Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A semi-aquatic marine mammal, the polar bear has adapted for life on a combination of land, sea, and ice, and is the apex predator within its range. It feeds mainly on seals, young walruses, and whales, although it will eat anything it can kill.
A polar bear's fur provides camouflage and insulation. Although the fur appears white, in fact the individual hairs are translucent, like the water droplets that make up a cloud; the coat may yellow with age. Stiff hairs on the pads of a bear's paws provide insulation and traction on the ice.
Polar bears are enormous, aggressive, curious, and potentially dangerous to humans. Wild polar bears, unlike most other bears, are barely habituated to people and will quickly size up any animal they encounter as potential prey. Males are normally solitary except for mating season, and females are usually social towards one another. Despite a recurring internet meme that all polar bears are left-handed, there is no scientific evidence to support such a contention. Researchers studying polar bears have failed to find any evidence of left-handedness in all bears and one study of injury patterns in polar bear forelimbs found injuries to the right forelimb to be more frequent than those to the left, suggesting, perhaps, right-handedness.
Polar bears are excellent swimmers and have been seen in open Arctic waters as far as 60 miles (100 km) from land. In some cases they spend half their time on ice floes. Their 12 cm (5 in) layer of fat adds buoyancy in addition to insulating them from the cold. Recently, polar bears in the Arctic have undertaken longer than usual swims to find prey, resulting in four recorded drownings in the unusually large ice pack regression of 2005....(more on www.wikipedia.org)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all land-living animal species. Males can be 4.8 to 5.5 metres (16 to 18 feet) tall and weigh up to 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds). The record-sized bull was 5.87 m (19.2 feet) tall and weighed approximately 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs.). Females are generally slightly shorter and weigh less than the males do.
Male giraffes are around 16-19 feet (4.5-5.5 metres) tall at the horn tips, and weigh 1700-4200 lb. (770-1900 kg) Females are one to two feet (30-60 cm) shorter and weigh several hundred pounds less than males. Giraffes have spots covering their entire bodies, except their underbellies, with each giraffe having a unique pattern of spots.
HornsBoth sexes have horns, although the horns of a female are smaller. The prominent horns are formed from ossified cartilage and are called ossicones. The appearance of horns is a reliable method of identifying the sex of giraffes, with the females displaying tufts of hair on the top of the horns, where as males' horns tend to be bald on top — an effect of necking in combat. Males sometimes develop calcium deposits which form bumps on their skull as they age, which can give the appearance of up to three further horns.
NeckGiraffes have long necks, which they use to browse the leaves of trees. They possess seven vertebrae in the neck (the usual number for a mammal) that are elongated. The vertebrae are separated by highly flexible joints. The base of the neck has spines which project upward and form a hump over the shoulders....(more on www.wikipedia.com)
Monday, December 3, 2007
The reindeer, known as caribou when wild in North America, is an Arctic and Subarctic-dwelling deer (Rangifer tarandus).
The name Caribou comes from Mi'kmaq qalipu, meaning "snow-shoveler", referring to its habit of pawing through the snow for food. In Inuktitut the caribou is known by the name tuttuk (Labrador dialect).
The reindeer is distributed throughout a number of northern locales. Reindeer are found in northern Scandinavia; at Spitsbergen; in European parts of Russia including northern Russia and Novaya Zemlya; in the Asian parts of Russia; northern Mongolia; northeastern China to the Pacific Ocean; in North America (where it is called the caribou); on Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Until the early 19th century it still occurred in southern Idaho.
The weight of a female varies between 60 and 170 kg (132 - 375 lb). In some subspecies of reindeer, the male is slightly larger; in others, the male can weigh up to 300 kg (661 lb). Both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females, summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points (see image), a lower and upper. Domesticated reindeer are shorter-legged and heavier than their wild counterparts. The caribou of North America can run at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 MPH) and may travel 5,000 km (3,000 mi) in a year.
In the wild, most caribou migrate in large herds between their birthing habitat and their winter habitat. Their wide hooves help the animals move through snow and tundra; they also help propel the animal when it swims. About 1 million live in Alaska, and a comparable number live in northern Canada....(more on www.wikipedia.com)
Monday, November 26, 2007
The name camel comes to English via the Greek κάμηλος (kámēlos) from the Hebrew gamal or Arabic Jamal.
The average life expectancy of a camel is fifty to sixty years. The term camel is also used more broadly to describe any of the six camel-like creatures in the family Camelidae: the two true camels, and the four South American camelids, the llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuña.
A fully-grown adult camel stands 1.85 m/6 feet at the shoulder and 2.15 m/7 feet at the hump. The hump rises about thirty inches out of its body. Camels can run up to 40 mph (64 km/h) in short bursts and sustain speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h).
Humans first domesticated camels between 3,500–3,000 years ago. The dromedary and the Bactrian camel are both still used for milk, meat, and as beasts of burden—the dromedary in western Asia, and the Bactrian camel further to the north and east in central Asia.
Camels are well known for their humps. However, they do not store water in them as is commonly believed; their humps are actually a reservoir of fatty tissue. When this tissue is metabolized, it is only a source of energy, but would yield more than 1 g of water for each 1 g of fat converted through reaction with oxygen from the air. This process of fat metabolization generates a net loss of water through respiration for the oxygen required to convert the fat.
Camels are able to withstand changes in body temperature and water content that would kill most other animals. Their temperature ranges from 34 °C (93 °F) at night up to 41 °C (106 °F) during the day, and only above this threshold will they begin to sweat. The upper body temperature range is often not reached during the day in milder climatic conditions, and therefore, the camel may not sweat at all during the day. Evaporation of their sweat takes place at the skin level, not at the surface of their coat, thereby being very efficient at cooling the body compared to the amount of water lost through sweating. This ability to fluctuate body temperature and the efficiency of their sweating allows them to preserve about five litres of water a day.
A feature of their nostrils is that a large amount of water vapor in their exhalations is trapped and returned to their body fluids, thereby reducing the amount of water lost through respiration.
They can withstand at least 20-25% weight loss due to sweating (most mammals can only withstand about 3-4% dehydration before cardiac failure results from the thickened blood). A camel's blood remains hydrated, even though the body fluids are lost, until this 25% limit is reached.
Camels eating green herbage can ingest sufficient moisture in milder conditions to maintain their body's hydrated state without the need for drinking.
A camel's thick coat reflects sunlight. A shorn camel has to sweat 50% more to avoid overheating. It also insulates them from the intense heat that radiates from hot desert sand. Their long legs help by keeping them further from the hot ground. Camels have been known to swim.
Their mouth is very sturdy, able to chew thorny desert plants. Long eyelashes and ear hairs, together with sealable nostrils, form an effective barrier against sand. Their gait (moving both legs on one side at the same time) and their widened feet help them move without sinking into the sand....(more on www.wikipedia.com)
Monday, September 17, 2007
In California, in a little place called Lebec, there is a ranch. It's no ordinary ranch, I tell you , it's the Black Magic Alpaca Ranch owned by none other, but Rachelle Black. In August Rachelle had a newborn cria (alpaca baby), and she decided to make a contest of naming the baby. The rules were: it had to be a LOTR name. And we, the Tolkien fans put our minds at work and Mousie came up with Elbereth, Lady of the Stars.
photo by Rachelle Black: Elbereth
Visit Rachelle's blog the Pasture Musings.
Now let's see what Wikipedia says on Alpacas:
The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid developed from the wild alpacas. It resembles a sheep in appearance, but is larger and has a long erect neck as well as coming in many colors, whereas sheep are generally bred to be white and black.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru, northern Bolivia, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3500 to 5000 meters above sea-level, throughout the year. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike them are not used as beasts of burden but are valued only for their fiber. Alpacas only have fleece fibers, not woolen fibers, used for making knitted and woven items much as sheeps wool is. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks and coats in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 22 as classified in America. Alpacas and llamas differ in that llamas have banana shaped ears and long tails and alpacas have straight ears and stubby tails. Aside from these differences, llamas are on average 1-2 feet taller and proportionally bigger than alpacas.
Alpacas are social herd animals and should always be kept with others of their kind, or at the very least with other camelids. They are gentle, elegant, inquisitive, intelligent and observant. As they are a prey animal, they are cautious and nervous if they feel threatened. They like having their own space and may not like an unfamiliar alpaca or human getting close, especially from behind.Once they know their owners and feel confident around them, they may allow their backs and necks to be touched. They do not like being grabbed. Once socialized well, most alpacas tolerate being stroked or petted anywhere on their bodies, although many do not like their feet and lower legs handled....(more on www.wikipedia.org)
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Brown Bears have furry coats in shades of blonde, brown, black, or a combination of those colors. The longer outer guard hairs of the brown bear are often tipped with white or silver, giving a "grizzled" appearance. They have a very short, stubby tail, just like all bears in the world. Brown bears have a large hump of muscle over their shoulders, which give strength to the forelimbs for digging. Bears are very powerful; even if considered pound for pound, a large specimen can break a neck or spine of a fully grown buffalo with a single blow. Forearms end in massive paws with very powerful claws up to 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length. Their heads are large and round with a concave facial profile. The normal range of physical dimensions for a brown bear is a head-and-body length of 1.7 to 2.8 m (5.6 to 9.2 feet) and a shoulder height 90 to 150 cm (35 to 59 inches), although the abnormally large specimens exceed these measurements. The smallest subspecies is the European brown bear, with mature females weighing as little as 90 kg (200 lb). The largest subspecies of the brown bear are the Kodiak bear and the bears from coastal Russia and Alaska. It is not unusual for large male Kodiak Bears to stand over 3 m (10 feet) while on their hind legs and to weigh about 680 kg (1,500 lb). Bears raised in zoos are often heavier than wild bears because of regular (sometimes excessive) feeding and limited movement. In zoos, bears may weigh up to 900 kilograms (2000 pounds), like the well-known "Goliath" from New Jersey's Space Farms Zoo and Museum. According to the Great Bear Almanac, one of the well known books about bears, the largest Kodiak bear weighed close to 2400 pounds.
In spite of their size, some have been clocked at speeds in excess of 56 km/h (35 mph). Along with their strength and deceptive speed, brown bears are legendary for their stamina. They are capable of running at full speed for miles at a time without stopping....(more on www.wikipedia.com)
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The word kangaroo derives from the Guugu Yimidhirr word gangurru, referring to a grey kangaroo.The name was first recorded as "Kangooroo or Kanguru" on 4 August 1770, by Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook on the banks of the Endeavour River at the site of modern Cooktown, when HM Bark Endeavour was beached for almost seven weeks to repair damage sustained on the Great Barrier Reef.
A common legend about the kangaroo's English name is that it came from the Aboriginal words for "I don't understand you." According to this legend, Captain James Cook and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks were exploring Australia when they happened upon the animal. They asked a nearby local what the creatures were called. The local responded "Kangaroo", meaning "I don't understand you", which Cook took to be the name of the creature.
Europeans have long regarded Kangaroos as strange animals. Early explorers described them as creatures that had heads like deer (without antlers), stood upright like men, and hopped like frogs. Combined with the two-headed appearance of a mother kangaroo, this led many back home to dismiss them as travellers' tales for quite some time.
Kangaroos are the only large animals to use hopping as a means of locomotion. The comfortable hopping speed for Red Kangaroo is about 20–25 km/h (13–16 mph), but speeds of up to 70 km/h (44 mph) can be attained, over short distances, while it can sustain a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) for nearly two kilometres. This fast and energy-efficient method of travel has evolved because of the need to regularly cover large distances in search of food and water, rather than the need to escape predators.
Because of its long feet, it cannot walk normally. To move at slow speeds, it uses its tail to form a tripod with its two forelimbs. It then raises its hind feet forward, in a form of locomotion called "crawl-walking."
The average life expectancy of a kangaroo is about 4–6 years, with some living until they are about 23.... (more on www.wikipedia.org)
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Found in oceans and seas around the world, Humpback Whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, Humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the spectacular bubble net fishing technique.
Like other large whales, the Humpback was a target for the whaling industry, and its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks of the species have since partially recovered, however entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution are ongoing concerns. Current estimates for the abundance of Humpback Whales range from about 30,000 to 60,000, approximately one third of pre-whaling levels. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, Humpbacks are now sought out by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of Australia and the United States.... (more on wikipedia.org)
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Toco Toucan eats mainly fruit (e.g. figs and Passiflora edulis) using its bill to pluck them from trees, but also insects, and nestlings and eggs of birds. Has been known to capture and eat small adult birds in captivity. The long bill is useful for reaching things that otherwise would be out-of-reach. It is also used to skin fruit and scare off predators. It is typically seen in pairs or small family-groups. In flight it alternates between a burst of rapid flaps with the relatively short, rounded wings and gliding. Nesting is seasonal, but timing differ between regions. The nest is typically placed high in a tree and consists of a cavity; at least part of which is excavated by the parent birds themselves. It has also been recorded nesting in holes in earth-bank and terrestrial termite-nest. Their reproduction cycle is annual. The female usually lays two to four eggs a few days after mating. The eggs are incubated by both sexes and hatch after 17-18 days. These birds are very protective of themselves and of their babies.
The Toco Toucans can become pets if taken from the nest and hand reared as babies. Their requirements are specific but basic, and must be strictly adhered to. Requirements include items such as spacious cages to move about because of their active nature, and toys in their cage to provide mental stimulation. They have an almost exclusive frugivorous (fruit) diet; with that diet comes a sensitivity to hemochromatosis (iron storage disease) which can make them difficult for the novice keeper to maintain. When provided with these things they make wonderful affectionate pets and can be quite hardy in a captive environment. The record for captive longevity is 26 years.... (more on wikipedia.org)
Monday, August 20, 2007
The Giant Panda is an endangered animal; an estimated 2,000 pandas live in the wild and over 180 were reported to live in captivity by August 2006 in mainland China (another source by the end of 2006 put the figure for China at 221, with twenty pandas living outside of China. Reports show that the numbers of wild panda are on the rise.
The Giant Panda has a black-and-white coat. Adults measure around 1.5 m long and around 75 cm tall at the shoulder. Males can weigh up to 115 kg (253 pounds). Females are generally smaller than males, and can occasionally weigh up to 100 kg (220 pounds). Giant Pandas live in mountainous regions, such as Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, and Tibet. While the Chinese dragon has been historically a national emblem for China, since the latter half of the 20th century the Giant Panda has also become a national emblem for China. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorative silver, gold, and platinum coins....(more on wikipedia.org)
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Although there is some variation depending on the species in question, raccoons range from 20-40 inches (51-102 cm) in length (including the tail) and weigh between 10 and 35 lbs (4.5-16 Kg). The raccoon's tail ranges from 8 to 16 inches (20-40 cm) in length. Male raccoons are generally larger than females. A baby raccoon is called a kit.
Raccoons can live up to 16 years in the wild, though most do not make it through their second year. A raccoon that survives past its youth will live an average of 5 years. Primary causes of mortality include humans (hunting, trapping, cars) and malnutrition.
Raccoons are unusual, for their thumbs (though not opposable) enable them to open many closed containers (such as garbage cans and doors). They are omnivores with a reputation for being clever and mischievous; their intelligence and dexterity equip them to survive in a wide range of environments and are one of the few medium-to-large-sized animals that have enlarged its range since human encroachment began (another is the coyote). Raccoon hindfeet are plantigrade similar to a human's. Raccoons are sometimes considered vermin or a nuisance, and are common in campgrounds of North America, especially in the Midwest.
Many people are surprised when a creature that they usually think of as cute or cuddly raids their campsite at night and makes odd growls and fights viciously over scraps of food left out by campers.... (more on wikipedia.org)
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) is a species of marmot found in mountainous areas of central and southern Europe. Alpine Marmots live at heights between 800 and 3,200 metres, in the Alps, Tatras, the Pyrenees and Mount Baldo by the Riva del Garda, Italy. They were reintroduced with success in the Pyrenees in 1948, where the Alpine Marmot had disappeared at end of the Pleistocene epoch. They are excellent diggers, able to penetrate soil that even a pickaxe would have difficulty with, and spend up to nine months per year in hibernation. An adult Alpine Marmot may weigh between 4 and 8 kg and reach between 42–54 cm in length (not including the tail, which measures between 13–16 cm on average). This makes the Alpine Marmot the largest squirrel species.... www.wikipedia.org
Thursday, August 16, 2007
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