.
Once again, a pair of reindeer will play a lead role in the California Academy of Science’s examination of winter conditions “Tis the Season for Science” on display from Nov. 25 to Jan.3 It’s the third year the academy has hosted this activity.
Visitors will be treated to a host of displays and winter-themed events designed to illustrate how animals adapt to freezing conditions. The reindeer will be housed in a pen located in the academy’s East Garden and staff will be on hand to answer questions about the animal’s biology. Guests are not allowed in the pen because the animals are quarantined and their handlers must go through sanitation procedures to prevent contamination.
Reindeer are also known as caribou in the Americas. They migrate up to 3,000 miles per year in search of green pastures throughout portions of the United States and Canada. Their antlers are a form of protection and the exhibition will feature videos of how these horns grow.
Though they live wild in the western hemisphere, reindeer can be domesticated and used to pull sleighs in rural Scandinavia.
When winter comes, males lose their antlers but females retain them to ward off males during the competition for scarce food under the snow. Both sexes have ultraviolet vision that enables them to spot moss and lichen under a blanket of white. One display will simulate this vision and allow guests to see through the eyes of a reindeer.
Other displays will demonstrate how reindeer fur protects the animals from the cold, zoetropes will show a reindeer in motion and guests will be able to trace the animal’s migration routes.
Along with displays of animal adaptation, a giant “Snowman Theater” will dominate the academy’s central piazza. It’s a digital dome shaped like a snowman where children can watch a show about the geometry of snowflakes, the formation of ice crystals and the chilling atmosphere of the world’s Polar Regions.
Each day at 1 p.m. families can take part in a trivia contest on the piazza’s main stage which teaches how creatures like gray whales and butterflies survive the long winter. Musicians and cultural groups will perform on the stage at noon and 2 p.m. on Nov. 27-29. Dec. 6 and Dec. 20-Jan 4.
The California Academy of Sciences is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Hours are Daily: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. with last entry at 4 p.m. For ticket prices visit: http://www.calacademy.org/plan-your-visit