The biological obligation to propagate one’s genes has driven the evolution of some of the most glorious of all biological creations.

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But peacocks’ tails, skylarks’ songs, stags’ antlers and the like also have an element of the faintly ridiculous about them, too.

So important are they to an animal’s reproductive success – either via mate attraction or the vanquishing of rivals – that they can take on proportions that are detrimental to its very survival.

A red deer stag’s antlers can weigh 15kg between them, which is like trying to negotiate life with a small child attached to your head.

A bull moose’s can reach 36kg – nearly a teenager-worth.

Little surprise that most deer shed them at the end of the rutting season and grow new ones ready for the next.

This is one way in which antlers differ from the horns of antelope and cattle, which are permanent fixtures.

They are also built of different stuff: antlers are made of bone; horns consist mostly of keratin, like hair and fingernails.

Antlers can also confer other benefits, beyond the world of sexual competition.

The dish-like headgear of moose double as hearing aids, amplifying sound and focusing it on the ears.

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Main image: A red deer stag's antlers are used to attract mates and defeat rivals during the rutting season. © Carmen Quijada/500px/Getty

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