solenodon

The Animal of the Day is the solenodon. This is a very unique mammal which you can learn more about below.

Solenodons (meaning “slotted-tooth”) are venomous, nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals belonging to the family Solenodontidae. Only one genus, Solenodon, is known, although a few other genera were erected at one time and are now regarded as junior synonyms. Solenodontidae is interesting to phylogenetics researchers because of its retention of primitive mammal characteristics; their species resemble very closely those that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs. They are one of two families of Caribbean soricomorphs; it is uncertain whether the other family, Nesophontidae, which went extinct during the Holocene, was closely related to solenodons.

The two living solenodon species are the Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus), and the Haitian or Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). Two other species went extinct during the Quaternary. Oligocene North American genera such as Apternodus have been suggested as relatives of Solenodon, but the origins of the animal remain obscure.

Solenodons resemble very large shrews, and are often compared to them; with extremely elongated cartilaginous snouts, long, naked, scaly tails, small eyes, and coarse, dark brown to black hair. The snout is flexible, and in the Hispaniola solenodon, actually has a ball-and-socket joint at the base to increase its mobility. This allows the animal to investigate narrow crevices where potential prey may be hiding. Between 28–32 centimetres (11–13 inches) long from nose to rump, and weighing between 700–1,000 grams (25–35 oz), solenodons are known to become very easily agitated and may squeal or bite with little or no provocation.

Solenodons have a few intriguing traits, two of them being the position of the two teats on the female, almost on the buttocks of the animal, and the second being the venomous saliva that flows from modified salivary glands in the mandible through grooves on the second lower incisors (“solenodon” derives from the Greek “grooved tooth”). Solenodons are among a handful of venomous mammals.

The diet of solenodons consists largely of insects, earthworms, and other invertebrates, but they also eat vertebrate carrion, and perhaps even some living vertebrate prey such as small reptiles or amphibians.

Solenodons give birth in a nesting burrow, to one or two young. The young remain with the mother for several months, and initially follow the mother about by hanging onto her elongated teats. Once they reach adulthood, solenodons are solitary animals, who rarely interact except to breed.

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Brain scans of dogs could give researchers a new tool for studying what happens in the mind of man’s best friend.

“I think it could open a whole new type of research on cognition,” said neuroscientist Greg Berns of Emory University, lead author on a dog-scanning study that will be published in Public Library of Science One.

Berns described the initial findings, in which brain regions expected to become active in anticipation of reward did just that, as a proof-of-concept to show that studying a dog inside a functional magnetic resonance imager was logistically feasible.

According to Berns, who typically investigates how human decision-making plays out in our brains, dogs may be a better animal model for studying cognition than the monkeys commonly used in such research.

FMRI representations of neurological activity produced by reward anticipation in the brains of Callie and McKenzie. Image: Berns et al./SSRN

To a monkey, a laboratory full of humans is a profoundly strange and unnatural environment, which could influence how it thinks — whereas interacting with humans is second nature to dogs.

Of course, standing inside an FMRI machine isn’t exactly a normal canine experience, and Berns’ team needed eight months to train his dogs, a 2-year-old feist named Callie and a 3-year-old border collie named McKenzie, to remain motionless inside the machine while wearing noise-reducing earmuffs.

Among the questions that might be studied is whether dogs understand the language of human commands, or respond more to body movements or other cues.

“One of the things we’re interested in is how dogs represent humans: Are we all just a pack to them, like Cesar Millan says? What part of the brain represents humans and other dogs? It could be sound, or scent, or any of those modalities,” Berns said.

Dog empathy, and how it compares to the human version, is another possible area of investigation.

“Dog-lovers are convinced their dogs know what they’re feeling. Honestly, I’m on the fence about that. Maybe that’s because of my own dogs,” said Berns. “Skeptics out there — a.k.a. cat people — think dogs are just good actors. I don’t think it’s quite like that. But how far it goes, I’d love to figure out.”

 


Oarfish are large, greatly elongated, pelagic Lampriform fishes comprising the small family Regalecidae. Found in all temperate to tropical oceans yet rarely seen, the oarfish family contains four species in two genera. One of these, the king of herrings (Regalecus glesne), is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest bony fish alive, at up to 17 metres (56 ft) in length.

The common name oarfish is presumably in reference to either their highly compressed and elongated bodies, or to the former (but now discredited) belief that the fish “row” themselves through the water with their pelvic fins. The family name Regalecidae is derived from the Latin regalis, meaning “royal”. The occasional beachings of oarfish after storms, and their habit of lingering at the surface when sick or dying, make oarfish a probable source of many sea serpent tales.

Although the larger species are considered game fish and are (to a minor extent) fished commercially, oarfish are rarely caught alive; their flesh is not well regarded due to its gelatinous consistency.

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“Animal” Of The Day – Zebu


Zebu

The Zebu is an exotic miniature cattle breed. Zebu cattle originated in South Asia mostly coming from the Indian continent. The interesting fact about the Zebu is that their average height is anywhere from 34-38 inches tall. That’s the average height of 2 year old.  Miniature Zebu cattle are tinier and not just the results of breeding gone bad.

~Lil Buddy

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Helper Capuchin Monkey

“As long as he had a ball and bat in his hand he was a happy kid.” Ellen Rogers talks about her son Ned Sullivan, who five years ago was just like any other college senior.

But that’s when life, just stopped.

“It’s that call every parent dreads,” recalls Ellen.

Ned had a seizure behind the wheel and crashed into a brick wall and broke his neck. He was paralyzed from the neck down. He spent a long year in the hospital getting better, but when he got home, he got worse.

Ned says, “I always felt alone and stuck and depressed.”

But then his sister was invited to a school assembly and the topic? Helping Hands Helper Monkeys. The organization helps people with spinal cord injuries by giving them monkey to help with everyday tasks.

Ned’s mom knew this was the answer. Pretty soon, they had little five-pound Kasey.

Ned says, “I had more confidence, more pep to my step.”

Kasey’s life is helping — from turning on lights, to music, to playing games with Ned. She is there for it all. She sleeps in his room. She has become his partner and friend.

Ned says, “More than just companionship, I always felt like she’s a wingman. She’s like a copilot.”

Ellen says, “She fills a huge void in his life.”

A life not over after the accident, just re-directed and once again filled with hope.

“He has a mission now,” says Ellen, “all we have to do is look to him and we are inspired.”

Kasey and Ned travel to schools to speak to kids, and Kasey will stay with Ned for the rest of her life.

~Boo

 

“Animal” of the Day – Tarsier

Tarsier

Tarsiers are haplorrhine primates of the genus Tarsius, a genus in the family Tarsiidae, which is itself the lone extant family within the infraorder Tarsiiformes. Although the group was once more widespread, all the species living today are found in the islands of Southeast Asia.

Fossils of tarsiiform primates are found in Asia, Europe, and North America, and there are disputed fossils from Africa, but extant tarsiers are restricted to several Southeast Asian islands including the Philippines, Sulawesi, Borneo, and Sumatra. The fossil record indicates that their dentition has not changed much, except in size, in the past 45 million years.

Within the family Tarsiidae, there are two extinct genera, Xanthorhysis and Afrotarsius. However, the placement of Afrotarsius is not certain, and is sometimes listed in its own family, Afrotarsiidae, within the infraorder Tarsiiformes.

Two fossil species of with in the genus Tarsius are known from the fossil record. Tarsius eocaenus is known from the Middle Eocene in China while Tarsius thailandicus lived during the Early Miocene in northwestern Thailand. The genus Tarsius has a longer fossil record than any other primate genus, but the assignment of the Eocene and Miocene fossils to the genus is questionable.

Tarsiers are small animals with enormous eyes; each eyeball is approximately 16 mm in diameter and is as large as their entire brain. Tarsiers also have very long hind limbs. In fact, their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, from which the animals get their name. The head and body range from 10 to 15 cm in length, but the hind limbs are about twice this long (including the feet), and they also have a slender tail from 20 to 25 cm long. Their fingers are also elongated, with the third finger being about the same length as the upper arm. Most of the digits have nails, but the second and third toes of the hind feet bear claws instead, which are used for grooming. Tarsiers have very soft, velvety fur, which is generally buff, beige, or ochre in color.

Unlike other prosimians, tarsiers lack any toothcomb, and their dental formula is also unique:

All tarsier species are nocturnal in their habits, but like many nocturnal organisms some individuals may show more or less activity during the daytime. Unlike many nocturnal vertebrates, however, tarsiers lack a light-reflecting area (tapetum lucidum) of the eye and have a fovea.

The tarsier’s brain is different from other primates in terms of the arrangement of the connections between the two eyes and the lateral geniculate nucleus, which is the main region of the thalamus that receives visual information. The sequence of cellular layers receiving information from the ipsilateral (same side of the head) and contralateral (opposite side of the head) eyes in the lateral geniculate nucleus distinguishes tarsiers from lemurs, lorises, and monkeys, which are all similar in this respect. Some neuroscientists suggested that “this apparent difference distinguishes tarsiers from all other primates, reinforcing the view that they arose in an early, independent line of primate evolution.”

Tarsiers are the only extant entirely carnivorous primates: they are primarily insectivorous, and catch insects by jumping at them. They are also known to prey on birds, snakes, lizards, and bats. As they jump from tree to tree, tarsiers can even catch birds in motion.

Gestation takes about six months, and tarsiers give birth to single offspring. Young tarsiers are born furred, and with open eyes, and are able to climb within a day of birth. They reach sexual maturity by the end of their second year. Sociality and mating system varies, with tarsiers from Sulawesi living in small family groups, while Philippine and Western tarsiers are reported to sleep and forage alone.

Keeping with their tradition of using black and white drawings of interesting animals, the technical book publisher O’Reilly Media selected the tarsier for the cover of Unix in a Nutshell books as well as each of the 7 editions of the popular Learning the vi and vim Editors by Linda Lamb. When questioned about the animal choice, Publisher Tim O’Reilly described the tarsier as looking “like somebody who had been a text editor for too long.” This tarsier image has become a part of O’Reilly’s branding and is now included in their logo.

~Boo~

 

White Faced Saki Monkey

The White-faced Saki (Pithecia pithecia), also known as the Guianan Saki and the Golden-faced Saki, is a species of saki monkey, a type of New World monkey, found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. This species lives in the understory and lower canopy of the forest, feeding mostly on fruits, but also eating nuts, seeds, and insects.

There are two recognized subspecies of this monkey:

Pithecia pithecia pithecia
Pithecia pithecia chrysocephala

In captivity, female White-faced Sakis experience ovarian cycles of approximately 17 days, and a gestational period of 20-21 weeks. Following birth, the mother undergoes a period of lactationally-induced fertility lasting 23 weeks, on average.

Sakis of the Pithecia pithecia species display noticeable sexual dimorphism in their coloration. Females have shorter hair than males, with brownish-grey fur and white or pale brown stripes around the corners of the nose and mouth. Males, on the other hand, have blacker fur, with a reddish-white forehead, face, and throat.

A pair often mates for life. They are very devoted and will strengthen their bond by grooming one another.

~Boo~

 
Chinese Giant Salamander

Chinese Giant Salamander

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) is the largest salamander in the world, reaching a length of 180 cm (6 ft), although it rarely – if ever – reaches that size today. Endemic to rocky mountain streams and lakes in China, it is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss, pollution, and over-collecting, as it is considered a delicacy and used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Records from Taiwan may be the results of introductions. It has been listed as one of the top-10 “focal species” in 2008 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.

It has a large head, small eyes and dark and wrinkly skin. It is one of only two extant species in the genus Andrias, the other being the slightly smaller, but otherwise very similar Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus).

The Chinese giant salamander feeds on insects, frogs, and fish. It has very poor eyesight, and therefore depends on special sensory nodes that run in a line on the creature’s body, from head to tail.

They are capable of sensing the slightest vibrations around them with the help of these nodes. The female lays 500 eggs in an underwater breeding cavity, which is guarded by the male until the eggs hatch after 50–60 days. The average adult salamander is 25–30 kg (55-66 lb) and 1.15 m (3.8 ft).

 
Giant Coconut Crab

Giant Coconut Crab

The coconut crab, Birgus latro, is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, and is probably at the upper limit of how big terrestrial animals with exoskeletons can become in today’s atmosphere.

The species inhabits the coastal forest regions of many Indo-Pacific islands, although localized extinction has occurred where the crab is sympatric with man. Generally nocturnal, they remain hidden during the day and emerge only on some nights to forage. Their body is divided into four regions; the cephalic lobe, forepart, trunk, and opisthosoma. It is a highly apomorphic hermit crab and is known for its ability to crack coconuts with its strong pincers to eat the contents. It is the only species of the genus Birgus.

It is also called the robber crab or palm thief, because some coconut crabs are rumored to steal shiny items such as pots and silverware from houses and tents. Another name is terrestrial hermit crab, due to the use of shells by the young animals; however, there are other terrestrial hermit crabs which do not get rid of the shell even as adults.

These—typically in the closely related genus Coenobita—are the animals usually called “terrestrial hermit crab”; given the close relationship between Coenobita and Birgus, the term would generally refer to any member of the family Coenobitidae.

The coconut crab also has a range of local names, for example, unga or kaveu in the Cook Islands, and ayuyu in the Marianas where it is sometimes associated with taotaomo’na because of the traditional belief that ancestral spirits can return in the form of animals such as ayuyu.

Reports about the size of Birgus latro vary, but most references give a body length of up to 40 cm (16 in), a weight of up to 4.1 kg (9.0 lb), and a leg span of more than 0.91 m (3.0 ft), with males generally being larger than females. There have been reports in the literature of specimens measuring 6 feet (1.8 m) across the thorax and weighing 30 pounds (14 kg). They can live more than 30 years.

The body of the coconut crab is, like that of all decapods, divided into a front section (cephalothorax), which has 10 legs, and an abdomen. The front-most pair of legs has large claws used to open coconuts, and these claws (chelae) can lift objects up to 29 kilograms (64 lb). The next two pairs, as with other hermit crabs, are large, powerful walking legs which allow coconut crabs to climb vertically up trees (often coconut palms). The fourth pair of legs is smaller with tweezer-like chelae at the end, allowing young crabs to grip the inside of a shell or coconut husk to carry for protection; adults use this pair for walking and climbing. The last pair of legs is very small and serves only to clean the breathing organs. These legs are usually held inside the carapace, in the cavity containing the breathing organs. There is some difference in color between the animals found on different islands, ranging from light violet through deep purple to brown.

Although Birgus latro is a derived type of hermit crab, only the juveniles use salvaged snail shells to protect their soft abdomens, and adolescents sometimes use broken coconut shells to protect their abdomens. Unlike other hermit crabs, the adult coconut crabs do not carry shells but instead harden their abdominal terga by depositing chitin and chalk. Not being constrained by the physical confines of living in a shell allows this species to grow much larger than other crabs in the family Coenobitidae.

Like most true crabs, B. latro bends its tail underneath its body for protection. The hardened abdomen protects the coconut crab and reduces water loss on land, but has to be moulted at periodic intervals. After moulting, it takes about 30 days for the exoskeleton to harden, during which time the animal’s body is soft and vulnerable, and it stays hidden for protection.

~Boo~

 

“Animal”of the Day-Polydactyl Cat

Polydactylcat

A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), a type of cat body type genetic mutation, that caused the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws. Cats with this genetically inherited trait are most commonly found along the East Coast of the United States and in South West England.

Nicknames for polydactyl cats include “boxing cats”, “mitten cats”, “mitten foot cats”, “thumb cats”, “six-finger cats”, “Boston Thumb Cats”, “Cardi-cats”, “Hemingway cats”, and “double-pawed cats”.

Occurence
The true polydactyly is a congenital abnormality, genetically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait of the Pd gene with incomplete penetrance.

Normal cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind paw; polydactyl cats may have as many as seven digits on its front and/or hind paws. Tiger, a Canadian polydactyl cat with 27 toes, was recognised by Guinness World Records as having the highest number of toes on a cat. (However, unofficially, this title goes to Mooch, a 28-toed American polydactyl cat from the New England state of Maine. Mooch’s owners, Bob & Becky Duval, have submitted evidence to the Guinness Book of Records.) Various combinations of anywhere from four to seven toes per paw are common, and the number of toes on either the front or rear paws is typically the same. Polydactyly is most commonly found on the front paws only, it is rare for a cat to have polydactyl hind paws only, and polydactyly of all four paws is even less common.

The nickname “double-pawed cat” is a misnomer since there is a specific double paw condition, although this condition may be interrelated with polydactyly.

Feline radial hypoplasia (see squitten) is a mimic of polydactyly and is considered a severe condition. Radial hypoplasia may cause the formation of extra jointed toes, but it is not a result of the Pd gene normally associated with polydactyls. It thus does not cause the “mitten cat” or “thumb cat” condition where the extra toes occur separated from the normal ones just like a dewclaw, usually associated with an additional pad which makes them look like an underdeveloped foot sticking out near the base of the normal toes. Rather, radial hypoplasia-related extra toes are immediately adjacent to the normal ones, giving the cat overly large, flat feet – colloquially known as “patty feet” or “hamburger feet”. Though this looks less serious than true polydactyly (as the feet appear “normal” apart from having one or two extra toes), breeding such cats will eventually result in severely crippled offspring. Cats used in polydactyl breeding programs can be screened by x-ray for indicators of radial hypoplasia, and cats suspected to have radial hypoplasia should not be used for breeding.

History and Folklore
The condition seems to be most commonly found in cats along the East Coast of the United States and in South West England. Polydactyl cats have been extremely popular as ship’s cats. Although there is some controversy over whether the most common variant of the trait originated as a mutation in New England or was brought there from England, there seems to be agreement that it spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating in Boston, and the prevalence of polydactylism among the cat population of various ports correlates with the dates when they first established trade with Boston. Contributing to the spread of polydactyl cats by this means, sailors were long-known to especially value polydactyl cats for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.

Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats, after being first given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain. Upon Hemingway’s death in 1961, his former home in Key West, Florida, became a museum and a home for his cats, and it currently houses approximately fifty descendants of his cats (about half of which are polydactyl). Because of his love for these animals, “Hemingway cat”, or simply “Hemingway”, is a slang term which has come to describe polydactyls.

Some sources state that these cats are rare in Europe because they were killed as witches’ familiars, but other sources indicate that they are quite common in England. Polydactyl cats are very common in the Cardigan area of Wales, where they are known as “Cardi-Cats.”

Caring for a Polydactyl Cat
This type of polydactyly is not life-threatening and usually not even debilitating to a cat. Some polydactyl kittens initially have more difficulty in learning to walk than normal animals. However in some cases polydactyly appears to improve the dexterity of the animal. For example, a common variation with six toes on the front paws, with two opposing digits on each (comparable in use to human thumbs), enables the cat to learn and perform feats of manual dexterity generally not observed in non-polydactyl cats, such as opening latches or catching objects with a single paw.

Cats usually “file down” their nails, thereby removing the outer layer. However, some of the claws of polydactyl cats are in awkward positions, so they are not able to trim them down by scratching. If proper trimming is not done, then these claws could grow into the cat’s flesh and cause infection.

Breeding
American Polydactyl Cats are bred as a specific cat breed, with specific physical and behavioral characteristics in addition to extra digits.

A particular strain native to Ithaca, New York, is known as the “Ithacats”.

The American Polydactyl is not to be confused with the pedigree Maine Coon polydactyl. The polydactyl form of the Maine Coon is being reinstated by some breeders.

 




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