Macro-microscopic research in reideer (Rangifer tarandus) hoof suitable for efficient locomotion on complex grounds

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Introduction: Reindeer are adapted to long distance migration. This species can cope with variations in substrate, especially in ice and snow environment. However, few detailed studies about reindeer hoof are available. Thus this article describes the results of studies on macro- and micro-structures of reindeer hoof.

Material and Methods: The gross anatomy of the reindeer hooves was examined. Stereo microscope (SM) and a scanning electron microscope (SEM) were used to observe four key selected positions of reindeer hooves. Moreover, element contents of the three selected positions of reindeer hooves were analysed using the SEM equipped with energy dispersive spectroscope.

Results: Hoof bone structures were similar to other artiodactyl animals. In the microscopic analysis, the surfaces of the ungula sphere and ungula sole presented irregular laminated structure. Ungula edge surfaces were smooth and ungula cusp surfaces had unique features. Aside from C, O, and N, reindeer hooves contained such elements as S, Si, Fe, Al, and Ca. The content of the elements in different parts varied. Ti was the particular element in the ungula sole, and ungula edge lacked Mg and S which other parts contained.

Conclusion: The macro- and micro-structures of the reindeer hooves showed high performance of skid and abrasion resistance. It is most probably essential to the long distance migration for the animals.

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