We always discuss how Rudolph led Santa’s sleigh that one foggy night, but we never discuss why his nose glows red in the first place! A biologist, Steve Farber, decided to take a look into this fictional character to see why his nose may have glowed red. The answer he came up with is a one-in-a-million event, slightly more likely than seeing a flying reindeer, but the hypothesis makes complete sense.
So, here’s how! There are other creatures that glow with color through bioluminescence or fluorescence, such as jellyfish, sea anemones, and zebrafish, if any genetic material from one of these organisms found a way into Rudolph’s DNA – BOOM, he too can now glow with color. Now the question is, how did this fluoresce end up in his DNA? – his mother! While she was pregnant she may have come upon Anthozoan coral, a red species found in shallow tropical waters (why was she in the water? The world may never know) which she cut herself on. The coral DNA may have entered her bloodstream, and then traveled from her blood into a virus-like genetic element that transferred it into the egg cell that then formed Rudolph. This entire process is called horizontal gene transfer! With Rudolph, instead of being transferred into his skin, the gene was expressed in his nasal epithelial cells – his nose, which caused it to glow red versus no glow at all. Now, we know why Rudolph might have had a red glowing nose to help Santa guide his sleigh and no one else!