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Thread: Bulls Believe bigger is better

  1. #1
    Member rugersbro's Avatar
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    Jul 2008

    Default Bulls Believe bigger is better

    Alaska Science Forum
    Dec. 23, 2009

    Bulls Believe bigger is better

    By Ned Rozell

    The bull moose rocked his royal headgear from side to side, splintering
    branches as he responded to a hunterıs grunt. The big bull was ready to
    defend the females in his harem from what he perceived to be another bull.
    Watching from a tree, the hunter was thankful for two things: one, he wasnıt
    on the ground; two, he wasnıt a lesser moose on the ground.

    In a mooseıs world, the big guys call the shots. Further proof of that came
    from a study by former researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanksı
    Institute of Arctic Biology. Kelley Stewart and Terry Bowyer examined two
    groups of moose, one each in Alaska and Russia. They came away on some
    insights on how and why moose invest so much energy in antler development.

    In just a few summer months, moose antlers grow from tiny knobs to immense
    racks that weigh as much as 80 pounds. During June, the points on a mooseıs
    antlers grow more than one centimeter a day. One pound of antler can be
    added to a mooseıs head on a good day of growth.

    Antlers are made of bone, which during growth is covered with furry brown
    velvet. Velvet, rich with blood vessels, nourishes the antlers until they
    stop growing and the bull scrapes the velvet off. A male moose needs plenty
    of calcium and phosphorus during antler development. Most minerals come from
    willow shoots; some moose chew bones and antlers to increase their intake of

    The payoff for big antlers is worth gnawing a few bones. Dominant bull
    moose, the ones with the biggest racks, are the animals that assemble and
    defend harems of cows. They breed with the cows, passing on their genes,
    while smaller bulls wait in the wings for a chance to sneak in and mate with
    a dominant bullıs cows. Bowyer said thatıs not a good strategy.

    ³If they catch the little guy, theyıll kill him,² he said.

    So whatıs a young moose to do? Stewart and Bowyer discovered that moose
    younger than about eight years old probably donıt mate often. Their
    developing bodies need the minerals that a full-grown bull (about eight to
    11-years-old) can invest directly in its antlers. Stewart said young moose
    would save energy if they didnıt develop antlers, but perhaps they need them
    to spar with younger bulls and develop their pecking order. When a moose
    reaches full size and its body growth is complete, it can shunt most of its
    calcium and phosphorus into its antlers, perhaps even borrowing some from

    In the best-case scenario, a dominant bull avoids fights by intimidating
    other bulls by the sight of its rack alone. But another male of similar body
    and antler size forces even the biggest bull to fight. Bulls clash their
    antlers, knocking them together and pushing like sumo wrestlers until one
    backs down. The battles are extremely energy consumptive and sometimes fatal
    for the loser. The victor is often the one that invested ample energy into
    growing antlers but saved enough to develop a strong body.

    This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute,
    University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research
    community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute. This column
    first appeared in 1999.

  2. #2
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Palmer, AK


    Interesting article but I doubt the age classification is correct. I would agree 8-11 w/ sheep but think moose is more like 5-9.

  3. #3
    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Valley trash


    i agree with 5-9 years of age

    Release Lake Trout


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