Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Farewell Halo: The Kitten Who Disappeared At The Crack Of Dawn

Halo's disappearance June 23, 2011


I believe this is Achoo
I saw a small shadow outside my bedroom window near the bowls of cat food.  A quick glance and my heart raced. Could it be Halo, the fragile sick kitten I've sought for a couple days now? As  I focus my glance, and the shadow takes form, I realize I've mistaken a pigeon for Halo. Maybe it's the pigeon's brown feathers. Halo's coat was a darkish gray but with a hint of orangey-brown that made her seem to glow in the sun. Her coat was lighter than her siblings' and made her stand out more  so I named her Halo.  

My longing has allowed my mind to play tricks on me. The night after her disappearance (a Wednesday) I searched outside for her tiny emaciated form. I walked near a small trailer usually attached to the back of my step-father's jeep. I remember Halo hiding underneath, near the wheels. I always tried to lure her out so I could give her treats, or just simply to clean her face. I hoped that in time she would become comfortable enough with me so I could catch her and take her to the vet.  I bent down to take a look beneath the trailer. Light from the porch hardly penetrates the pitch black of the night. For a moment, I  thought I saw her. I looked again. It was just the tire. A trick of light and darkness, shame on me.

The Halo family at play
I wanted nothing more than to help this sick kitten. I was going to take her to the vet. Two nights ago (a Tuesday), I saw she sought warmth. I found an old towel and brought it to her. She was curled up in a ball on the  soft cushiony lounge chair. I wrapped it around her, and she leaned her little head on top of the towel and continued to sleep.I was so touched by how angelic she looked as she slept. So peaceful, and yet I knew she was ill and on borrowed time. I knew that there were days she hardly moved and would stay in one position for so long. As I gently wiped her faced clean of mucus (which was no simple task since she kept trying to hide), I noted that she was far too weak to draw out her claws. I thought she would get better. Her brother Achoo  was the first sick kitten from the litter, but now he's mischievous and energetic, always meowing for treats. But Halo seemed to share a different fate. As simply someone who has watched over strays trying to help them, despite being very allergic to cats,  I understand that not all will survive. Speeding cars have taken many of their lives, some of which were vaccinated and neutered/spayed.  Yet, it always pained me. Attachment makes all the difference. I've tried my best to train them to stay near. It demands a lot  of patience and time, but those I've taught to stay near are alive. Now it's just a matter of finding them a home just as loving and sweet as they are.

The next morning I decided to check on Halo, because that was the day I would prepare her to take her to the vet. I knew that to keep a sick kitten, that was already frightened, in a cage over night  would only stress her, and that's not what I wanted.  I saw spots on the ground and a small trail. The trail took me down the stairs but disappeared once it reached the grass. 

The siblings always slept together
They say that cats know when they're about to  die and go far away. Almost as if they never existed. And Yet...

I look out my window hoping she will appear. I search the bushes and different hiding places. If she has passed away, then I know she's no longer suffering. If she's alive, then I hope she finds the strength back to me because I vow to get her the help she needs. 

A part of me thinks she wouldn't have made it, even if she was taken to the vet. But there's always that, "What if?"

But for now, I'll just believe that Halo is now in Kitty Heaven where she belongs.







Halo was sweet and enjoyed treats. She would randomly appear a short distance away from the other cats. She was abandoned along with Achoo and Winky at a very young age by her mother. I thought she would grow into a very lovable cat.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walk by faith, not by sight

My papabuelo handed me a book called "Supernatural Healing" by Sid Roth and Linda Josef and asked that I read it. It's a book that highlights the power of faith and its ability to heal.  The entire book consists of testimonies from people suffering from different ailments (Lupus, cancer, paralysis, etc)  or simply those who had lost their way ( one story told of a wealthy drug lord who one day overdosed and nearly died) and how through faith in God they recovered. Some completely recovered from cancer, and not even doctors could explain how it was possible. It was just a miracle. Even more interesting was how a couple stories revolved around doctors who realized the power of believing (one doctor was told that his unborn daughter would be born without half a brain, rendering her mentally challenged. Through faith and prayer, his daughter came into this world as a healthy child). Not all initially believed in God, but later realized the saving grace of believing.

When I first started reading the book, I was a bit skeptical. Honestly, it wasn't my kind of book. Despite attending 10 years of Catholic school and being raised as a Christian ( even though we never go to church, the faith is in our hearts), I had read plenty enough to know the various interpretations of the bible as well as criticisms. In college I learned more about the bible's  historical background and studied the bible as a piece of literature. I had seen many documentaries that simply led me to alter my perception of the bible and religion in general.

Some believe they are healed through the Holy Spirit. Often I have read of the power of  Qi (Chi) and its healing properties. I have  read about and  seen many miraculous encounters in documentaries, books, and in my life. There is no denying that many miracles have occurred.  Maybe it's the power of the mind, a higher power, our energy, deep faith, but whatever it may be, it intrigues me and it exists.

The book harbors sentimental value to me because after I finished reading it and told my papabuelo, he told me, "That book saved my life." Although I didn't say much in response, I couldn't help but take to heart what he told me.  As someone who suffered from kidney cancer  a couple years ago which left him with one kidney, it terrified the family when this year cysts were found on his remaining kidney. Constantly he told us that he was ready to go "home."  So often I laughed aside what he said, scolded him even. I told him that he was going to be okay (as I always do, because I truly believe so). Looking at the scans with him, I admit that a part of me was fearful, but I wouldn't show it. Someone had to be strong. Prior to visiting the doctor, he read that book.When he visited his doctor, he was told he would have to be monitored for half a year, but that he looked fine. What he said to me clicked once more, "That book saved my life." Those words meant so much to me because it was coming from someone who had lost faith. The one who wanted to give up and go home. The one who told me he was going to heaven. Suddenly, he had regained faith. That's why that book is important to me.

Even more recently, my aunt's friend was diagnosed with cancer. She was undergoing dialysis due to kidney failure. My aunt gave her the book to read. She called my aunt and told her she is cancer free (I found out today that she's cancer free, but I'm not exactly sure when she told me aunt). There's something about faith that keeps us going. When you believe in something, when you have something to live for, then even the impossible is possible.

A cousin of mine shared a very touching story with  me, but which I won't disclose. It was a beautiful story that allowed her daughter a chance to live. Truly there is something beyond complete comprehension at works out in the universe and in us.



Never lose faith...Believe in something...Live for something...but never ever give up

Friday, June 24, 2011

There's no sense in giving to a black hole

I came up with that quote during a discussion with a friend regarding selflessness. A black hole is an empty void that pulls in all light and all that enters it (planets, stars, etc), and nothing can escape from it. Now imagine continually making sacrifices for someone to the point that you lose yourself. Never be so selfless that you become a self less (or less than yourself). Now imagine that this person is apathetic and shows little appreciation for the sacrifices made. I explained to my friend that there's a point where you have to stop and realize that as sweet and thoughtful as it may be to harbor that level of consideration for anyone, there are some people who simply take it for granted and people who, quite frankly, don't deserve it.

When you make a sacrifice, you're not doing so with the hope that the other person will kiss your feet and shower you with praise, but you'll just have to be careful of who you choose to be selfless with. It's a terrible sensation to constantly give to someone who is selfish, to someone who sucks out all (correction, who pulls out) the light in you, leaving you feeling empty and insubstantial. At some point, you'll realize that your sacrifices have all been in vain.

So, like I said, there's no sense in giving to a black hole.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Congo: 'The Worst Place on Earth for Women"

"Congo’s child death rate is twice that of sub-Saharan Africa, which is already the highest in the world. Fifteen hundred people continue to die every day as a result of the war. In fact, less than one-half of one percent of the war-related deaths in Congo are violent. The vast majority of the deaths are due to the war’s aftershocks, primarily easily curable illnesses. Almost half of the deaths are children under the age of five." - Lisa Shannon

In 2005, Lisa Shannon is shocked after watching an episode on Oprah about Congo. Determined to make a difference, she runs 30 miles to raise money for Congolese women and begins the movement, Run for Congo Women. She leaves everything behind, (her fiancé, job, house, family) to help Congolese women. She truly is a munificent woman  that has touched the hearts of many and is beloved to Congolese women.


So I read "A Thousand Sisters" by Lisa Shannon that details her courageous journey into Congo to help women who suffer from the various atrocities committed by rivaling militias that raid villages indiscriminately killing women, children (even babies), and men, burn down houses, loot the villages, and rape a majority of the women (to the point that one individual in the book said rape was cultural).

“You don’t consider rape a security threat for returning refugees?”


"Rape here is so common,” she says. “It's cultural. 


Truly the barbarity that occurs in Congo are appalling.  In Shannon's account, one woman, Generose, saw her husband shot to death, had her leg chopped off with a machete, and saw her son refuse to eat a piece of her and he was, thus, shot. There are many horrors permeating throughout their lives, and yet...

Despite all the crimes committed against them, despite all their losses, despite all their fears,  they manage to forge a community filled with love. Many women, although they have nothing, still take in orphaned children and try their best to care for them.  They push forward and make the most of what they have,  share what little they possess,  and value what matters most: one another.


Please watch this short video. It's remarkable.





Also visit: http://athousandsisters.org/

On the site, you can learn more about the sisters, a bit about the history of what's transpiring in Congo, about what you can do to help, read news articles, and even read her blog! Definitely check it out.


Note: I had some amazing quotes I hoped to shared but since my kindle is now defective, apparently none of my highlights registered online (wonderful). In any case, please check out her book. It truly is inspirational.

"Congo is one of my favorite places on Earth. You have the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity." -Zainab Salbi, Women for Women International Founder








Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bon Appetit?

While watching a BBC documentary discussing the Kombai's unique treehouse building skills, they also mentioned that the tribe, at times, they eat sago grubs. I. then, recalled watching a show, of which the name escapes me, where the host tastes various exotic foods from around the world. Here are some that I've read about and wondered if I would ever eat. Would you?





1. Sago Grubs- These juicy and plump grubs-- a delicacy in some regions, such as Papua New Guinea (location of the Kombai tribe) and Malaysia (where sago grubs can be found nicely packaged)--are found in the rotten trunk of the sago palm. They are in the larva stage of the Red Palm Weevil. If eaten raw, it is recommended that you bite the head off first (the dark area of the grub) because they have teeth. They become a bit feisty if you touch their head and can bite you. However, you may also enjoy them slow-roasted over a warm fire or fried. Apparently, they taste like crab, but some say they are slimy and a bit salty.

2. Maggot Cheese (Casu Marzu, formaggio marcio)- Who loves Italian food? I do! But would you try this? If you want to enhance the flavor of cheese (because the maggots release an enzyme that helps the cheese ferment),  try adding some maggots into the mix. Maggot Cheese is quite popular, and illegal, in Sardinia, Italy.The recipe is quite simple. Place the cheese, made of sheep's milk, to rot in the hot sun, and then allow insects to lay their eggs. You'll know it's ready once it is covered with lots of maggots. These little guys soften the cheese. You can remove the maggots or enjoy this delicacy with some extra nutrition!  Warning: If you choose to eat with maggots, maggots may try to jump in your eyes so it is recommended that you cover your eyes. Also, be mindful that the maggots live in the cheese and so will also defecate in it...just some food for thought :) If the maggots are dead, then it should not be consumed as it is dangerous and toxic.

3. Baby Mice Wine -  When I read " A Hundred Secret Senses" by Amy Tan I recall her mentioning baby mice wine as well as balut (fertilized duck embryo). The wine, typically found in Korea and China, is so fresh that actual baby mice lie, visibly, at the bottom of the bottle for your viewing pleasure.  Newly born mice (no more than 3 days old) are torn away from their mother's teat, drowned in rice wine, and left to ferment for about a year. Some say it tastes like gasoline. It is believed to have healing properties, possibly curing liver problems and asthma issues. Warning: You may swallow a mouse.






















4. Balut ( Fertilized Duck Egg)


Who doesn't yearn to one day try an almost fully developed embryo? Apparently, this dish--popular mostly in Asia--is very delicious and is believed to be an aphrodisiac. In order for the fetus to develop, it's essential to keep the eggs warm. For this reason, the eggs are placed in the sun to absorb heat and then transferred to baskets to keep the eggs warm.  About 9 days later the embryo is revealed upon shining a light on the egg, meaning that in 8 days it will be ready to be boiled  and consumed. Enjoy the feathery goodness of soft-boiled duck fetus.


5. Codfish Sperm

First of all, I have to admit that I am glad to know that we can eat almost anything and survive. The creamy texture of the codfish sperm dish melts in your mouth. It is believed that it boosts one's stamina. There are plenty of photos that show that it can be prepared in a manner that looks appetizing. Dismiss the brain-like appearance, because it is is a delicacy in some parts of Asia, and you might actually enjoy it. Don't knock it until you've tried it, right?






6. Goliath Tarantulas-

So I'm not fond of spiders, and even less so of tarantulas. When I saw a couple of Venezuelan kids hunt for goliath tarantulas-- the largest of all spiders-- simply bend back their legs and roast them over a fire for dinner, I was pretty impressed. Not only are these spiders the most poisonous, they also have large fangs and they shoot out hairs that irritate the skin by causing a stinging sensation. According to the BBC documentary on jungles, they taste like crab.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ancient Futures: Ladakh





Taken from Project Himalaya
Helena Norberg-Hodge author of "Ancient Future: Learning From Ladakh"spent years in Ladakh (since 1975) during which she witnessed the beauty of their culture as well as its slow decline caused by the pressures of modernization. The documentary above is based on her book.

Ladakh (Little Tibet)--located on the Western border of the Tibetan Plateau in a desert-like place that seems almost inhospitable--is a culture (over a thousand years old) centered on traditions and strong family values. They foster the virtues of unity, equality, and respect for one another and the earth (which provided them with precious natural resources). Despite the lack of a monetary system, they lived peacefully, happily, and without greed. Before assimilation into Western culture, neither waste nor poverty existed in Ladakh's small community. The magnetic pull of the Western dream of wealth and power disrupted their peaceful way of life. While it works for us, their environment demands a different type of knowledge. For instance, a Western education does not provide them with the means to survive in their own society that demands intricate knowledge of their land. In Helena Norberg-Hodge's 'The Pressure to Modernise" she describes the specific type of knowledge the Ladakhis need that the newer generation lack:

For generation after generation, Ladakhis grew up learning how to provide themselves with clothing and shelter; how to make shoes out of yak skin and robes from the wool of sheep; how to build houses out of mud and stone. Education was location-specific and nurtured an intimate relationship with the living world. It gave children an intuitive awareness that allowed them, as they grew older, to use resources in an effective and sustainable way.

None of that knowledge is provided in the modern school. Children are trained to become specialists in a technological, rather than an ecological, society. School is a place to forget traditional skills, and worse, to look down on them...They learn from books written by people who have never set foot in Ladakh, who know nothing about growing barley at 12,000 feet or about making houses out of sun-dried bricks.

Once a community that ate together, built homes together, and shared all they possessed, certain members fell prey to the Western dream, slowly losing their sense of traditions that led to deterioration of the closeness between neighbors and families. As modernization took over, a division of classes evolved along with a high degree of unhappiness. Eventually, respect for land vanished, proven by the contamination of the once pristine rivers and the smell of diesel fuel.  Living is not a matter of community, but of competition. There is no denying that modernization aided them in profound ways, but Helena Norberg-Hodge is saddened to see the decay of crucial relationships, between their fellowmen and the land, in order to embrace a less sustainable way of life.


You can view excerpts from her book at the following site:
http://www.survival.org.au/books_ladakh.php

                             or

You can read her article, "The Pressure to Modernise" here:
http://www.localfutures.org/publications/online-articles/the-pressure-to-modernise


Creative Commons License
Sand-Dollared Cataract by Sofia Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Galapagos: An Evolutionary Wonder

Check out the BBC documentary at the end of this entry. 


Galapagos (Google)


The Wasteland of Life: The Origins of the Galapagos Archipelago

From a fiery pit burst forth the world of the Galapagos Islands. In the Pacific Ocean, a volcanic hotspot boiling at over 2,000 degrees gave birth to the layers upon layers of lava, becoming
barren rock inhospitable to life that, ironically, is responsible for a biodiversity found nowhere else. This chain of 13 main islands demonstrates a natural phenomenon that drastically alters our perception on nature. Here is a world of extremes where each island varies in species diversity, environmental conditions, and means of adaptations.
The Marine Iguana underwater
           Over 500 species are possible because of the hot and cold undercurrents that allow for such high diversity. From high and low, wildlife inhabits the Galapagos creating a complex ecosystem with an elaborate food web. Garden eels, Eagle rays, and Scalloped Hammerhead sharks swam in, while seabirds— attracted to the high level of fish— made this place home. The most miraculous occurrence is the arrival of and evolution of land animals. Those animals that survived the flashflood were abandoned on a wasteland. One type that adapted well was the marine iguana.  They were able to take on the temperature of their environment and thus are used to the heat extremes. The reptiles that were once endothermic evolved to a higher level of amphibian/reptiles; they are now exothermic and can swim underwater for up to fifteen minutes to catch food with its new food resource being algae. No other iguana on this planet shares this unique capability. Such evolution further took place in the diversity of interactions.

Different Island, Different Story of Interactions

Sally Lightfoot crab (Google)
            Where nothing existed, life came to be along with an abundance of species-habitat interaction and species-species interactions. On each island the habitats and interactions are different among species. The different types of soil (textures and depth) and vegetation determine the animals that will live in that habitat.
          Each island is a world of its own, a characteristic resulting from the distance and age among them. When tectonic plates glide over a hotspot, a new island dawns and eventually they move away from each other becoming dormant. From West to East exists a chain from young to old impacting the diversity of life that thrives on the islands. Of these, Fernandina is the youngest and most volcanically active. Fernandina is home to the marine iguanas that can be seen sunning on the rocks. Twelve times older is the largest island, next to Fernandina, Isabella, which was named after the Queen of Spain. It also has a wider range of diversity. Since it has more vegetation, reptiles can be found roaming around. 
Giant Tortoise (Google)
            Examples of interactions are prominent throughout both islands. The iguanas befriend the Sally Lightfoot crabs (parasites that groom them), while tortoises and finches develop a mutualistic symbiotic relationship. The Galapagos finch stands before the Galapagos giant tortoise, and the tortoise stretches out its neck to be cleaned of ticks. In this way, the tortoise is no longer beleaguered with the parasites and the finch has received a scrumptious meal (“Galapagos Tortoise”). While such peaceful interactions are ideal, predators are no strangers to the Galapagos Islands.
Hawk feeding on marine Iguana (Google)
On Santa Cruz, the second largest island of the Galapagos, the Galapagos hawk preys upon seabirds, insects, and female marine iguanas. One prime example of this interaction is that of the marine iguana and the hawk. In a burrow, the female iguana lays her eggs, a process that weakens her ability to guard herself and the burrow. From afar the hawk patiently waits for the moment she decides to return to the marina. The moment she abandons her safe haven, he attacks her by pressing her firmly against the hot sand, which results in heat exhaustion, killing the iguana. While the marine iguana cannot safely breed in this area, the Waved Albatross has found a safe habitat to do so.
Espanola further exemplifies the uniqueness of the Galapagos. The clumsy Waved Albatross breeds nowhere else.  Upon arrival, the male awaits the female for several weeks. Once both are present, a dance ensues consisting of beak fencing, fake preening, and lastly a bow. Nowhere else can the pristine beauty of the Galapagos be found, and yet this only first became acquainted with history in 1535.

How History Embraced the Galapagos
Waved Albatross Courtship (Google)
History was graced with the presence of the Galapagos in 1535 in a letter from father Tomas Berlanga, addressed to the King of Spain.  While the Bishop was sailing to Peru, the ship was swept off course and thus the crew came upon a place that resembled hell. Through his description, Galapagos was transformed into the underworld of a fantasy novel. His letter referred to the island as “a place where it seemed as if God had showered stones.” It was deficient of the resources they needed to survive, such as fresh water. Despite his complaints, the creatures dwelling in this foul land fascinated him: the turtles, iguanas, and birds. This discovery fascinated the Spaniards and eventually became a hideout for pirates as they attacked the Spanish. However, the knowledge of its existence endangered several species.

Humanity’s Inhumanity: Species Endangerment
            At one point in time the Galapagos harbored pirates, and although their reign ended in the 17th century, their impact upon the population growth was drastic. In their desperate search for oil, they preyed upon the majestic sperm whales. Their over hunting proved profitable for them but was costly to biodiversity. The sperm whales were wiped out but are now returning. However, such catastrophic events do not remain in the past and this issue is currently a growing environmental concern.
Google Image
            The fur seals’ “thick luxurious coat” is attracting the greedy eye of hunters.  Such greed has devastating consequences upon the seals, and thus they are at the brink of extinction. Giant tortoises share a similar misfortunate fate. Their meat was valuable for ship travel and as a result their species was almost eradicated. The cruelty persists in the 21st century through migration of people, tourism, and overfishing (“Environmental Issues of the Galapagos”).
            In search of better professions, the islands are being invaded at an alarming rate.
The current population that lives on the island is “more than 20,000” and they are “doubling every eleven years, which means that there will be 40,000 people on the Galapagos Islands by 2014(“Environmental Issues of the Galapagos”). The environment is thus being plagued with garbage which especially pollutes the environment once burned. Furthermore, the people are beginning to exhaust the natural resources. The bleak future of the Galapagos is propelled by the influx of tourists.
         Drawn to the mystery and exoticism of the Galapagos, tourists flood the islands. The joint pressures of residents and tourism lead to “unknown numbers of invasive plant and animal species driving out native species…and habitats are degraded at alarming rates” (“Conservation”). The population growth has had severe effects on the islands’ ecosystem.  Their needs grow in congruous with their population, if not faster.
            The growing population’s insatiable hunger for more has led to overfishing.  The fishing industry provides innumerous jobs to migrants. Sea cucumbers and sharks are in imperil, “both popular in Asian markets for their aphrodisiac or medicinal qualities” (“Environmental Issues of the Galapagos”). While the National Park attempts to enforce their regulations, their good intent is met with opposition from the fishermen. The strife between the two parties is far from over. Fortunately, “the Galapagos Islands are still home to most of the species that lived there before the arrival of humans” (“Conservation”). Furthermore, their everlasting contribution to science is priceless.

And the Theory of Evolution is Born
Finch (Google)
In 1835 the ship’s naturalist, Charles Darwin, was thoroughly immersed in his fascination with the Galapagos. He made the “conviction that the entire earth is in flux.” He began questioning his perception on nature and began collecting specimens from different islands in hopes of understanding the mysteries he encountered. During his exploration he noted that different islands varied in climate and species. On Floriana Island, Darwin met an English man who informed him that the shapes on the shell o f the tortoise show their origin; Tortoises, thus, are an incontestably strong example of evolution in the Galapagos, since the most successful at survival are the ones that “spread throughout the island.” Not only did the tortoises intrigue him, so did the diversity of finches. He collected several finches and took them back to this ship to study.
Tortoises, he noticed, varied in size and shape according to their habitat (or which island they were on). For example, the lush places were home to the Domeback tortoises, the largest of the races, and the Saddledback tortoises were smaller and are located in the drier islands. As for the finches, there were thirteen different species with different sized beaks for specific purposes, each related to their niche. For example, the ones with a pointy beak needed it to get small insects. Overall, tortoises and finches led him to his famous evolutionary theory.

Galapagos: A World in Itself
The Galapagos is a tapestry of life, interwoven with a diversity of species encountered nowhere else on Earth. It is “a natural laboratory for evolution” and the place accredited by Charles Darwin for inspiring his Theory of Evolution. However, the Galapagos is victim to mankind, raising important environmental issues. Overfishing and the influx of tourists and local inhabitants are increasing the degradation of the region and species endangerment.  Hopefully, with stringent regulations and education of the masses on the importance of the ecosystem, the lives and habitats of these species will be safe from extinction.


References:
Note- Most of the information I garnered from watching documentaries.





"Conservancy." Galapagos Conservancy. 9 Apr. 2008            
      
"Environmental Issues of the Galapagos." Galapagos Islands. 2007. Ecuador 
       Explorer.Com Guide to Ecuador, Quito,. 8 Apr. 2008             
        
"GaláPagos Tortoise." Wikipedia. 9 Apr. 2008. 9 Apr. 2008                
               
"Santa Cruz Island." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica     
       Online. 9.  Apr.  2008  



Creative Commons License
Sand-Dollared Cataract by Sofia Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

14 Exotic Animals

Creative Commons License
Sand-Dollared Cataract by Sofia Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

When I was younger I believed that some of the most fascinating animals stemmed from the imagination. While that is true, in our world exists astonishing marvels. While there are countless of amazing animals, here are some that intrigued me.

1. Barreleye Fish: 
Google Image
 Its eyes are in its transparent head, which are the green orbs protruding at the top of its head. Since barreleyes live in the deep ocean, the transparent dome-like head helps collect more light to help them maneuver their way around the dark ocean depths. Also, their eyes look upward, allowing them to detect the movements/silhouettes of prey above them. Studies suggest that they are able to look forward as well to see what they're consuming. 
National Geographic




Yoda (Google)

2. Tube-nosed Fruit Bat:  Yoda-Bat
So a flying Yoda was discovered  hiding out in a rainforest in Papua New Guinea in 2009. It shares the same characteristics of the typical fruit bat, ingesting fruits and dispersing the seeds throughout the rainforest to help new plants grow.






3. Encantado Dolphins: Pink Dolphins!
Google
Google
These dolphins live in the Amazon river. Not all are pink, some are white or gray. Their pink color is due to the expansion of their blood vessels, which helps them release body heat. In other words, the red blood vessels make them appear pink! They can turn their necks 180 degrees due to an unfused vertebrae. Unlike other dolphins, they have a hump on their back, instead of a dorsal fin. They are called Encantado or "Enchanted One" because according to legend the pink dolphin transformed into a handsome young man at night and came ashore to seduce girls using music. Their love affairs often resulted in illicit children.













4. The Mexican Axolotl
When I read the short story "Axolotl" by Julio Cortazar a few years ago, it led me to research what exactly an Axoltol is. I found their faces adorable (ok, some are pretty creepy) because they seem to have a tiny cartoonish smile. In any case, this mole salamander remain in the larval stage meaning they never fully become a salamander. They can grow back body parts torn away or bitten off by predators (making them neotenic) Some people keep them as pets. So who wants one?












5. The Golden Tabby Tiger a.ka. Strawberry Tiger


Their unique coloration is caused by a recessive gene. Strawberry tigers are extremely rare, even rarer than the white tiger. Apparently less than a 100 exist in the world.
 6.  The Dumbo Octopus
Unlike other octopuses, the Dumbo Octopus swallows its prey whole. It earned its name due to the tiny fins on the side of its head that resemble ears, which it uses, along with its arms, to swim.















7.  The Anglerfish: A Courtship To Envy
Male Anglerfish
Female Anglerfish
Have you seen Finding Nemo? Then chances are that you've seen an anglerfish. The lovely overly attractive fish to the right is actually a female. The glowing fishing rod-like object on her head is used to attract prey. Hence, they are called the Fishermen of the sea. The male anglerfish is attached to this Aphrodite, but he's so tiny you hardly notice him. Not sure what he sees in her, but beauty lies in the eye of the beholder no matter how questionable it may be at times. When mating, he attaches himself to the back of the female, biting deeply into her skin and releasing an enzyme that slowly consumes the male as he loses his internal organs and life. His eyeballs, heart, brain and all that is him are sacrificed to fuse the pair together, thus leaving behind a pair of gonads that release sperm. Truly the most romantic of courtships, right?

Can you spot the male?

8. Glass Frog

















These unusual critters have semi-transparent skin that reveals their intestinal tract, heart, and liver. Since they are extremely small, only about 1 inch to 3 inches long, they are difficult to find.












9.  Star-nosed Mole

The Star-nosed Mole has a set of 22 tentacles surrounding its nose. Although they have eyes, they are functionally blind and so use their tentacles to detect its surroundings, find prey (yummy earthworms), and prevent particles from entering its nose. Besides digging tunnels, they are surprisingly great swimmers and also eat fish.






















10. Angora Rabbit
"It's so fluffy I'm gonna die! It's so fluffy!"- Despicable Me
They make great pets, have extremely soft, silky, fur that require a great deal of brushing. Good 
news though, they love being brushed.




















11. Narwhal

The Unicorns of the sea! The tusk protruding from the head of the male arctic whale is actually a twisted tooth projecting from its upper jaw that can grow up to 10 feet long (That's two of me!). Males joust with their tusk to gain dominance or to win over the heart of a female. They weigh almost 2 tons, are between 13-16 feet long (females being smaller, around 13 feet), and can live up to 40 to 50 years.




12.  Yeti Crab  (Kiwa Hirsuta)

Discovered in 2005 near the Easter Islands, the yeti crab has long silky hair covering its legs that contain filamentous bacteria. This fashionista was named after the abominable snowman, the mythological yeti. The use of their hairy pincers has yet to be concretely determined, however they may be used for feeding, mating and possibly to clean out harmful toxins because it lives near hydrothermal vents that release poisonous toxins threatening the lives of some animals.




13.  Sea pig

Aren't these guys adorable? Okay, maybe not.  This pig-slug is actually a clear sea cucumber that can grow up to 4 inches long. They live in the deep ocean in the Pacific Northwest eating particles they find in the sand.










14. Rosey-lipped Batfish



Pucker up, because the rosy-lipped batfish is ready for a kiss :) Off the coast of Costa Rica on Cocos Island this red-lipped beauty awaits. Do not confuse with the
Red-Lipped Batfish

]
red-lipped batfish found on the Galapagos Island. The Rosey-lipped batfish does not swim. Instead it uses its fins to walk.