Q&A

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - Michael En­gel­hard

Why do moose have long noses, and how do plants eat in­sects?

AS­ci­en­tists have spent years pon­der­ing the length of the moose’s nose, com­pared to the far shorter ver­sions seen in other mem­bers of the deer fam­ily.

In terms of smell, this over­sized sense or­gan could be ex­tra-use­ful for sniff­ing out mates or preda­tors. Moose nos­trils are spaced widely apart, like hu­man ears, which may al­low the an­i­mal to ‘tri­an­gu­late’ scents and bet­ter pin­point the dis­tance and di­rec­tion of their source.

It was pre­vi­ously thought that a long nose could also help an in­di­vid­ual to shed ex­cess heat when run­ning long-dis­tances to es­cape wolves. How­ever, re­cent dis­sec­tion re­search found few blood ves­sels per­me­at­ing the nose area, dis­prov­ing this the­ory.

Nev­er­the­less, the dis­sec­tion did re­veal a com­pletely dif­fer­ent adap­ta­tion. A moose’s nose is flex­i­ble, made up of com­plex mus­cu­la­ture and ten­dons. When an in­di­vid­ual is graz­ing in ponds or sloughs, its nos­trils close like valves. Es­sen­tially, a moose nose is a self­seal­ing snorkel.

A moose's nose begs that age-old ques­tion: why the long face?

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