Nervous Dogs and Thunder

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   No Comments »

Just in time for the Fourth of July: A study recently showed that holding or comforting a dog during loud noises such as a thunderstorm does not relieve their anxiety, although the company of other dogs may do the trick.  Read about pet panic here.

Cat Show Scientists

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   1 Comment »
Heidi with Oh Henry (L) and Hailie with Sweet and Spicy (R).

Heidi with Oh Henry (L) and Hailie with Sweet and Spicy (R).

You might not expect to meet a future scientist at a Cat Show. Nevertheless, two prospective researchers showed cats at Oregon’s International Cat Show last weekend. Fifteen-year-old Heidi Christenson showed her cat, Oh Henry, in the Household Pet category because a birth accident resulted in amputation of a leg, disqualifying him from breed classes. Twin sister Hailie showed Sweet and Spicy, an 8-month-old female in the Bengal class.

The cats are products of breeding of the girls’ design. Heidi’s love of mathematics and Hailie’s fascination with genetics help them understand the most probable outcomes of their breedings. How do young women develop an interest in animal breeding?

4H participants since kindergarten, the sisters have exhibited animals since age 8, the youngest allowed by that organization. In addition to breeding and exhibiting cats, Heidi breeds dogs while Hailie breeds cavies (aka guinea pigs). Heidi now focuses on the Lapinporokoira, a little-known Finnish herding dog. Reindeer herders send Lapinporokoira out to move the herd to new grazing locations. Amazingly, the herder doesn’t need to accompany the dogs. Because of the breed’s independence and work ethic, Heidi believes she can breed individuals suitable for work as police or rescue dogs.

These Ridgefield, Washington students attend class at the Insight Academy Online.  They plan to join the Running Start program in Arts and Sciences at Clark College in the fall before moving to a four-year program. One wishes to become a researcher to help eliminate the genetic diseases that often result from breeding programs. The other sister is interested in sociology. What we don’t know is which animals they’ll choose to study. Perhaps the sisters’ ambitions result from a nurtured long-term interest that drives their curiosity. One has to wonder how many scientists’ careers were started with an interest in cats, dogs, or cavies.

Why Elephants Have Trunks

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   No Comments »
Packy’s huge trunk. Credit: Oregon Zoo

Packy’s huge trunk. Credit: Oregon Zoo

Evolving larger takes ten times more generations than becoming smaller, according to research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Biologists estimate elephant-sized mammal requires 10 million generations to evolve from rabbit-sized one.

This new research adds to our knowledge about why elephants have trunks. While children’s stories offer different explanations, scientists remain firm in their conviction that elephants evolved from much smaller animals possibly with smaller trunks—similar to a tapir.

Trunks evolved to stay in contact with ground

As the elephant ancestors’ size increased, their trunks evolved to stay in contact with the ground. In a 10-13 foot tall animal, either the neck has to be long enough to, or there needs to be another approach. Because elephants’ teeth and jaws became massive to be equal to the task of grinding the branches and thorns of acacia trees, their heads were too heavy to be supported by anything but a short, thick neck.

Snorkel?

An alternative theory, still under consideration and awaiting more study of fossil evidence, is that elephants may be related to manatees and dugongs. In other words, a common ancestor of manatees and elephants could have used a trunk as a snorkel.

From 55 million years of evolutionary data, we know that two or three species remain of the 164 elephant relations that lived in the past. The extinct forms ranged from deserts to mountaintops, on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. What scientists are looking through the fossil record for is more information on how and when elephants developed their infrasonic call. Most of this research is based on inferences from comparisons of extinct” proboscidean”  structures and our living elephant forms.
p>From 55 million years of evolutionary data, we know that two or three species remain of the 164 elephant relations that lived in the past. The extinct forms ranged from deserts to mountaintops, on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. What scientists are looking through the fossil record for is more information on how and when elephants developed their infrasonic call. Most of this research is based on inferences from comparisons of extinct” proboscidean”  structures and our living elephant forms.

Riddle
Why do elephants have trunks?…..They have too much luggage for a glove compartment!

What to Do While Rose-Tu's Expecting

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   No Comments »
Photo Credit (c) Oregon Zoo

Photo Credit (c) Oregon Zoo

While we watch the Oregon Zoo’s world-renowned elephant experts care for pregnant Asian elephant Rose-Tu (birth expected in late 2012), ThisWildLife.com thought some cool information about elephants would give animal lovers new insight while we wait. As human beings that weigh between 7 and 300 pounds, imagining the life of a 7,000-pound elephant described as “playful, spirited, and highly intelligent” will take some doing. Nevertheless, let’s give it a try, starting with the front—which is the trunk.

Smashing Pumpkins

Each fall, the Portland Zoo’s Asian elephants smash pumpkins in a public-pleasing ritual. Elephants crush the giant gourds with their feet. Once the fruit is open, trunks unfurl and each grabs a chunk of orange deliciousness. Not only does the trunk put food and water into an elephant’s mouth, but the trunk also houses two long nasal (trunkal?) passages that move air. The trunk manipulates objects, senses through touch and air-borne chemicals, creates sound, and disciplines members of the herd.

All About Trunks

Getting a perspective on this agile grabber with a long reach from a photograph is difficult. Here are the numbers: adults’ trunks vary from 6-12 feet in length and from more than 14 inches at it’s largest diameter, the trunk tapers to about 3 inches at the tip. Made mostly of muscle, elephants use their trunks to touch and investigate objects. The trunk’s well-developed muscles hold water or air inside and control the timing and force of the release. (Just ask an elephant keeper about this.)

In contrast to the power of the rest of the organ, the trunk tip is as sensitive and as agile as a finger in picking up small objects. At the zoo, you will see elephants use their trunk tips to gather dirt and then fling it onto their skin in a dry form of bathing. Elephants also use their trunks the way that submarines use periscopes, raising them over their heads.  The raised trunk samples the air for chemicals that excite the sensory cells lining the nasal passages. Scent is a major source of information for elephants about what is going on in their environment.

Trunks also allow elephants to create a variety of sounds. The same muscles that allow elephants to control the drawing of air and water into the trunk (and its release) also allows them to create a variety of sounds. (Think trombone.)  Elephants squeal in play, create a sound like a scream when angry, and trumpet warnings.  Sometimes when elephants are annoyed, they thump their trunk on the ground or an object.

Adult elephants use their trunks to protect young calves or discipline teenage elephants.  A mother uses her trunk to keep a curious calf from investigating something dangerous. Older females swat misbehaving younger females with their trunks.

More Information

The best learning about elephants is from observing them.  Check Oregon Zoo  for zoo hours.  Until you can get to the zoo, try this nifty Oregon Zoo video, The Squishing of the Squash 2011.

Happy Valentine’s Day: Unusual Insect Mating Rituals

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   No Comments »

Here are the courting habits of seven different insects and arachnids. <3

Photo credit: Shannon McKown

Video: Ram Rumble

Posted by admin on June 1, 2012  |   No Comments »

You may have seen rams butting heads in cartoons, but here’s the real deal: these big-horned sheep battle for mating rights with 40-lb. horns.  Watch the video from National Geographic below.

See Through Animals

Posted by admin on May 25, 2012  |   No Comments »

Mother Nature Network has compiled a slideshow of nature’s most intriguing transparent creatures.  Check out the pictures here.

Number of Genes Not Related to Animal Size

Posted by admin on May 25, 2012  |   No Comments »

Scientists at Indiana University Bloomington and U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute have found that the water flea has a gene count 30% greater than humans. In addition, to having an astoundingly high gene count, more than 1/3 have never been seen before in other animals. Check out more about the water flea’s genes here.

Family Dogs Mean More Active Children

Posted by admin on May 25, 2012  |   No Comments »

Having a dog can increase a child’s activity rates and decrease the odds of childhood obesity, according to recent studies.  Furthermore, a canine companion can mean “11 minutes less (562 altogether) in sedentary behaviour each day [and] 360 more steps”.  Read about how these small steps make the difference here.

YMCA to Offer Workouts with Your Dog

Posted by admin on May 25, 2012  |   No Comments »

The Power of Pets program is coming soon to select cities in the US, and will encourage people and their pets to benefit from physical activity through walking challenges, obstacle courses, and ‘doga’ (that’s yoga with your pet pooch).  Gear up for it by checking out our Pets and Steps program!

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