|On the Edge of Common Sense|
|The Powers of Regeneration|
by Baxter Black, DVM
Every time I see a moose head mounted on somebody’s wall, I marvel at the size of their horns. They must weigh 40 pounds! It would be the equivalent of me wearing a cowboy hat made of cinder blocks, night and day, for months in a row.
What is even more amazing is that they shed these giant racks annually, take a few weeks off and then spend the next year growing them back!
The same thing applies to deer and elk, but for sheer mass of bone, the moose puts them to shame. Why is it that longhorn steers, wildebeest and pronghorn antelope don’t shed their horns? Are they shy? Is it a fashion consideration, a long-term commitment…do they need them year round to fight, dig roots or write their name in the bark?
If you want to salute the king of regeneration, look at the lizard. He has the ability to lose his tail, have it broken off and grow a new one back. Talk about commitment. That would be comparable to an elephant shedding his trunk and growing a new one!
Maybe with the advance of science, animation and genetic manipulation, we will someday make it possible for an elephant to regenerate a lost trunk. By incorporating lizard genes in the fertilized ovum, we could give new meaning to the term, ‘nose job.’ Which leads me to male pattern baldness. Unlike hearing loss, menopause and crankiness, which can be a result of the aging process, loss of hair on the head doesn’t necessarily conform to the rules.
Men actually grow more hair in their beard, on their body, in their ears and eyebrows as they get older. So why would some shed the plumage on their head? As a warning to others in the clan of proof of their testosterone level? So they can be more aerodynamic? To attract the 2% of females who are also bald?
Which takes us back to the top-heavy moose and his habit of shedding his horns every year. It is one of those persistent questions that haunt the universe.
As is Uncle Leonard’s penetrating question on his 92nd birthday when he turned Darwin on his head by asking, "Why can’t we shed our cojones and keep our teeth!"
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.