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Bioscientists from the University’s Penryn Campus addressed important Christmas-themed questions. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Unwrapping the science of Christmas

Many species of animals do weird and wonderful things during the colder months. Some change colour, others hibernate, and some even develop glowing red noses and the urge to take to the sky while pulling sledges full of gifts. 

The University of Exeter had an early Christmas present for anyone who has ever wondered about these and other wildlife winter behaviours: The Science of Christmas, a free children’s lecture that was held at The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society on Wednesday 3rd December.

Bioscientists from the University’s Penryn Campus addressed important Christmas-themed questions such as ‘How does Santa find you?’ and ‘Are humans the only animals who decorate for special occasions?’

Their presentations made use of natural history observations from genuine academic research, but were delivered in a light-hearted tone that was informative while still preserving the magic and mystery of the season. Audience members had a chance to test the experts’ knowledge by posing their own holiday-themed questions at the end of the event.

Louise Misselbrook, the University of Exeter’s Events Officer, said, “As we could tell from all of the questions, the children were fully engaged.” This was confirmed by audience member Shelly Windsor, who said, “I had a little boy that was buzzing with questions when we left the Poly.”

In addition to providing answers to many seasonal mysteries, the University of Exeter also handed out some nature-themed Christmas gifts. Attendees were provided with a copy of lecturer Richard Ffrench-Constant’s children’s book The Last Butterfly, and an issue of Life magazine, a publication produced by Penryn Campus students from both the University of Exeter and Falmouth University.

The festive talks:

  • Are humans the only animals that decorate for the holidays?
  • Do any other animals dress up for special occasions?
  • Why are reindeer so good at delivering gifts?
  • Are miraculous births possible?
  • How does Santa find you?
  • Why do we overeat during the holidays? 

Date: 9 December 2014