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Outside/In: Holy Scat! Why Antlers Are Freaking Amazing

 Will Staats has been hunting shed moose antlers for decades.
Jessica Hunt
/
NHPR
Will Staats has been hunting shed moose antlers for decades.

Whether you grow them, collect them, or grind them up and swallow them, antlers are one of the most astonishing sets of bones on Earth.

Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue in the animal kingdom. It grows faster than a human embryo, faster even than a cluster of cancer cells.

On a hot summer day, some antlers can grow as much as one inch per day! And buried inside them is a cocktail of nutrients that both animals and humans are itching to get their paws on.

In summary: antlers are freaking amazing!

So, we've invented a new segment of Outside/In just to highlight them. We're calling it Holy Scat, and it's our way of exploring all the things about the natural world that make us totally geek out.

For our inaugural adventure, we learn about how antlers grow so fast, meet a collector who covers hundreds of miles searching for them, AND find out why scientists hope they could unlock new treatments for osteoporosis. Plus, we’ll tell you a whole herd of awesome deer factoids, and answer the eternal question: are Santa’s reindeer males or females?

Special thanks to Chris Martin and Dave Anderson of Something Wild, who inspired this episode!

Featuring Henry Ahern, Will Staats, Brendan Lee, and Tomas Landete-Castillejos.

 A red deer antler cross-section.
Taylor Quimby
/
A cross-section of a red deer antler.

LINKS

Check out the episode of the NHPR podcast Something Wild that inspired this story!

Stanford scientists identified genes behind rapid antler growth. Read more here. 

Watch a video describing research on velvet antler’s effect on glioblastoma cells.

Good footage of an antler shoving match.

Graphic Video Warning! If you want to see what an emergency velvet antler amputation looks like, here you go.

Reporting on MMA Fighter George Sullivan’s one-year suspension for the use of Velvet Antler supplements.

Is the Coronavirus in Your Backyard? A New York Times report on coronavirus in animal populations (and especially, in deer).

An article from Smithsonian detailing what may be the first case of coronavirus to spread from a deer to a human.

Outside/In is NHPR's podcast about the natural world and how we use it. Click here for podcast episodes and more.
Jessica previously worked as a producer for NHPR's The Exchange, wedging in as many discussions as possible about the environment, wildlife, and the outdoors. You can hear her occasionally as a substitute host on NHPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Taylor Quimby is Supervising Senior Producer of the environmental podcast Outside/In, Producer/Reporter/Host of Patient Zero, and Senior Producer of the serialized true crime podcast Bear Brook.

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