Scientists explain why Rudolph's nose is red

An unnamed female reindeer, left, and Miles, a male reindeer, are shown on the Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, on Nov. 22, 2011. The female will be named through a naming contest. The reindeer will be a part of the academy's holiday program that will be exhibited until January 2012. The Living Roof Project is an ongoing citizen science program designed to give community members an opportunity to learn about the academy's unique roof ecosystem while contributing to important baseline data regarding the many plants, birds, and arthropods that inhabit and utilize the Living Roof's 2.5 acres of green space.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Rudolph and his red nose will be able to light Santa's sleigh this Christmas -- thanks to some extra blood vessels in his nasal region.

Scientists have discovered that reindeers' noses have an abundance of red blood cells in their nose, which could explain the bright ruby-color on Rudolph's snout.

Micro-vessels or tiny blood cells in the nose are necessary to bring oxygen to other parts of the body, regulating inflammation and controlling temperature. This is especially true for reindeer, which normally reside in the Netherlands and Norway where the weather is especially cold.

Researchers looked at the noses of five humans and two reindeer using a hand-held video microscope.

Humans had a blood vessel density in their nose of 15 mm/mm2. However, reindeer noses had a 25 percent higher density of blood vessels in their nose, making it more red with red blood cells.

Reindeer also had a high density of mucous glands, which help keep the noses stable during varying weather conditions and extremes. The mucous helps move fluids and acts as a barrier to the elements.

"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 extreme temperatures," the authors rose.

The study was published on Dec. 17 in BMJ's Christmas issue, an annual edition from the journal incorporates humor and science. Also in the issue, researchers warned of a wayward tooth fairy who stands accuse of malpractice for placing a tooth in a sleeping child's ear.