Sunday, February 24, 2013

17 Truths Episode 1: The Cheetah

If you haven't seen the "True Facts" video series, then you are missing out.  Assuming, of course, that you have a good but slightly inappropriate and sarcastic sense of humor, and are not young enough that your parents will become angry with me if they find out where you found out about them.  That is why I am not providing a link to them here.  Anyways, I find them absolutely hysterical, and was quite eager to try my own hand at one!  One of my favorite animals is the cheetah (which is pretty obvious for people who are regular readers of my blog), a sentiment which is shared by people all across the world.  There are many interesting things about the cheetah, and many questions that people have about this fantastic and acrobatic feline.  So I thought that, for the first True Facts-esque video, I could make it about the cheetah!  It didn't hurt that I had a bunch of pictures of it, as well as a video!  However, I did use a few photos from some friends of mine, so I am going to give photo credit to Grace Albers and Shira Wood-Isenberg!  I would also like to give Joseph M. Roessler credit for the fantastic music that I used in the video!  It was both composed and performed by him!  HERE is a link to the song (called Dream Waltz), HERE is a link to some more of his music, and HERE is a link to his SoundCloud!  Enjoy!  And, of course, we have to have a link to the video!
And here we have some of the pictures featured in the video!  Enjoy!

This is the birthday post of Govind Kudva!  Happy birthday, Govind!  If you like what you are reading, please feel free to follow us here or via Facebook!  And remember, 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!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zoo Babies: Bison

Today, in honor of the birthday of Kevyn Llewellyn, we are going to be looking at a few photos of a baby bison born about this time last year at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois.  Although frequently incorrectly referred to as buffalo, they are simply different animals, despite the outward similarities between the two groups.  If you see something that looks like it could be either a buffalo or a bison, there is a very, very good bet that you are looking at a bison.  Unless something very strange has happened, and in that case, you will be excused for looking foolish when it comes to your knowledge of the bovids.

Anyways, the bison, despite their once immense numbers (numbering in the tens of millions), were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s, but have made a stunning comeback, with about 20,000 living in protected areas such as National Parks, and a further 500,000 living on tribal lands and ranches.  Nevertheless, their range is vastly reduced from what it once was.  Many people have come to the aid of the bison over the years, including Theodore Roosevelt and a man named William Hornaday, who together co-founded the American Bison Society at the Bronx Zoo in New York in 1905 in order to help protect these wild creatures. Today, they are labeled as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN due to these conservation efforts. 

Today, the bison is the largest North American mammal, but it wasn't always this way.  In fact, it wasn't always even the largest member of the genus Bison in North America!  Ancient ancestors of the North American bison have been traced by paleontologists to southern Asia to about 400,000 years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch.  Once the bison managed to make it across the land bridge into North America, it diversified and evolved.  One species, Bison latifrons, had a horn-span of a whopping nine feet!  Another species, Bison occidentalis (of which I have a scapula!) is thought to be the direct descendant of the modern bison, and evolved sometime during the late Pleistocene Epoch.

While talking bison with Dr. Robert Bakker and Matt Mossbrucker at the Morrison Natural History Museum, I learned that if you are looking at postcranial elements of a fossil bison (that is fossilized bones from behind the head), they are almost impossible to differentiate from each other.  Not only that, but they are extraordinarily difficult to differentiate from cows, too!  As a matter of fact, the species barrier is quite tentative between the bison and domestic cattle, resulting in the domestication of some bison, as well as hybrids, such as beefalo and cattalo.

Photo credit for all of the photos used in this post goes to the website for ZooBorns.  If you like what you are reading, please feel free to follow us here or via Facebook!  And remember, 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!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Animals of Yosemite National Park

As I talked about IN A PREVIOUS POST, the trip that my family and I took to Yosemite was simply fantastic.  Yosemite was just magical!  However, in the last post, you might have noticed that, with the exception of the odd, Snoopy-looking rock, I neglected to talk about any animals that we saw in Yosemite.  And, if you know anything about my family and this blog, then you know that we saw some animals!  So here are some of those animals that we saw! First off, a mule deer that I believe we saw on our hike up to Sentinel Dome.
Next, we have a scarlet kingsnake that my father and I saw when we walked over to the base of El Capitan.
We also saw this lizard at the base of El Capitan.  It looks to me like it might be a skink, but I really have no idea.  If you know what it is, make sure to shoot me an email!
We also saw a large Yosemite toad!  It was just kind of chilling in the middle of a pond, but then something startled it, and it lept into the water!
We also, of course, saw some bears, which were really super exciting!  Here are some pictures of some of the bears that we saw!

The Majesty of Yosemite

I think one of the most majestic places that I have ever visited was easily Yosemite.  It was simply fantastic!  Here are a lot of really good pictures of places within the valley.  Keep in mind that the photos simply don't do justice to the place!  First off, we have a picture of the valley!
Next, we have a few pictures of El Capitan, taken from the base!  In some of the pictures, you can actually see some crazy climbers slowly but surely making their way up the side of the mountain!  Apparently, it takes them THREE WHOLE DAYS to make the ascent!  And they have to sleep  in their harness and do their business in the harness and everything!  Even if I wasn't afraid of heights, those both would be deal breakers for me!

At the time of year that we went, the rivers were absolutely swollen with water.  Actually, I believe we were there on the day with the highest amount of water running through the rivers! 
Here is a picture of Sentinel Dome, where my parents got married!
This, I believe, was the view of Half Dome from Sentinel Dome.
Here is a picture of an odd-looking rock formation.  I still think it looks exactly like Snoopy, the World War I flying ace. 
Now for some pictures of the amazing and gorgeous waterfalls!
 Here is a picture of El Capitan off to the left, and then a waterfall on the right.  Gorgeous!

The Magic of Mariposa Grove

One of the coolest places that we went while in California was the Mariposa Grove, home to the Giant Sequoias, just a short drive outside of Yosemite.  It was absolutely incredible!  These trees were just simply massive, you couldn't even begin to get over their enormous size!  Here are some pictures of it, with myself, my sister, my father, my mother, and some other random people randomly in there for a size comparison!
We also saw these really cool and weird looking red flowers all over the place!  These flowers belong to a plant called the "snow plant," and belong to the genus Sarcodes.  Related to the heaths (i.e. rhododendrons, blueberries  and cranberries), the snow plant is an interesting parasitic plant.  Instead of living off of dead plant and animal material, they infect fungi.  However, they don't kill the fungi once its been infected.  Instead, the fungi and the flower help each other out in a classic case of mutualism!
Finally, I was really excited by this burnt log that, in my opinion, greatly resembled the devil.  Other members of my family thought it resembled a bison more, but clearly they are insane.
 The photo credit for all of the photos in this post go to Julie Neher.
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