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Have A Good Rest Before Christmas 

iPhoneOgraphy – 19 Dec 2016 (Day 354/366)

The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, Subarctic, tundra, boreal and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations.

While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and at least one has already become extinct. For this reason, it is considered to be vulnerable by the IUCN.

Reindeer vary considerably in colour and size. Both sexes can grow antlers annually, although the proportion of females that grow antlers varies greatly between population and season. Antlers are typically larger on males.

Hunting of wild reindeer and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. In Lapland, reindeer pull pulks. Reindeer are well known due to Santa Claus’ sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer in Christmas folklore.

The name Rangifer, which Carl Linnaeus chose for the reindeer genus, was used by Albertus Magnus in his De animalibus, fol. Liber 22, Cap. 268: “Dicitur Rangyfer quasi ramifer”. This word may go back to a Saami word raingo. For the origin of the word tarandus, which Linnaeus chose as the specific epithet, he made reference to Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Quadrupedum omnium bisulcorum historia fol. 859–863, Cap. 30: De Tarando (1621). However, Aldrovandi – and before him Konrad Gesner – thought that rangifer and tarandus were two separate animals. In any case, the tarandos name goes back to Aristotle and Theophrastus.

Because of its importance to many cultures, Rangifer tarandus and some of its subspecies have names in many languages. The name rein (-deer) is of Norse origin (Old Norse hreinn, which again goes back to Proto-Germanic *hrainaz and Proto-Indo-European *kroinos meaning “horned animal”). In the Uralic languages, Sami *poatsoj (in Northern Sami boazu, in Lule Sami boatsoj, in Pite Sami båtsoj, in Southern Sami bovtse, in Inari Sami puásui), Meadow Mari pücö and Udmurt pudžej, all referring to domesticated reindeer, go back to *pocaw, an Iranian loan word deriving from Proto-Indo-European *peḱu-, meaning “cattle”. The Finnish name poro may also stem from the same.

The word deer was originally broader in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English, der (Old English dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind. This was in contrast to cattle, which then meant any sort of domestic livestock that was easy to collect and remove from the land, from the idea of personal-property ownership (rather than real estate property) and related to modern chattel (property) and capital. Cognates of Old English dēor in other dead Germanic languages have the general sense of animal, such as Old High German tior, Old Norse djúror dýr, Gothic dius, Old Saxon dier, and Old Frisian diar.

The name caribou comes, through French, from Mi’kmaq qalipu, meaning “snow shoveler”, referring to its habit of pawing through the snow for food. In Inuktitut, spoken in eastern Arctic North America, the caribou is known by the name tuktu.

Current classifications of Rangifer tarandus, either with prevailing] taxonomy on subspecies, designations based on ecotypes, and natural population groupings, fail to capture “the variability of caribou across their range in Canada” needed for effective species conservation and management. “Across the range of a species, individuals may display considerable morphological, genetic, and behavioural variability reflective of both plasticity and adaptation to local environments.” COSEWIC developed Designated Unit (DU) attribution to add to classifications already in use.

The species taxonomic name Rangifer tarandus was defined by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The subspecies taxonomic name, Rangifer tarandus caribou was defined by Gmelin in 1788.

Based on Banfield’s often-cited A Revision of the Reindeer and Caribou, Genus Rangifer (1961), R. t. caboti (Labrador caribou), R. t. osborni (Osborn’s caribou – from British Columbia) and R. t. terraenovae (Newfoundland caribou) were considered invalid and included in R. t. caribou.

Some recent authorities have considered them all valid, even suggesting that they are quite distinct. In their book entitled Mammal Species of the World, American zoologist Don E. Wilson and DeeAnn Reeder agree with Valerius Geist, specialist on large North American mammals, that this range actually includes several subspecies.

Geist (2007) argued that the “true woodland caribou, the uniformly dark, small-maned type with the frontally emphasized, flat-beamed antlers”, which is “scattered thinly along the southern rim of North American caribou distribution” has been incorrectly classified. He affirms that “true woodland caribou is very rare, in very great difficulties and requires the most urgent of attention.”

In 2005, an analysis of mtDNA found differences between the caribou from Newfoundland, Labrador, south-western Canada and south-eastern Canada, but maintained all in R. t caribou.

Mallory and Hillis argued that, “Although the taxonomic designations reflect evolutionary events, they do not appear to reflect current ecological conditions. In numerous instances, populations of the same subspecies have evolved different demographic and behavioural adaptations, while populations from separate subspecies have evolved similar demographic and behavioural patterns… “Understanding ecotype in relation to existing ecological constraints and releases may be more important than the taxonomic relationships between populations.”

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The River Horse

iPhoneOgraphy – 25 Oct 2016 (Day 299/366)

The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis). The name comes from the Ancient Greek for “river horse” (ἱπποπόταμος). After the elephant and rhinoceros, the common hippopotamus is the third-largest type of land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl. Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, the closest living relatives of the Hippopotamidae are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.) from which they diverged about 55 million years ago. The common ancestor of whales and hippos split from other even-toed ungulates around 60 million years ago. The earliest known hippopotamus fossils, belonging to the genus Kenyapotamus in Africa, date to around 16 million years ago.

Common hippos are recognisable by their barrel-shaped torsos, wide-opening mouths revealing large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies, columnar-like legs and large size; adults average 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) and 1,300 kg (2,900 lb) for males and females respectively, making them the largest species of land mammal after the three species of elephants and the white and Indian rhinoceros. Despite its stocky shape and short legs, it is capable of running 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. The hippopotamus is a highly aggressive and unpredictable animal and is ranked among the most dangerous animals in Africa. Nevertheless, they are still threatened by habitat loss and poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth.

The common hippopotamus is semiaquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of five to thirty females and young. During the day, they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water. They emerge at dusk to graze on grasses. While hippopotamuses rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land.

The word “hippopotamus” is derived from the Ancient Greek ἱπποπόταμος, hippopotamos, from ἵππος, hippos, “horse”, and ποταμός, potamos, “river”, meaning “horse of the river”. In English, the plural is hippopotamuses, but “hippopotami” is also used; “hippos” can be used as a short plural. Hippopotamuses are gregarious, living in groups of up to thirty animals. A group is called a pod, herd, dale, or bloat.

In Africa, the hippo is known by various names, including seekoei (Afrikaans), mvuvu (Venda), kubu (Lozi) and mvubu (Xhosa, Siswati and Zulu) in the south; kiboko (Swahili), ensherre (Nkore), tomondo (Turu), nvubu (Luganda), ifuru (Luhya), emiria (Ateso), magawit (Sebei), kibei (Kalenjin) and olmakau (Maasai) in the African Great Lakes region; and gumarre (Amharic) and jeer (Somali) in the Horn of Africa.

Hippopotamuses are among the largest living land mammals, being only smaller than elephants and some rhinoceroses. Mean adult weight is around 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) and 1,300 kg (2,900 lb) for males and females respectively, very large males can reach 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) and an exceptional male weighing almost 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) has been reported. Male hippos appear to continue growing throughout their lives while females reach maximum weight at around age 25.

Different from all other large land mammals, hippos are of semiaquatic habits, spending the day in lakes and rivers. The eyes, ears, and nostrils of hippos are placed high on the roof of their skulls. This allows these organs to remain above the surface while the rest of the body submerges. Their barrel-shaped bodies have graviportal skeletal structures, adapted to carrying their enormous weight, and their specific gravity allows them to sink and move along the bottom of a river. Hippopotamuses have small legs (relative to other megafauna) because the water in which they live reduces the weight burden. Though they are bulky animals, hippopotamuses can gallop at 30 km/h (19 mph) on land but normally trot. They are incapable of jumping but do climb up steep banks. Despite being semiaquatic and having webbed feet, an adult hippo is not a particularly good swimmer nor can it float. It is rarely found in deep water; when it is, the animal moves by porpoise-like leaps from the bottom. The testes of the males descend only partially and a scrotum is not present. In addition, the penis retracts into the body when not erect. The genitals of the female are unusual in that the vagina is ridged and two large diverticula protrude from the vulval vestibule. The function of these is unknown.

The hippo’s jaw is powered by a large masseter and a well-developed digastric; the latter loops up behind the former to the hyoid. The jaw hinge is located far back enough to allow the animal to open its mouth at almost 180°. A moderate folding of the orbicularis oris muscle allows the hippo to achieve such a gape without tearing any tissue. On the National Geographic Channel television program, “Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr”, Dr. Brady Barr measured the bite force of an adult female hippo at 8,100 newtons (1,800 lbf); Barr also attempted to measure the bite pressure of an adult male hippo, but had to abandon the attempt due to the male’s aggressiveness. Hippopotamus teeth sharpen themselves as they grind together. The lower canines and lower incisors are enlarged, especially in males, and grow continuously. The incisors can reach 40 cm (1.3 ft), while the canines reach up to 50 cm (1.6 ft). The canines and incisors are used for combat and play no role in feeding. Hippos rely on their broad horny lips to grasp and pull grasses which are then ground by the molars. The hippo is considered to be a pseudo ruminant; it has a complex three-chambered stomach but does not “chew cud”.

Unlike most other semiaquatic animals, the hippopotamus has very little hair. The skin is 6 cm (2 in) thick, providing it great protection against conspecifics and predators. By contrast, its subcutaneous fat layer is thin. The animals’ upper parts are purplish-gray to blue-black, while the under parts and areas around the eyes and ears can be brownish-pink. Their skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance which is red-coloured. The secretion is sometimes referred to as “blood sweat”, but is neither blood nor sweat. This secretion is initially colourless and turns red-orange within minutes, eventually becoming brown. Two distinct pigments have been identified in the secretions, one red (hipposudoric acid) and one orange (norhipposudoric acid). The two pigments are highly acidic compounds. Both pigments inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria; as well, the light absorption of both pigments peaks in the ultraviolet range, creating a sunscreen effect. All hippos, even those with different diets, secrete the pigments, so it does not appear that food is the source of the pigments. Instead, the animals may synthesize the pigments from precursors such as the amino acid tyrosine. Nevertheless, this natural sunscreen cannot prevent the animal’s skin from cracking if it stays out of water too long.

A hippo’s lifespan is typically 40–50 years. Donna the Hippo was the oldest living hippo in captivity. She lived at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana in the US until her death in 2012 at the age of 61. The oldest hippo ever recorded was called Tanga; she lived in Munich, Germany, and died in 1995 at the age of 61.

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Hello! Mr. Rhino

iPhoneOgraphy – 18 Oct 2016 (Day 292/366)

A rhinoceros (meaning “nose horn”), often abbreviated to rhino, is one of any five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as any of the numerous extinct species. Two of these extant species are native to Africa and three to Southern Asia.

Members of the rhinoceros family are characterized by their large size (they are some of the largest remaining megafauna, with all of the species able to reach one tonne or more in weight); as well as by an herbivorous diet; a thick protective skin, 1.5–5 cm thick, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure; relatively small brains for mammals this size (400–600 g); and a large horn. They generally eat leafy material, although their ability to ferment food in their hind gut allows them to subsist on more fibrous plant matter, if necessary. Unlike other perissodactyls, the two African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths, relying instead on their lips to pluck food.

Rhinoceros are killed by humans for their horns, which are bought and sold on the black market, and which are used by some cultures for ornamental or traditional medicinal purposes. East Asia, specifically Vietnam, is the largest market for rhino horns. By weight, rhino horns cost as much as gold on the black market. People grind up the horns and then consume them believing the dust has therapeutic properties. The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails. Both African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn.

The word rhinoceros is derived through Latin from the Ancient Greek: ῥῑνόκερως, which is composed of (rhino-, “nose”) and (keras, “horn”). The plural in English is rhinoceros or rhinoceroses. The collective noun for a group of rhinoceroses is crashor herd. The name has been in use since the 14th century.

The family Rhinocerotidae consists of only four extant genera: Ceratotherium (White rhinoceros), Dicerorhinus (Sumatran rhinoceros), Diceros (Black rhinoceros) and Rhinoceros (Indian and Javan rhinoceros). The living species fall into three categories. The two African species, the white rhinoceros and the black rhinoceros, belong to the tribe Dicerotini, which originated in the middle Miocene, about 14.2 million years ago. The species diverged during the early Pliocene (about 5 million years ago). The main difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their mouths – white rhinos have broad flat lips for grazing, whereas black rhinos have long pointed lips for eating foliage. There are two living Rhinocerotini species, the Indian rhinoceros and the Javan rhinoceros, which diverged from one another about 10 million years ago. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only surviving representative of the most primitive group, the Dicerorhinini, which emerged in the Miocene (about 20 million years ago).

A subspecific hybrid white rhino (Ceratotherium s. simum × C. s. cottoni) was bred at the Dvur Králové Zoo (Zoological Garden Dvur Kralove nad Labem) in the Czech Republic in 1977. Interspecific hybridization of black and white rhinoceros has also been confirmed.

While the black rhinoceros has 84 chromosomes (diploid number, 2N, per cell), all other rhinoceros species have 82 chromosomes. However, chromosomal polymorphism might lead to varying chromosome counts. For instance, in a study there were three northern white rhinoceroses with 81 chromosomes.

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The Peacock’s Eyes

Peacocks stands for wisdom, knowledge, compassion, kindness, and benevolence in Hindusim. In India, the bird is mostly correlated with Saraswati.
The peacocks are recognized as goddess Hera in the Greek and Roman mythology. The peacock eyes are believed to represent heavens and the stars.
In the era of Babylonians, the bird acts as a guardian to royalty.
In Christianity, the peacock symbolizes an everlasting life.IMG_3543a

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