Alces alces, called the moose in North America and the elk in Europe (see also elk for other animals called elk) is the largest of all the deer family Cervidae, distinguished from other members of Cervidae by the form of the antlers of its males. more...
These arise as cylindrical beams projecting on each side at right angles to the middle line of the skull, which after a short distance divide in a fork-like manner. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening. The word "moose" is from mus or mooz in several of the Algonquian languages, spoken by certain indigenous peoples of the Americas. The name means "twig eater."
In the East Siberian race of the elk (Alces alces bedfordiae) the posterior division of the main fork divides into three tines, with no distinct flattening. In the common elk (Alces alces alces), on the other hand, this branch usually expands into a broad palmation, with one large tine at the base, and a number of smaller snags on the free border.
There is, however, a Scandinavian phase of the common elk in which the antlers are simpler, and recall those of the East Siberian race.
The palmation appears to be more marked in the North American race, the moose (Alces alces americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian elk. The largest of all is the Alaskan race (Alces alces gigas), which can stand over 2 m (6.5 ft) in height, with a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (6 ft).
The great length of the legs gives a decidedly ungainly appearance to the moose. The muzzle is long and fleshy, with only a very small triangular naked patch below the nostrils; and the males have a peculiar sac, known as the bell, hanging from the neck. From the shortness of their necks, moose are unable to graze, and their chief food consists of young shoots and leaves of willow and birch, tree bark and mast in winter, and waterplants (such as Arnicus brucitus). These ruminants are often found feeding in wetlands and swamps. Moose are typical of boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to cool climates. In North America, that includes almost all of Canada, Alaska, much of New England, and the upper Rockies. In Europe, most of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia have widespread moose populations. In Asia, moose are confined mainly to Russia. Moose were generally more broadly distributed in the past. Many of the European countries to which moose were once native now have extirpated or relic moose populations.
Male moose (bulls) can weigh over 550 kg (1200 lb), and females (cows) are sometimes more than 400 kg (880 lb). Calves weigh around 15 kg (33 lb) at birth but quickly increase in size. Height at the shoulders can surpass 2 m (6.5 ft). Only the males have antlers, often 160 cm (63 in) across and 20 kg (45 llb) in weight with a broad, flattened palmate shape fringed in up to 30 tines.
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