Look at a moose, and you’ll see a long, dangly thing hanging down from their chin. Bigger on males than females, this seemingly unnecessary flap of skin is called a bell or dewlap—and scientists don’t really know what it’s for.
Bells are much bigger on males than females, so it could be a signal of a male’s fitness for mating. One theory says that male moose use it to spread urine on their mating area—but no one is really certain.
One thing biologists do know? The bell can freeze in extremely cold weather and break off. Ouch!
Meanwhile, here are 10 more fun moose facts:
1. The word “moose” comes from the Algonquian language group (for example, Narragansett “moos” or Abenaki “moz”), and is thought to be based on the word “moosu,” meaning “he strips off”—referring, of course, to the animals’ practice of stripping the bark off trees.
2. Moose are the largest deer species in the world, and the tallest mammal in North America.
3. Confusingly, in Europe, moose (Alces alces) are known as elk. In North America, an elk is a completely different animal (cervus canadensis), also known as a wapiti.
4. Moose can run as fast as 55 km/h over short distances, and have been known to charge at humans.
5. Moose are good swimmers, and can paddle several miles at a time. There is some debate on whether they dive or not, but some sources say they can dive up to five metres.
6. Moose antlers, which are only worn by males, can spread almost two metres across. They’re covered with soft, fuzzy skin called velvet. Moose lose their antlers after mating season.
7. Moose hair is hollow, which helps trap warm air and keep the moose warm.
8. It’s estimated that there are between 500,000 and 1,000,000 moose in Canada.
9. During the mating season, or rut, a bull moose’s bellow can be heard almost 10 km away.
10. A bull moose’s antlers are unique, like a fingerprint.