Slender Horned Gazelle
Ostriches are the only bird who walks on two toes.
Take a peek at some ostrich feet and you’ll see two toes on each foot. All other birds have three or four toes. The largest toe carries most of their weight and the smaller toe is used for balance.
Male ostriches blush in breeding season.
The pale skin of their legs and necks becomes flushed, filling with blood and becoming redder. This bright color tells the females they are ready to mate.
One ostrich egg makes a 24-egg omelet.
A single ostrich egg weighs about the same as two dozen chicken eggs. They are edible but hard to crack, thanks to a shell that’s ten times thicker than a chicken’s egg.
Warthogs are sparsely haired with a long and bristly mane down the neck to the middle of the back. The legs are relatively longer than most pigs. Males have 3 pairs of “warts,” 1 near the eyes, 1 on the snout and 1 pair on the lower jaw. The female’s two pair of warts are smaller, with none on the snout. The eyes are set high on the head. They have a typical pig’s disc-like nose pad. The hooves are relatively small, with four toes on each foot. Digit 2 and 5 are reduced, more so on the hind. They have a relatively long, tasseled tail.
Warthogs use grasslands and open woodlands across most of sub-Saharan Africa. The Desert is on the Ethiopia/Somali border south into Kenya. The Common is widely distributed across Central and most of Southern Africa. Both species occupy areas much drier than other pigs, but the Common – apparently – does not inhabit the drier range of the Desert Warthog. Regardless, they are usually within walking distance of water.
- Wild – Warthogs, more specialized than most pigs, are primarily grazers. They do root, taking bulbs, rhizomes and various worms and insects.
- Zoo – Grass hay and alfalfa, vegetables and greens.
Warthogs are over-all gray but may look red or some other color from wallow-ing. Young animals have white wart whiskers. Newborns have a hint of striping.
Warthogs are diurnal. Their temperature tolerances are limited and a deep burrow is essential. The burrows are used for protection from fluctuations in temperature and humidity as well as predators. The young go into the burrow head first, as they are able to turn around inside, but the adults back in – weapons facing out. Warthogs can dig but a used burrow is preferred. Most abandoned burrows created by Aardvarks are taken over by Warthogs. Warthogs prefer short succulent grasses, which they pluck with the lips and “unique” incisors. Longer grasses are pulled with the teeth. The tusks are not used to dig. The hard-edged, well-muscled snout is used to root food, particularly during the dry season or after fires.
Warthogs do wallow. Coating the body with mud acts as insect repellent and sun screen. The tail is an effective fly-swat and it telegraphs mood. They run with the tail standing straight up. If the mane is raised, it is for intimidation. The mane is laid down flat in appeasement. In friendly encounters, they greet nose to nose. All pigs are highly vocal. Home range territories and other members of one’s band are marked, with preorbital glands. They live in groups of females and young. With safety in numbers, several families may travel together. The band associations are loose. Sexually active males are primarily solitary while non-breeding males form bachelor groups.
Because of their rather long legs, Warthogs are quite fast if they have to run. They kneel to graze and usually rise hind quarters first to stand. Callosities, present on the carpal (wrist) joints, are not just calluses, they develop before birth, much like those in camels. The eye-placement, high on the skull, allows for keen vision even when kneeling.
Pigs generally have a simple stomach, much like humans. Pigs have bunodont teeth, also similar to humans, with fairly high crowns. As the animal matures, however, warthog premolars are lost and the 1st and 2nd molars regress. The 3rd molar moves forward and enlarges. Older animals have one huge molar in each jaw. Tusks are ever-growing canine teeth. Tuskless sub-adults, especially males, have white hair tufts on the lower warts that are lost as the animal matures. Why is not known and one author suggests they give illusion of tusks. However, a sub-adult would not want to advertise tusks if he was not ready to spar. Perhaps the illusion is for predators.
Vision is poor but hearing and sense of smell are excellent. Warthogs scent-mark with lip glands and preorbital glands. The upper tusks grow out, up, and around the snout. The lower tusks are short and sharp. Both tusks are triangular in cross-section. The short, stout, lower tusks are used for defense. With the mouth closed, the upper and lower tusks occlude together, forming a diamond and the upper tusks are thus back-stopped during the ritual sparring. Females sometimes spar also.
Warthog warts serve to protect the eyes and jaw from the hammer-like punches delivered during ritualized head duels. Contests of strength are usually tusk-to-tusk and forehead-to-forehead pushing matches. Low sideways blows are wicked and violent fights are bloody, but such escalations are rare. These sorts of mouth-open blows are usually reserved for confrontations with predators. Lower tusks are sharp weapons that will produce huge gashes. The mouth is usually kept closed during ritualized sparring, with the upper and lower tusks clamped together.
Breeding & Growth
Breeding is heralded by lip-gland pheromones. Gestation is 170-175 days and, even though the female has 4 mammae, she usually delivers only 2 precocial piglets. She leaves them in a grass-lined burrow during the day, returning 2 or 3 times to suckle them. They emerge from the burrow at 2 weeks, but stay close and dive back in if alarmed. They eat grass almost immediately and, keeping close physical contact with the mother, they begin to follow at 6 or 8 weeks. They are sexually mature at about 18 months, but males do not breed for about 4 years. They have to earn the right by physical prowess, and their tusks are not well developed until about 5 years. Wild longevity is up to 10 years, but 15 or more in captivity.
Adult male lions have the well-known mane only in adulthood, after several years of growth and strength-gaining. Young second-year males have a very scraggly appearance. Adult males out-size females by a small but significant amount. Lions are extremely powerful cats with enormous forelimbs that can break a cow’s neck. Their massive build makes them largest of all cats except for the largest of the Siberian tigers.
- Historical – Northern India, the Middle East (even Mediterranean area) and Africa.
- Current – Sub-Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest belt. A remnant population of the Asiatic subspecies is found in Northwest India, in the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. A re-introduced population, in another protected park, is not yet established.
Lions are tawny to yellow-cream, often with individual hairs darker at the tip. The abdomen and insides of legs are cream to white. The backs of the ears are dark brown to black, with no white ‘follow-me’ spots. The male’s mane is tawny to reddish-brown or black, with variations based on family lines as well as region. The coat of immature animals has a pattern of light brown rosettes that fades as they mature, although vestiges may remain on the lower abdomen and legs of adults. Lion eyes are a golden brown.
The tawny coat can tend towards light (nearly white) or dark, and fully black melanistic lions (as in black leopards (Panthera pardis) or black jaguars (Panthera onca)) have been seen. These animals, much like the white tigers, seldom live long past independence from their mother, if they leave the pride, because the odd coloration may not be accepted by others, and it may also make it difficult for them to camouflage when hunting.
- Wild – Most Lion prey weighs 110-1100 lbs. Lions are opportunistic feeders (as are most predators), and are known to take rodents, hares, birds, reptiles and large insects, as well as their usual large antelope or zebra prey.
- Zoo – Prepared Feline Diet with fasting one day a week. Knuckle bones on fast days.
Hunting may take place day or night. The lion pride is highly organized and, like most cats, they head-butt in greeting. The pride consists of 4-12 related adult females, their offspring and 1- 6 adult males. The pride may break into in groups called “companionships” within the pride’s home range. These sub-prides function independently but may come together for cooperative hunts. Males do hunt, but their primary duty is to protect the pride and its territory from interloping rival males. Bigger and slower adult males seldom join female hunts. Females and sub-adult cubs do most of the cooperative hunting. When food is scarce, males eat first, then females then cubs. As many as ¾ of non-nursing cubs die of starvation before they reach 2 years of age. Because they hunt cooperatively, lions kill more healthy prey than other carnivores.
The fact that lions band together is a very unusual behavior for cats. Although sibling groups of other cat species will do so, lions are the only cats that regularly hunt cooperatively. The basic reason behind such behavior goes to the kind and size of animals they prey upon. Despite the cat-equipment, so perfect for dealing with prey half the size of the predator, prey as big, bigger than, or significantly bigger than the predator calls for more … more claws, more teeth, more cats.
Lions often act the scavenger rather than the hunter, and their favorite source of someone else’s kill is hyenas. Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta), long thought to be premier scavengers, have proven to be very efficient hunters. Hyenas and lions go back and forth with the you-steal-from-us and the we-steal-from-you activities. Which group, pride or pack, is successful at the vanquish-and-steal depends upon which group is larger at the time. Researchers have documented on-going rivalries between lions and hyenas occupying the same territory. Another favorite target for theft is cheetahs.
The lion is a typical cat in over-all structural adaptations. Grappling-hook claws and the ability to supinate the palm make subduing prey easier. Extra-heavy bone in the skull and limbs, coupled with team hunting, allows the taking of extremely large prey. Lions, for example, can withstand a kick to the head from a zebra. Lion color blends with the dry grasses of their habitat. Male manes may deter hunting success, but, more importantly, they are a deterrent to injury. Wolf-ruffs serve the same purpose, shielding the neck of combatant males from the long canines. Most scuffles are huge amounts of sound and fury, with little serious injury. Juvenile males have very scraggly manes that take years to grow to fullness. Young males cannot afford to advertise themselves as males until they are large enough and mature enough to face reigning males in any contest of strength and endurance.
Breeding & Growth
Female lions can breed several times a year, but a mother will not produce her next litter until her cubs are about 2 years old. If her entire litter dies, she will mate again soon after the death of last cub. When lactation stops, the next estrous begins. A male that displaces a “reigning” pride-male will kill the suckling cubs. They are not his and bringing the female into estrous ensures that she will bear his offspring. Cubs are very small at birth – less than 1% of adult weight. An average litter is three or four cubs. Cubs suckle for 6 months or more, but start eating meat at about 3 months of age. The pride females rear their young together and will suckle cubs other than their own. The pride male is very tolerant of his own cubs, even allowing them to climb on him or tug on his tail.
Today’s elephants are a remnant species, the last of order Proboscidea. The order name refers to the proboscis – the trunk. There are two species, the African and the Asian (Elephas maximus), that have traditionally been accepted. All elephants are gray (though Asians often show de-pigmentation), but any elephant can look red or gray-green or charcoal because of a recent dust-bath.
Adult elephants process about 300 pounds of plant material a day, but digestive efficiency is low. Elephants must have at least one foot on the ground at all times and they cannot jump, trot or gallop. A charge is a rapid, shuffling that looks like running on the fronts and walking in the back, at 11 mph. Standing on hind legs, elephants can reach very high with the trunk, and food-gathering is assisted by the dorsal and ventral trunk ‘fingers.’
Scattered African elephant populations occur across sub-Saharan Africa. Preferring the more brushy Acacia woodland savannas, some frequent heavily forested areas and a few populations inhabit parts of the Kalahari Desert. They prefer to be near water, but well-worn paths cross some long distances from feeding areas to water-ways.
Wild – Elephants are herbivores that primarily browse, taking fruit when available.
Zoo – Oat grass, plus bamboo and tree browse, and various fruits and vegetables.
The trunk is obvious, but the short neck is often overlooked as the reason for having the trunk. The neck is short to better support the very heavy head. The head is not as heavy as it might be, because the skull around the brain is not solid. It is laced with sinuses, air bubbles that add size but not weight. Elephants are indeterminate in growth. Even a geriatric bull is adding millimeters to his size every year. The fact that the cheek-teeth come in sequentially instead of vertically (as human teeth do) allows the ever-growing jaw to always accommodate teeth of suitable size. The teeth progress along the jaw in a conveyor-belt manner, each moving forward as the one in front wears out and is either spit out or swallowed. The 6th and final tooth in each quadrant is the size of a large loaf of bread and will last 30 or more years.
Breeding & Growth
Gestation is 22 months, and the single calf is very small, seldom over 200 pounds. The cow will move a short way away from the herd to deliver and the calf must stand within minutes of birth. They must quickly rejoin the herd. The new calf will suckle within the hour but will take days to ‘gain control’ over its trunk. The development of an elephant over its life can be compared to that of humans. A teenager is a teenager, and wisdom lies with the elderly. Elephant societies are matriarchal, the oldest (most knowledgeable) females leading the extended family groups.