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Antlerless Lip Curl | by Larry W Brown
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Antlerless Lip Curl

Whitetail Buck - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia


The distinctive lip curl of a buck. It would figure - I get my best 'lip curl' shot ever and the buck has already lost his antlers.


In some circles it's referred to as the Flehmen Response (named after a German biologist who first noted the behavior). The behavior has a very specific function: it allows bucks to better detect scent. This is usually associated with the rut as they are trying to detect Does in estrous, but they use this technique year round. Scent plays a major role in the Whitetail world.


Physiologically, what’s happening is fascinating. The curled lip helps the buck expose the vomeronasal organ in the roofs of their mouth. They’re actually sucking air across this organ, which is so sensitive that it can pick up individual molecules of scent.


This particular buck is another one of my 'familiars' and he is also easy to recognize without antlers. The big dark eyes and the 2 eyebrow like clumps of hair above each eye are dead give-aways.



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Taken on March 25, 2011