It’s that time of year to unwrap mysteries of the reindeer

Reindeer Mysteries

As Christmas is approaching, it’s time to wrap up warm, listen to Christmas songs and wait
for Santa to arrive on his sleigh. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is one of those well-known
Christmas characters, however, his unique red nose and how he is able to fly still remain a mystery.

Rudolph´s real-life counterpart, also known as Rangifer tarandus, seems to actually have a
magical nose conditioned for life in harsh conditions. Last year, an article was published comparing the complex anatomical features of the reindeer nose to a model nose with simpler uniform cylindrical-like structures, but with the same total surface areas and volume as a reindeer nose. The authors found that the geometry of the reindeer´s nose has a large influence on the velocity, temperature and water content of the air inside the nose. Also, the entropy production during a breathing cycle was lower for the reindeer nose compared with the model nose, and this improves energy efficiency, especially at extreme ambient temperatures when energy efficiency is thought to have a greater impact. This makes a reindeer’s nose perfectly adapted to the extreme environment and low temperatures of the Arctic (1).

Also, a recent article published in the open-access journal GigaScience reported the first high-quality
reference genome for the reindeer. The researchers used our DNeasy Blood &Tissue Kit to extract genomic DNA (gDNA) from a blood sample of a two year old female reindeer. The isolated gDNA was then used to do library construction and whole genome shotgun sequencing followed by trimming and filtering of the reads for genome assembly using both de novo and homology-based methods (2).

The big question is of course: did they find any answers to how Santa’s reindeer are able to fly? I’m afraid this question remains unanswered as no data was provided explaining this phenomenon. But then again, maybe it’s best to leave room for a little imagination.


1. Magnanelli E, et al. (2016) The Nasal Geometry of the Reindeer Gives Energy-
Efficient Respiration, J. Non-Equilib. Thermodyn.
2. Li Z, et al (2017) Draft genome of the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), GigaScience.

Kjell Kirschbaum

Kjell Kirschbaum, M.Sc., is a Global Market Manager based in QIAGEN’s Venlo office, the Netherlands. He trained as a bioveterinary scientist at the University of Utrecht and has hands-on experience in nucleic acid and protein purification, cell culture, PCR and qPCR technology. Kjell joined QIAGEN in 2011 as a CRM specialist, regularly interacting with customers about their day-to-day experimental needs and offering relevant solutions. Currently, he is involved in managing global projects for sample preparation and automation technologies.

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