Posts Tagged ‘Mammal’

The dugong, or Dugong dugon, is more commonly known as a sea cow, but do not confuse them with their close relatives: manatees.  Sailors also seemed to be befuddled by this creature of the ocean, as it is believed that reports of a half woman; half fish (mermaid) creature were inspired by shadows of these creatures’ slow, graceful swimming (a rather strange looking woman apparently).  They are known as sea cows because they eat huge tracts of grass that leaves behind trail-like impressions on the grassy ocean floor.

A Dugong eating grass on the ocean floor.

A Dugong eating grass on the ocean floor.

Dugongs can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 400 kilos.  They have tough, blubbery, greyish-brown skin that is covered with a thin covering of hair (they are mammals) (much like some men).  They also have the characteristic fluked tail of marine mammals and have sealable nostrils. 

They inhabit the shallow grass-beds of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.  Dugongs maneuver through propulsion from their tail and balance with their flippers.  Being mammals, they must surface to breathe through their nostrils, which can then close up when they return underwater.  Strangely enough, dugongs, unlike most marine mammals, cannot hold their breath for very long: only about eight minutes.  Their poor eyesight is compensated by excellent hearing.  Male dugongs have tusks, which are used during mating season to fight off other males. 

Dugongs are considered vulnerable due to the fact that offshore drilling (yes drill, Drill, DRILL!) is destroying much of their shallow ocean grasslands.  Pollution and being accidentally caught in fishing nets are also problems.  They also have a slow reproductive rate which only exacerbates the issue.


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Once again, I delved into the Encyclopedia of Life to bring you an animal for this week.  It is the Pronghorn Antelope.

The Pronghorn Antelope in Motion

The pronghorn antelope is the only gazelle-like creature left on North America after the split of Pangea.  They live up to 10 years in the wild.  They stand around a meter and a half to the shoulder, but males are bigger than females.  Their wonderful horns are garnered on both genders, male and female.  Their sandy coats make it very difficult to see them in the American Western grasslands.  There, they feed easily on grass and other small bushes.

Pronghorns are naturally very curious animals.  As a result, they would inspect anything that moved, including predators.  Since they are extremely fast, the second fastest land animal after cheetahs, they could escape from most of their predators.  But, when humans began to hunt them, they could not outrun bullets.  Thus, their own curiosity, nearly caused their extinction.  Fortunately, conservation efforts have brought the populations up to a healthy level once more.  Now, however, their status is once again threatened because of the destruction of their habitat by increased urban sprawl. 

An interesting fact about Pronghorns is that Pronghorn fawns are actually safer living around wolves.  Why?  Because it seems wolves will kill coyotes, the main predators of Pronghorn fawns.  Thus, hunters who kill wolves for killing the Pronghorn are actually perpetuating the problem.

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Today, I will have cracked two benchmarks on my blog.  First, my last post has received over 200 views in a single day.  Second, this is my 100th blog post!  Hooray!  Now for the actual post.

A United States biotechnology company named BioArts International announced that it will auction off the right for five dog owners to have their pet cloned.  The bidding will begin at $100,000.  Currently, BioArts is the only company in the world that is licensed to clone dogs, cats and endangered species.

How Dogs are Cloned

It uses the same cloning method which produced Dolly, everybody’s favorite cloned sheep.  She was the first mammal to be cloned in July of 1996 from an adult cell.  The clone did not leave a long life as it was prone to infections and diseases.  Dogs are one of the more difficult mammals to clone because of their extensive genome size.   After this, BioArts may not clone any more dogs.

Now, cloning is a huge moral, as well as scientific issue.  Questions arise like, “What about human cloning?”  “Do clones have a soul or are they just like livestock?”  “Can I use clone parts to extend my life.”  Personally, I find this a pretty scary development.  What if some one like Hitler decided to clone himself?  There was a book called House of the Scorpion, in which a young clone discovers that his body parts are to be used to extend the life of his original owner.  Although this is an interesting idea, cloning can definately go too far.  We need to watch where the line in the sand is and be wary not to cross it.

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The Aye-Aye or Daubentonia madagascariensis, is the largest nocturnal primate in the world.  It is also the only primate known to use echolocation to find its prey: grubs in rotting trees.  In addition to these interesting “onlys,” it is the most endangered mammals in Madagascar. 


The Fascinating, and Strange, Aye-Aye

Aye-Ayes live for around twenty-three years in the wild and during that time will grow to be 40 centimeters in length and two kilos.  Their long slender fingers are used to find their aforementioned food.  They will tap their fingers on the tree, listening for hollow spaces.  They then use their specially adapted slender fingers to extract the larvae from the holes. 

They live in the rainforests and mangrove swamps of eastern Madagascar.  These are truly unique animals will soon disappear if we do not act to stop the excessive deforestation of Madagascar.

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