Friday, May 15, 2015

BRACHIOSAURUS: Ask Questions



One of the best known Dinosaurs is Brachiosaurus, who was featured in the move, “Jurassic Park,” (Spielberg, 1993). This giraffe-like Dinosaur blew snot out of his nasal opening in the middle of his forehead, onto the people below. Small wonder since Brachiosaurus belonged to the Family of Dinosaurs called Macronaria, who are noted for their long necks and big noses.
            However, the movie got the function of this opening wrong. The big hole on the forehead of Brachiosaurus was probably not used for blowing snot out. The nasal opening at the end of his snout was for that. The hole in his forehead had other uses: what they were are hotly debated by modern paleontologists. The earliest naturalists believed that it acted as a snorkel since they thought that Brachiosaurus lived underwater. When that theory was proven false, then the scientists said that the forehead cavity was for breathing and blowing out snot. When that hypothesis was questioned, some paleontologists then reasoned that the tissue in the opening was a thermostat to regulate heat. Others think that perhaps it was used as a sound sac. More than likely, his forehead opening probably had multiple uses.
            Discovered in Colorado in 1900, Brachiosaurus (which means “arm reptile”) was named by Elmer Riggs, a noted paleontologist, three years later. In examining the fossil bones, he noted that they resembled a modern giraffe’s skeleton. In fact, this Dinosaur is known for having the longest front legs of any animal. (They were higher than his rear legs.) With his steeply sloping back and long neck, Brachiosaurus did resemble a giraffe. Since He was the first of his type of Dinosaur to be discovered, other similar fossils were usually classified with Him, which led to some confusion. For example, Giraffatitan, found in Tanzania, by Werner Janensch in 1906, has been the object of intense debate. Are Giraffatitan and Brachiosaurus, the same or different species? Adding to this debate is that much of what people know about Brachiosaurus comes from studying Giraffatitan.
            In reconstructing his life, paleontologists think that Brachiosaurus did live like a giraffe. With his immense height and long neck, He could graze the tops of trees. To pump blood so high up to his head, Brachiosaurus probably had the same circulatory system as Giraffe. Unlike Giraffe though, Brachiosaurus had a sharp claw on the inner toe on each of his feet. With it, he could uproot plants for eating.
            Seeing beyond the obvious is what Brachiosaurus teaches. The big hole on his forehead first encouraged people to imagine Him snorkeling under the water. Later they believed He blew snot out of it. Today, scientists are not really sure what all of its uses are. Brachiosaurus encourages people not to assume the obvious, but to investigate and ask questions. Remember that just because He is tall, does not mean that Brachiosaurus plays basketball.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

RED-EARED SLIDER: Sociability

Unique among North American turtles, Red-Eared Slider has red patches by his ears, which gives Him a distinctive look. Preferring a quiet pond with a muddy bottom, Red-Eared Slider spends hours basking on a log with his Friends. They climb on top of each other in stacks of three or four. When one of Them senses trouble, They all slide into the water with a graceful plop. Red-Eared Slider’s name comes from his ability to quickly retreat by sliding off his log. Although He has poor hearing, Red-Eared Slider is sensitive to vibrations, and knows when someone is sneaking up on Him and his Friends.

Red-Eared Slider dislikes wandering far from his home. He sleeps at night resting on the bottom of his pond or floating on the surface. During the winter, He hibernates in the mud of his pond. The only time, Red-Eared Slider leaves his pond is to find a mate.

Because of his extroverted personality and hardy nature, Red-Eared Slider has been exploited heavily for the pet trade. Since many people could not care for Him, they released Him to the wild, wherever they lived. Originally from midwestern United States, Red-Eared Slider now can be found in Bahrain, France, Guam, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.K.

Most people prefer to see Red-Eared Slider at his pond, home in North America. Watching a stack of Sliders sunning Themselves on a warm spring day is a joy to see. Hearing Them go ‘plop, plop, plop’ in the water is a musical sound. A pond without Red-Eared Slider is no pond at all, only a small body of water.

Many Turtles prefer being solitary, but not Red-Eared Slider. He delights in the company of his Friends. He suns Himself on a log with a few of his Friends. Red-Eared Slider teaches how to be sociable.
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Female Red-Eared Sliders are larger than males, while the males have long claws to stroke the female’s face during courtship.

Conservation Note: Because people have released Red-Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) into the wild in France, it is now illegal to sell or import them in that country. Red-Eared Sliders are also a problem in the U.K. since they compete with the native species.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Myth of Romulus and Remus for modern people

The founding myth of the City of Rome centers on the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. This myth encompasses the circumstances of their birth, their coming of age, and the death of Remus by his brother. What makes this myth remarkable, for me, is that this is essentially the creation myth for ancient Romans. The myths of Romans usually focused on civic ethics or piety toward the Gods. (Any myth that detailed the creation of the world was usually adapted from the Greeks.) This founding myth presents the belief of the Romans that they were called to a greater destiny in the world. However, they were unsparing in highlighting that Romulus murdered his brother or that the original Romans were criminals.

 The elements of this myth are twins with a divine parentage: in their case, Mars, the God of War. Their royal grandfather is overthrown, and their mother is made a Vestal Virgin. The twins are sent out to be killed by their great uncle, but are saved through magical intervention. A wolf rescues them and nurses them until they are found. A childless couple, Faustulus and his wife adopts the twins and raise them as shepherds. When the brothers are grown, they get into trouble with the king’s men. When they were taken before their great uncle, who happens to be the king, Romulus kills him, and reinstates their grandfather and frees their mother. Afterwards, the brothers leave to find their own fortune. Along the way, they argue over where to establish their new city. Goaded into fury by Remus, Romulus kills his brother. Filled with remorse, he buries Remus with great pomp, and then founds The City of Rome.

 Because of my brain injury, writing fiction is difficult. Imagining characters and constructing a plot is hard. However, I can read fiction, and my favorite genre is crime noir. I decided to rewrite the myth of Romulus and Remus in that form. Comparing this Roman myth to pulp fiction, it sounds like something from the stories of American organized crime. Keeping the original Roman names, I rewrote the myth as crime noir.

 In the City of Alba Longa, the Numitor Crime Family ruled the criminal underworld. The head of the Family, Don Numitor was so powerful that he had a seat on the National Commission, which ruled the criminal underworld of the nation. The head of the Commission (the Boss of Bosses) was Don Maroni (Mars, the God of War). In addition, Don Maroni was interested in Rhea Silvia, Don Numitor’s daughter.

 Meanwhile, Amulius seized control of the Family from his unsuspecting brother. After his coup,
Amulius confined Numitor to his home, and forced his niece into a convent. To ensure that Rhea Silvia remained at the convent, Don Amulius bribed the Mother Superior.

 After Don Maroni found out where Rhea Silvia was, he also bribed the Mother Superior to ensure that his visits were unimpeded. In a few months, Rhea Silva became pregnant. Therefore the Mother Superior asked Don Amulius to come and fetch his niece. After he arrives, she informs him that the father of his niece’s children is none other than Don Maroni. Not willing to offend the Boss of Bosses, Don Amulius imprisons her with her father in their house.

 However, Don Amulius regarded her children to be a different matter. He would tell Don Maroni, that the two boys died at birth. Meanwhile, he ordered one of his men to “take care” of them. The goon dumped the twins into the Tiber River. They floated downstream until a stray dog paddled out and pulled them to land. Since she had lost her puppies, the mangy dog nursed the boys as her own. Then, a passing farmer heard their cries, rescued them, and took the babies to his farm. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised Romulus and Remus as their own sons.

 Like many young men, Romulus and Remus longed to leave the farm and go into the city. During a trip to Alba Longa, Romulus and Remus got into trouble. Don Amulius’ men dragged them to the “Padrino,” Don Amulius, since Remus had killed their Capo (Crew Boss). However, Romulus escaped, and formed a gang of toughs to storm Don Amulius’ office to rescue his brother. In the melee that followed, he killed Don Amulius.

 The Underboss of the Amulius Family recognized the two brothers as the children of Rhea Silva and Don Maroni. Because of this, he offered them the position of Don of the Family. But, Romulus decided that his grandfather be reinstated instead, and their mother freed. After reuniting with their mother, and learning who their father was, Romulus and Remus set out to start their own crime family, in another city.

 Empowered by being the sons of Don Maroni, the two brothers gathered an impressive group of criminals. As they searched for a suitable city, Romulus and Remus fought with each other. Arriving at a likely town, their arguing became more intense about who would be boss of the new crime family. After Romulus claimed that he received a sign from their father, he decided that this small town is the place to start their Family. Moreover, he announced that he would be the Don. Chagrined at being ignored by his brother, Remus taunted him for being so stupid to set up “business” in such a small town. Enraged, Romulus killed him. After ruing the murder of his brother, Romulus gave Remus a magnificent funeral. Then, he became Don Romulus, the head of the Rome Family, his new crime organization.

Works used.
 Garcia, Brittany, “Romulus and Remus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 4 October 2013. Web. http://www.ancient.eu/Romulus_and_Remus/.
“Roman Mythology,” Myths Encyclopedia. 2015. Web. http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Pr-Sa/Roman-Mythology.html.
 “Roman Mythology,” United Nations of Roma Victrix History. 2015. Web. http://www.unrv.com/culture/mythology.php.
 Watson, Donald, “Roman Mythology.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 10 December 2014. Web. http://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Mythology/.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN Second Chances

Photo by Willem M. Roosenburg, Ph.D., Ohio University.
Diamondback Terrapin gets His name from the diamond-shaped patterns on his carapace (upper shell). This freshwater Turtle lives in brackish water along the Atlantic coast of the United States.

Unlike Marine Turtle, Diamondback Terrapin cannot drink seawater because his body cannot excrete salt. However if the Turtle stays only in fresh water, He will develop a skin fungus.

Diamondback Terrapin spends most of the day in the water, floating on his back (carapace down). The Turtle keeps his body steady with his powerful hind legs. At night, the Terrapin buries Himself in the mud for warmth.

Relentlessly hunted for His meat, Diamondback Terrapin was brought to near extinction in the early 20th Century. What saved the Turtle was the American Prohibition on alcohol during the 1920s, because alcohol is needed in cooking the turtle meat. At the same time, U.S. federal and state laws were passed to save the Turtle. Today, Diamondback Terrapin has recovered in numbers, although He will never be as numerous, as He once was.

Diamondback Terrapin teaches about having a second chance. Once you get another chance, take it and do all that you can with it. With His second chance, Diamondback Terrapin came back from near-extinction.
Diamondback Turtle’s Wisdom includes:
Sociability
Wariness
Gentleness
Mild-Manneredness
Living “Betwixt and Between”
Not Giving Up
 
For more information on this amazing turtle: Maryland State Reptile

Monday, April 20, 2015

FRESHWATER AND SEMI-AQUATIC TURTLES: Hidden Surprises in Common Things

 EMYDIDAE SUB-FAMILY: FRESHWATER AND SEMI-AQUATIC TURTLES

The most successful of all Turtle Sub-Families are Emydids. This Sub-Family is split into two groups – Emydinae that includes pond turtles, sliders, map turtles, and terrapins, and Batagurinae that includes leaf, box, and wood turtles. Although Emydids live on all the continents except Australia and Antarctica, most of Them can be found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Emydids are a group of homogeneous Turtles with moderately flattened shells. The plastrons (bottom half) of their shells are large and sometimes hinged. They can close their shells completely. However their main characteristic is their short necks. In addition, Emydids are surprisingly hardy and long-lived, with an average lifespan of forty years.

Largely freshwater and semi-terrestrial turtles, Emydids usually spend their time between land and water. They prefer living near marshes, rivers, and lakes. Although Emydids are considered to be water turtles, Box Turtle, who lives mainly on land, is included in their number.

One thing that makes Emydids extraordinary is how well They thrive in spite of having so many enemies. Their nests are raided by various Mammals. Snakes and Shore Birds eat Juvenile Emydids. Alligators and people eat the Adults. Somehow Emydids survived through it all, and still remain prolific throughout the world. They are so prevalent that when people think “turtle”, they usually picture a typical Emydid.

Most Emydids have a subtle characteristic that identifies Them. Red-Eared Sliders have red patches by each ear. Diamondback Terrapins have a diamond pattern on their shells. Spotted Turtles have spots on their shells. Emydids also have distinctive personalities. Wood Turtles are extroverted while mild-mannered Spotted Turtles are shy.

The ordinariness of Emydids hides many surprises. Box Turtles usually live longer than a century. Map Turtles have intricate patterns of yellow on their shells that resemble maps. Look carefully at ordinary things and you will find hidden surprises.

Take time to read what individual Emydid teachers have to teach.

Monday, April 06, 2015

MATAMATA: Stealth and Craftiness

The most unusual Turtle in the world is Matamata, who lives in the Amazon and Orinoco River Systems of South America. Instead of looking like a typical Turtle, He resembles a pile of debris. When a Fish nibbles on the fibrous parts of Matamata’s head, He springs into action. Expanding his huge mouth, He vacuums up the unfortunate Fish. Expelling the excess water, Matamata then swallows Fish whole.

Having a sedentary but predatory way of life on muddy river bottoms is reflected in his unusual features. Matamata has a snorkel for a nose and leaf-like skin flaps covering his head and neck. His powerful back supports his neck to enable Him to vacuum up his prey. (Matamata belongs to the Side- Necked Turtle Family (Pleurodira).) With his sixth sense, He detects water vibrations. Living at the bottom of dark waterways, Matamata never basks in the sun like other Turtles.

In their various languages, the Amazon Indians refer to Matamata as “I Kill”. Blending with his surroundings, Matamata waits for an unsuspecting Fish to swim by. He remains still as Fish snacks on his head. Suddenly without notice, He will suck the surprised Fish up into his mouth. In other times, Matamata will herd Fish into a pen. A poor swimmer, He walks along the bottom of the muddy water herding the Fish. When He finally corners the Fish, Matamata vacuums Them up.

Matamata uses stealth and cunning to catch Fish. Looking like a pile of leaves, He deceives a Fish into thinking He is a tasty snack. Matamata quietly waits for the unwary Fish to start nibbling. Springing to life, He sucks the stunned Fish into his mouth. Learn how to be crafty from Matamata.

Monday, March 30, 2015

COMMON SNAKE-NECKED TURTLE! LONG-NECKED TURTLE: Being Flexible

Common Snake-Necked Turtle is another “unique” animal from Australia (“Down Under”). Known in Australia as “Long-Necked Turtle”, She can extend her head and neck longer than the length of her shell. Resting at the bottom of a pond, Common Snake-Necked Turtle stretches her long neck and pokes her head above the water’s surface. She searches for a meal this way.

Exclusively a meat eater, Common Snake-Necked Turtle hunts in slow-moving water. During the day, She actively hunts for Frogs and Crayfish (known in Australia as Yabbies). Set unusually far forward, her eyes give Her accurate vision for hunting. Spying a fat Frog, Common Snake-Necked Turtle swims up to Him. While drawing her long neck back into an S-shape, She springs forward. Halting alongside Frog, She opens her mouth wide causing water and Frog to flow inside.

Australians also call Common Snake-Necked Turtle “Stinker”. When caught, She sprays stink fluid as far as three feet (one meter) at her captor. Ever resourceful, Common Snake-Naked Turtle uses her “stink” to defend Herself.

When Common Snake-Necked Turtle decides to move, She will ramble with her Friends over dry land looking for water. When She sights a pond, She heads straight for it. Not fussy, Common Snake-Necked Turtle will live in new man-made ponds.

Common Snake-Necked Turtle teaches flexibility. Not only does She have a flexible body, she also has a flexible life. She rambles from pond to pond. She will even defend Herself by spraying stink (uncommon for a Turtle). Learn how to be flexible with your body and your life from Common Snake-Necked Turtle.