Moose are artiodactyls of the family Cervidae
(deer). Almost all artiodactyls walk on two
toes. Their ancestors had five, but evolution removed
the first toe, and the second and fifth toes
are vestigial. Each support toe-the third and
fourth toes-ends in a hoof. Artiodactyls are herbivores
and many, especially the Cervidae, are ruminants.
This means that they chew and swallow
vegetation, which enters the stomach for partial
digestion, is regurgitated, chewed again, and reenters
the stomach for additional digestion. This
maximizes nutrient uptake from food.
Moose are the largest of deer. Like all cervids,
male moose have solid, bony, branched antlers,
which are shed and regrowneach year. Moose live
in northern Europe, eastern Siberia, Mongolia,
Manchuria, Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, and the
northeastern United States.
Physical Characteristics of Moose
Moose-called elk in Europe-have long, solid bodies. Males can be eight feet tall at the shoulder, ten feet long from muzzle tip to rump, and weigh up to 1,800 pounds. Females are 25 percent smaller overall. Moose heads, antlered in males, are angular, long, and have large muzzles. Their large eyes, as in other deer, are set back on their faces and on the sides of their heads. This optimizes their vision. Moose also have thick necks,humped shoulders, and long, strong legs that allow running speeds of up to forty miles per hour. Moose fur is brownish-black, fading to grayish-brown on the belly. Moose antlers are large and palmate, holding up to twenty branched points, which look like fingers on a hand. Antlers are important during mating, when a male lacking them would lose fights for mates and a chance for offspring. Antlers differ fromtrue horns, which are pointed, permanent, bony structures often seen on heads of male ruminants. Horns have bone cores which are extensions of the skull's frontal bone. Atop the core is a skin layer, rich in a tough, fibrous protein, keratin. The high keratin content in this skin makes it tough and durable. Horns range from straight spikes to elaborately curved varieties. Animals having horns keep them for life Antlers are horns that are shed yearly and regrown. Like true horns, antlers grow out of skull bones. They arise from permanent frontal bone structures called pedicles. At first antlers have soft, velvetlike skin coverings. Instead of hardening, as in horns, the covering dies off and is rubbed away by the animal. Antlers function like horns, serving for self-protection and allowing males to develop ascendancy. Moose are often found on mountains, in forests, and near lakes and marshes. They are herbivores lacking upper incisor and canine teeth, but having pads in their upper jaws to help lower teeth grind vegetable food. Adults eat up to fifty pounds of vegetation per day, including water plants, branches, twigs, and leaves from aspen, willow and birch trees, berries, and bark.Amoose often stands up against young trees and bends them over to reach leaves at their tops. In winter, moose dig through snow to find grass, twigs, and other vegetation. Moose eat during the daylight hours and at night.
The Life Cycle of Moose
Male moose are solitary animals during spring and summer. In September and October, they fight for mates. A successful male may lead several females and babies all winter. In the spring, the male leaves his harem, returning to a solitary life. Moose gestation, seven to eight months, yields one or two offspring which nurse for four months and stay with the mother until she is ready to give birth again.Amoose can mate when it is two years old. The life spans of moose can be up to twenty years. Moose are so large and strong that they have few enemies. Bears and wolvesmayprey on them. However, they usually attack young, old, or sick moose and males weakened by hunger or mating battles. Human hunters are the greatest threat to moose. For example, during the moose mating season, male moose seek females. Moose hunters lure moose into shooting range by imitating the love call of a cow through a horn or cupped hands. At one time, hunters killed off almost all moose in the eastern United States. Currently, they are protected by law in the United States and Canada.
Family: Cervidae (deer)
Genus and species: Alces alces
Geographical location: Northern Europe, eastern Siberia, Mongolia, Manchuria, Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, and northeastern United States
Habitat: Mountains, forests, and near lakes or marshes
Gestational period: Seven to eight months
Life span: Fourteen years, but some live up to twenty years
Special anatomy: Antlers
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