Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Acrobatic Felines: The Serval

This birthday post goes out to Maiji Castro, happy birthday Maiji!  If you have a birthday coming up, just email me the date at with the date and your favorite animal, and I will do my best to get a post in!

Today, the serval is going to be added to our pantheon of acrobatic felines!  The serval (Leptailurus serval) is another one of those mid-sized cats, like the caracal, bobcat, and lynx, and is actually closely related to the caracal!  DNA studies place the serval in what is frequently referred to as the "Caracal Lineage," with the serval being the basal-most, or the earliest to split off, of these three cats.  The other two are, of course, the caracal, and its closest relative, the African golden cat.

So that tells us about the serval's phylogenetic position in the feline family tree, but what else do we know about this interesting creature?  And how is it so acrobatic?  Well, the serval, much like the caracal, is a jumper, perhaps not quite as high of a leaper, but nevertheless an amazingly nimble cat.  It's incredible jumps are assisted by its long legs: in fact, the serval has, in relation to its body size, the longest legs of any feline.  To see the incredible leaps of the serval, click on the link below!

A Pretty Awesome Serval Jump!

The serval is labeled "Least Concern" by the IUCN, and has a very wide distribution across the continent of Africa, excluding deserts (like the Sahara) and the equatorial jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the neighboring countries.  The serval once inhabited the countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, as well, but seems to have been extirpated (caused to go extinct in one country as opposed to extinct overall; a local extinction).  It is also now found in Tunisia again, but was reintroduced there by humans.

Four albino servals have been documented throughout the years, all of which were born in captivity.  One was born in Canada in the early '90s, but died just a week or two after birth.  The other three were all born at Florida's excellent cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue.  (If you want to see a ton of really, really cute pictures, click on this link HEREEEEEEEEEEEEEE to their Facebook page.  Trust me, you will NOT be disappointed!)  One of these three died a few years back, but they still have two!  First is Pharaoh, who is featured in the picture below, and Tonga, who is featured in all of the rest of the pictures, and who recently overcame nose cancer.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

23-Fact Tuesdays: The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch!

Remember 23-Fact Tuesdays?  Not very surprising if you don't, since there was only one and it took place a few weeks ago.  But we are going to do one again (despite the fact that today is Sunday) and this time, all of the facts are going to be drawn from the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch (NBWR for short!)Adventure Guide Book!  If you recall, the Wildlife Ranch was the place that I talked about in our Animal Spotlight featuring the Aurochs a few weeks ago, where you drive through this large area and the animals will come up to your car!  Pretty neat, huh!?  And most of the pictures that I upload for this blog post will actually be ones that we took down there!  So, as Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says, "Seat belts, everyone!"  Let's do this thing.

1.  The African bongo, a type of antelope, has a prehensile tongue that it uses to grab vegetation, much like a giraffe.

2. The "Critically Endangered" addax from the Sahara Desert has flat and broad hooves, which help to keep the animal from sinking into the sand.
A picture of an addax that I took while in Palm Desert, California, at the excellent zoo called "The Living Desert"

3.  The addax also is very lightly colored, which helps to reflect heat away from the animal, keeping it cool.

4.  The South American rhea can run up to 40 m.p.h.
A picture of the rhea that my mother took at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch on our visit in 2008.  The rhea is one of the ratites, like the ostrich and the emu, amongst others.
5.  The Patagonian cavy is the second-largest rodent in the world, second only to the capybara.

6.  The Watusi is the largest horned animal in the world, and its horns can be six feet across when fully grown.
A picture of a Watusi, with a calf, that my mother took when we visited the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in 2008
7.  The African springbok pronks, meaning that it jumps with all four feet off the ground.  Typically, when an animal pronks, it is either during pursuit by a predator, or simply during play.  During pronking, the springbok can jump ten feet in the air.
A small group of springbok at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in 2011
8.  The scimitar-horned oryx is labeled "Extinct in the Wild" by the IUCN, hunted to extinction in the wild for their horns, which the animal would sometimes use to spear predators to death.
9.  The gemsbok was kept in large, semi-domesticated numbers in ancient Egypt, where they were killed for sacrificial purposes.
10.  The Indian barasingha "has the unique ability to submerge their heads in water while closing their nasal passages," which "allows them to take advantage of vegetation in the swampy areas of their homeland."

11.  The name "wildebeest" came from the Dutch settlers who settles in South Africa.  It means (can you guess?) "wild beast."
12.  The nilgai, or the bluebull, is the largest of the Asian antelope.

13.  The "Near Threatened" white rhinoceros is the largest of all of the rhinoceros species, and the second largest land mammal, second only to the African elephant.

14.  The white rhino will wallow in mud to cool off, as well as to help protect their skin.

15.   The name "rhinoceros" comes from the Greek words "rhino" (which means nose) and "ceros" (which means horn).  Think about the name Triceratops real fast: tri=three, tops=face, so then cera (like "ceros") = horn!

16.  The "Critically Endangered" bactrian camel, the larger of the two camel species, can go several days without no water, spit when agitated, and can survive extreme temperature swings, from -20 degrees F, all of the way to 100 degrees F!
A picture of the bactrian camel that I took at the Denver Zoo when I went there with my friends Masaki Kleinkopf and Brynn Conroy in April of 2012
17.  The ostrich is not only the largest of all of the birds, but it is also the only bird to have two toes.
This picture of ostriches stalking our car looks like something out of Jurassic Park
An ostrich accosting my sister for food at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in 2011
18.  The blackbuck, native to India and Pakistan, is a "Near Threatened" species.  According to the guidebook, there are more blackbuck in Texas than there are in India and Pakistan.

19.  The gait of the giraffe is unique amongst quadrupeds.  As they walk, they swing both of their feet on one side of their body at the same time.
A picture of one of the giraffes from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo from my visit a few weeks ago
20.  Giraffes eat around 75 lbs. of food a day, and can drink around 10 gallons of water in one standing!

21.  The heart of the giraffe can pump up to 20 gallons of blood per minute.

22.  There are two sub-species of sika (type of deer).  The Formosan sika, which inhabits Siberia, and the Japanese sika, native to Japan and Korea.
A picture of a Japanese sika that I took in 2011 at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
 23.  The North American elk is frequently referred to as the "Wapiti."  Wapiti is actually the Native American term that refers to the white patch of hair on the rear of the animal.
A picture of a small herd of elk that my mother took in 2006 at Yellowstone National Park

Friday, October 26, 2012

Teaching African Penguins to Bite!

Today I uploaded another video from our Cheyenne Mountain Zoo adventures!  This one also features the African penguins, but in this video, my father is essentially teaching the penguins to bite him if they want the toys!  He said it didn't hurt it, it was just a playful nip, but still!  So if the keepers at the zoo are wondering why some of the penguins have become super aggressive when it comes to getting what they want, then I think I know why.....Enjoy!

One African penguin contemplates another!
My Dad Teaches African Penguins To Bite For Toys!

And remember the Primos Truth Cam?  Don't worry about a thing, he is coming back, and hopefully soon!  I just need to order her a lock so that no one steal her when I set her up!  We will soon see some fox pictures, though, I guarantee!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Antlers Vs. Horns, Part 2: Horns

A horn, unlike an antler, is attached to an animal.  It consists of a bony core, a projection of the bone of an animal, and is covered by a layer of keratin (your fingernails are composed of keratin).  Also unlike an antler, that falls off easily and annually, a horn, if it is broken off, will never grow back the same way.  That is why poachers have to kill rhinos (who have horns) to actually take their horns, as opposed to just letting them fall off.

Many different types of animals have horns.  Let's take a look at a few of these creatures.

The members of the family "Giraffidae," which includes the giraffe and the okapi, both have horn-like things on their heads, called "ossicones."

The members of the family "Rhinocerotidae," or the rhinos, have horns that are composed solely of keratin, and do not have the bone core typical of many horns.  The horns of the rhinos also grow continuously.

Some of the members of the family "Chamaeleonidae," or the chameleons, often have horns projecting out of their skulls, which are covered in a layer of keratin.

And, of course, the members of the family "Ceratopsidae," a group of marginocephalian dinosaurs, have horns projecting out of their skulls. 
Below is a short list of some of the more famous Ceratopsian dinosaurs.

Famous examples of Ceratopsian Dinosaurs (or "Ceratopsians That I Have Heard Of):
    1. Triceratops - (Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, U.S.; Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada)
    2. Arrhincoceratops - (Alberta, Canada)
    3. Torosaurus - (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, U.S.; Saskatchewan, Canada)
    4. Monoclonius - (Montana, U.S.; Alberta, Canada)
    5. Chasmosaurus - (Alberta, Canada)
    6. Centrosaurus - (Alberta, Canada)
    7. Styracosaurus - (Montana, U.S.; Alberta, Canada)
    8. Achelousaurus - (Montana, U.S.)
    9. Pentaceratops - (New Mexico, U.S.)
    10. Vagaceratops - (Alberta, Canada)
    11. Diabloceratops - (Utah, U.S.)
    12. Albertaceratops - (Montana, U.S.; Alberta, Canada)
    13. Einiosaurus - (Montana, U.S.)
    14. Anchiceratops - (Alberta, Canada)
    15. Mojoceratops - (Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada)
    16. Pachyrhinosaurus - (Alaska, U.S.; Alberta, Canada)
    17. Kosmoceratops - (Utah, U.S.)
    18. Medusaceratops (Montana, U.S.)
    19. Utahceratops - (Utah, U.S.)
Keep in mind that the tusks seen in elephants, mammoths, walruses, and hippos, despite being superficially similar to horns, are actually greatly enlarged teeth!

Antlers Vs. Horns, Part 1: Antlers

Antlers and horns often look the same, but underneath, they are actually quite different!  Today we are going to look at not only what defines both antlers and horns, but also take a look at some of the animals that have each of them!  All aboard!

Let's start off with antlers.  As defined by the Google dictionary thing, an antler is "One of the branched horns on the head of an adult (usually male) deer, which are made of bone and are grown and cast off annually."  Something that I would like to add is that antlers are unique to the family Cervidae, which includes:
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Moose
  • Caribou (Reindeer)
The only member of the family Cervidae that has horns on both the males and the females is the caribou, frequently referred to as the "reindeer."  However, it has been documented, on numerous occasions, for fertile females from other species of the cervids to occasionally grow antlers, but this is typically due to unusually high testosterone levels. 

The family Cervidae is one of the many families in the order Artiodactyla, frequently referred to as the "Even-Toed Ungulates" (so called because they either stand on two or four toes).  There are around 220 extant (still living, as opposed to extinct) species of artiodactyl, and included within this order are many familiar groups.  These groups, broken down by family, include:
  • Camelidae (Camels and llamas)
  • Suidae (Pigs)
  • Tayassuidae (Peccaries, a close relative of pigs)
  • Hippopotamidae (Hippopotamus)
  • Tragulidae (Chevrotains, a type of small deer)
  • Antilocapridae (Pronghorn)
  • Giraffidae (Giraffe and okapi)
  • Moschidae (Musk deer)
  • Cervidae (Deer)
  • Bovidae (Cattle, sheep, goats, antelope)
(Interestingly, the whales, dolphins, and porpoises should be included within the order Artiodactyla, but instead they have been placed within their own, separate order, Cetacea.  This area of the family tree is still messy, and a possible merging of the two orders, Artiodactyla and Cetacea, is being considered, which would create the order Cetartiodactyla.)

Also included within the order Artiodactyla is the extinct family Entelodontidae.  Later today, we will finally be getting around to what was supposed to be the monthly "What Is It?" challenge, but has turned into more of a quarterly or tri-monthly event!  Anyways, we will be announcing the winners of THE LAST CHALLENGE later this evening, after we look at horns!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Animal Spotlight: Aurochs

This post is the birthday post of Govind Kamath!  Happy birthday, Mr. Kamath!  If you have a birthday coming up, just email me the date at with the date and your favorite animal, and I will do my best to get a post in!

Over the years, you may have pondered, "Where does my burger come from?"  You probably just meant where was the cow that it came from.  But now here is something else for you to ponder.  Where the heck did the cow even come from?  Do you ever just see wild, black and white cows?  Well, I am here to tell you all about the evolution of the cow.
A Watusi/Longhorn pileup!  They actually crashed into each other, though!  Trust me, I was there, you can even see my sweatshirted elbow in the mirror thingy!
During the Pliocene Epoch, from around 5 to 2 MYA, the planet went through a cooler spell.  The frequent ice ages were a part of this cool spell, as was the most frequent Ice Age.  This colder weather caused many of the worlds forests to decrease in area, which in turn caused the world's grasslands to expand.  This led to the evolution of many large grazing animals, and helped contribute to the Pleistocene Megafauna, often called the Ice Age Megafauna.  One of these large animals that evolved was the Aurochs.

The Aurochs (Bos primigenius), first became domesticated during the Neolithic Age, or the "New Stone Age," probably around 12,000 years ago.  As a matter of fact, two waves of domestication occurred.  As you can see in the map below, there were three different subspecies of the Aurochs; one in northern Africa; one for Europe and Asia; and a third for the mysterious subcontinent of India, as Rajesh Ramayan Koothrappali says in "The Big Bang Theory."  The two different domestications happened with the Eurasian subspecies, Bos primigenius primigenius, and the Indian subspecies, B. p. namadicus

These two different domestications of these two different species of cattle led to two different domesticated cattle!  In India, we have the Zebu cattle, which has been given its own scientific subspecies name, Bos primigenius indicus.  The other, Eurasian kind has become the cow that we know today from driving down the street and the Chik-fil-A ads.  While other types of bovines (members of the family Bovidae, a group of ungulates that includes water and African buffalo, yaks, bison, and, of course, cattle) have been domesticated throughout the years, specifically the water buffalo, the south-east Asian Banteng, and the Indian Gaur, it is cattle that have remained the most widely used, for a wide variety of purposes, too.

The Aurochs is now extinct.  The very last recorded female passed away in 1627 in the Jaktor√≥w Forest in Poland.

There are two particularly interesting breeds of domesticated cattle that I would like to now draw to your attention.  Back in December of 2011 on our trip down to Texas to visit my gramma, on the same trip where we visited the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country and saw the Acrocanthosaurus footprints, we also visited the San Antonio Zoo, as well as the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch near San Antonio.  This is an awesome place for EVERYONE to visit!  You get to roll down your windows as you drive through a park chock-full of deer, antelope, zebra, and bovines, and you get to drop food for them!  There are also three members of the order Struthioniformes (aka the ratites), like the South American rhea, the Australian emu, and, most terrifying of all, the African ostrich.  The ostriches was absolutely terrifying, and I will talk about them in a later blog post!  But also at the ranch they had two pretty crazy types of cattle!

The first was the Ankole-Watusi, often called simply the Ankole cattle or the Watusi.  Originally bred in Africa, the Watusi was named after the Watusi tribesmen (now the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi).  This type of cattle has enormous horns that can span over six feet!  Both genders have these horns, and they can grow from between 1,500 - 1,800 pounds!  Below are some pictures that my family and I took of the cattle walking by our car!
A baby Watusi!  HOW CUTE!
The second crazy type of cattle is the Texas Longhorn.  The Texas longhorn is, of course, native to the Lone Star State, and reports of the longhorn enduring thirst while still being able to fight off packs of wolves, as well as bears (presumably grizzly bears), from the pioneer times is not uncommon.  The longhorn, like the Watusi, also has six foot horns possessed by both sexes.  According to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch Adventure Guide Book, the longhorn "helped form the basis of the ranching industry of the American West during the 19th century."
A Texas longhorn.  CHECK OUT THOSE HORNS.
Another Texas longhorn.  CHECK OUT THOSE HORNS.
The aftermath of the Watusi/Longhorn pileup seen above!
Whoever said cows weren't interesting!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Introducing....the Primos Truth Cam; The Ostriches of Longmont, Colorado; And Engagement Congratulations!

The most recent addition to my proverbial arsenal is the Primos Truth Cam!  (For those of you who are wondering, my arsenal includes my camera, Denali; my backpack, Rocky; my First Aid kit, Reginauld; and my rock hammer.  You don't name your rock hammer.)  Equipped with both video and photo capabilities for both day and night, I have set it up in a place where I know there to be red foxes!  I can't promise anything of course, but I have sprinkled an alluring amount of fox urine near the cam, so, with any luck, tonight we will be successful in our endeavors!  I will let ya'll know what happens tomorrow!

Speaking of names, I would be much obliged if you all could help me think of a fantastic name for my camera!  THANKS.

Another pretty exciting event occurred yesterday!  During our first period Anthropology class (a hoot and a half, fyi), I was talking to my group members about the time that my father and I were driving down Broadway, in between Boulder and Superior.  Off to the right was a lot of farmland, and, at one point, I was almost positive that I had seen kangaroos!  I told my dad to turn back, and, once we got home (which was pretty much the very first place that we could turn around), we turned around, and we were back within five minutes.  I couldn't remember exactly where I had thought that I had seen them, but (unsurprisingly) there were no kangaroos.  To this day, every time we drive by that area, both my dad and I turn to look.  To this day, we have not seen the phantom kangaroos.

Anyways, I was telling my Anthro friends about this event, and one of them, a friend of mine named Grace Albers, said that she had seen ostriches in Longmont, not twenty minutes from my house!  Incredibly excited, I told another friend of mine, Claire Chen, about it, and we headed over there during the next class period.  (Don't you worry, I wasn't ditching, but our school has Wednesday and Thursday block, where we only have half of our classes, but they are each twice as long.)  AND GUESS WHAT WE SAW.



WHAT THE HECK.  Apparently there is an animal hospital thing, and at the place they have two ostriches!  Crazy, huh!
An OSTRICH  preening!

And finally, I would like to congratulate my cousin, Alexa Neher, on getting engaged to her boyfriend Christopher Koreerat!  Congratulations, you two!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Daisy Post-Dentist, Yoga Bear, and Giraffe Feeding

So, as you probably know, I am still working to get all of my videos uploaded from our behind the scenes experience at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and to be able to give you guys an overview of what we did at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo last Friday.  In the meantime, I am going to treat you to a few of these videos that I have uploaded, as well as another video that I made yesterday, and another pretty cool video!
Myself feeding the giraffes
So as I told you before, we were able to feed the giraffes!  Here is a brief video of both Masaki and myself feeding them lettuce.  This is the first time that I have gone to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo when they have fed them lettuce, in the past it has always been crackers.  This, apparently, is to keep the giraffes healthier.  Makes sense!

Masaki and I Feed the Giraffes

I also uploaded the video from the grizzly bear experience, the one where one of the bears is doing what the keepers call the "Yoga Bear."  There were two bears there, and I don't recall whether it was Emmett or Digger who was doing the "Yoga Bear."  You will be able to see clearly why it is called that in the video, as well as in the picture below!  Apparently this is a behavior that was not taught into the bear, and is an action that has been observed before in wild bears, both in the wild and in wild bears that have been brought into captivity.  This particular bear apparently did it once when he was first brought to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo from California (I believe), but then didn't do it again for four years.  Now he does it all the time apparently, as the keepers will typically reward that kind of behavior.  Enjoy the video!

The "Yoga Bear!"

The "Yoga Bear!"
Next up is our dog, Daisy, who is a beagle-basset mix.  Daisy went to the dentist's office yesterday morning, where they had to put her under in order to clean her teeth.  When she came back, she was still pretty drugged, and kept falling asleep while she was sitting up, barely able to keep her eyes open!  I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do!  Also, if you listen carefully, you can hear our cat, Chimney, howling for food in the background.  Enjoy!

Daisy the Dog, Post Dentist Appointment

Finally, for those of you who haven't heard about the record-breaking leap made by Felix Baumgartner yesterday, click HERE to learn more!  It was some pretty astonishing stuff!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Behind The Scenes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo!

So, as promised, something especially exciting happened at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this weekend!  My grandparents, Ted and Gail Neher, were able to get my dad (Mark Neher), friend (Masaki Kleinkopf), and I behind the scenes!  We got to play with the penguins, feed the grizzly bears, and check out the new elephant barn!  I am still trying to get all of my media files together (I took a LOT of video, not to mention the pictures!) but I thought that I could give you all a taste of the action right now!

Thanks again to Kelley Parker for showing us around, that was super awesome of you!  Thanks again!

First off, the penguins!  We actually got to go INSIDE OF THE ENCLOSURE and play with the penguins!  We were able to touch them, and I even got a feather or two!  (Off of the floor, of course, I wasn't just going in there and plucking the penguins!) 
Here, my dad and Masaki are scattering the toys for the penguins.  This way, they are able to stimulate their minds as they hunt around looking for the toys!
One of the penguins stops to admire my snazzy shoes!
Now, here are a few videos!

First, a comedic video that I made featuring penguins and Star Wars!  Enjoy!

Star Wars Penguins!

Here are the other three penguin clips that I have uploaded thus far:

African Penguin Grabs Donut Toy From My Hand
Playing With Penguins!
African Penguin Encounter!

Our next stop was at the grizzly bear enclosure!  We got to feed them!  Not by hand, of course, as that would be incredibly dangerous.  I only have one clip up so far, but it shows exactly how it is done!

Masaki Feeding The Grizzlies!

The so-called "Yoga Bear!"

Our third, and final, stop on the behind the scenes tour was a look at the new Elephant Barn!  We were unable to go on the ground floor due to the fact that the zoo's new rhinoceros had arrived within the last few days, but we were able to go up on the overhead viewing platform and check out the elephants, and we even got a glimpse of the rhino, too!  I took a lot of video here, and, again, I will post more soon when I have my wits about me!
The exterior of the elephant barn!
What will one day be (I believe) an elephant walkway.  Either that or a human walkway!
I promise, there will be more later!  Let me get my act together, and then you will be able to see more!  A WHOLE lot more!
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