This Roosevelt elk carries a beautiful set of heavy antlers. Antlers—including the ones on this elk—are grown and lost by most species of male deer every year.
An adult male elk, or bull, begins to grow antlers in spring. As the antlers grow, they are covered with a layer of furry skin called velvet. Velvet carries oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the tips of the antlers, allowing them to grow about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) every day. By late summer, the velvet falls off, leaving the elk with a 18-kilogram (40-pound) pair of solid-bone antlers.
This bone stage means that the antlers have “died,” and no longer receive nutrients. Elk antlers still serve their purpose, however, as powerful weapons for combat with other bulls. Every fall, bulls spar over the right to mate with female elk (called cows).
A full set of antlers is called a rack. A rack is often measured by “points,” the number of pointed ends on a set of antlers. Elk can have as many as 20 points on one rack. This is about a 12- or 13-point elk.
After the antlers have served their purpose, the bull will shed them to conserve energy during the cold winter.
- The Roosevelt elk is the largest of the four elk species in North America—adults can measure 3 meters (10 feet) from head to tail and have a shoulder height of 1.5 meters (5 feet).
- Antlers are the fastest-growing bone in any mammal.
- Reindeer are the only species where females regularly grow antlers. They don't use their antlers for sparring, however. Female reindeer use their antlers to clear away snow piled on top of the mosses and lichen that are their main winter food source.
- A rack's points are sometimes called tines.
- The antlers of tropical and equatorial species of deer can last for many years—sometimes, the animal's whole life.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry absorb Verb
to soak up.
horn-like bony outgrowth on deer and related animals.
blood vessel Noun
tubes through which blood circulates.
bone adjective, noun
structure composing the skeleton of vertebrate animals.
strong, flexible connective tissue found in many animals.
to save or use wisely.
mammal whose male members have antlers.
large species of deer native to North America. Also called American elk and wapiti.
capacity to do work.
to display or show.
to reproduce or breed.
chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes.
substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.
Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient osteoclast Noun specialized bone cell that absorbs bone, allowing for the deposition of new bone and maintenance of bone strength. pedicle Noun
attachment point for antlers in deer.
full set of antlers.
bones of the head, supporting the face and protecting the brain and upper spinal cord.
to engage in a fight or dispute.
to develop or supply a tissue with blood vessels.
soft, furry covering of growing antlers.
tool to hurt or combat an opponent.