Biological adaptations in the Arctic cervid, the reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus)

Science. 2019 Jun 21;364(6446):eaav6312. doi: 10.1126/science.aav6312.


The reindeer is an Arctic species that exhibits distinctive biological characteristics, for which the underlying genetic basis remains largely unknown. We compared the genomes of reindeer against those of other ruminants and nonruminant mammals to reveal the genetic basis of light arrhythmicity, high vitamin D metabolic efficiency, the antler growth trait of females, and docility. We validate that two reindeer vitamin D metabolic genes (CYP27B1 and POR) show signs of positive selection and exhibit higher catalytic activity than those of other ruminants. A mutation upstream of the reindeer CCND1 gene endows an extra functional binding motif of the androgen receptor and thereby may result in female antlers. Furthermore, a mutation (proline-1172→threonine) in reindeer PER2 results in loss of binding ability with CRY1, which may explain circadian arrhythmicity in reindeer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Amino Acid Motifs / genetics
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Antlers / growth & development*
  • Arctic Regions
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Female
  • Period Circadian Proteins / genetics
  • Proline / genetics
  • Reindeer / genetics*
  • Reindeer / metabolism
  • Reindeer / physiology*
  • Threonine / genetics
  • Vitamin D / metabolism


  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Cyclin D1
  • Vitamin D
  • Threonine
  • Proline