Thursday, 6 June 2019

What animal am I? -> Hippo


Week 7 of our “What animal am I?” series .…

Clue 1: I am adorably pudgy -> the adoringly pudgy hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth and kill about 500 people in Africa each year.
 
Clue 2: I am related to whales & dolphins! -> Until 1909, hippos were grouped with pigs and other hoofed animals, based on molar (tooth) patterns and their physical resemblance. However modern research with blood proteins, DNA and the fossil records show that the closest living relatives of the Hippos are aquatic mammals like whales, dolphins etc. 

Clue 3: Usain Bolt might outrun me, how about you? -> A hippo can run 30-40km/h on land & “swim” 8km/h … Usain Bolt’s set the  record of 44.72km/h during the 100 meters sprint at the World Championships in Berlin on 16 August 2009. Bolt's average speed over the course of this race was 37.58 km/h… me thinks the hippo might win in a race against me!
  

Evolution: Translated from the ancient Greek it means "river horse”. After the elephant the hippo is the 2nd largest type of land mammal (only rivaled by some large rhinos). The hippopotamus is a large, mostly herbivorous, semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. There are only two species of hippos left: the common hippo and the much smaller pygmy hippo. 

Until 1909, hippos were grouped with pigs and other hoofed animals, based on molar (tooth) patterns and their physical resemblance. However modern research with blood proteins, DNA and the fossil records show that the closest living relatives of the Hippos are aquatic mammals like whales, dolphins etc. from which they diverged about 55 million years ago.



HiPPOPOTAMUS:
Lifespan: up to 40 years (up to 50years in captivity)
Speed: 30 km/h (on land running), “swim” 8 km/h.
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Mass: 1300kg – 1500kg (female) to 1500kg to 1800kg (male), exceptional large males have been reported to weigh up to 3200kg
Height: 1.5m at shoulder
Body length: 3.3m – 5.2m long



-potami or -potamuses ;) More than one hippopotamus are called hippopotami, and 'hippopotamuses', or 'hippos' is also used. ... A male hippo is known as a bull. A female hippo is called a cow, and a baby hippo is called a calf.  A group is called a pod, herd, dale, or bloat.


Appearances: Females and young males are almost indistinguishable and very hard to identify. Common hippos are recognisable by large size barrel-shaped torsos (body), wide-opening mouths revealing large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies and short columnar legs. They are incapable of jumping but do climb up steep banks.

The eyes, ears, and nostrils of hippos are placed high on the roof of their skulls. This allows them to breath and see while the rest of the body is submerged. They can hold their breath for up to six minutes underwater. When completely submerged, their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out.

The jaw hinge is located far back enough to allow the animal to open its mouth at almost 180°. The bite force of an adult has been measured as 8,100 newtons (similar to bench-press 825kg in weights!) and can easily snap a canoe in half with their powerful jaws, Hippos teeth sharpen themselves as they grind together. The incisors can reach 40 cm, while the canines reach up to 50 cm and are only used for combat.

Sunscreen: The hippo has very little hair, but a 6cm think layer of skin which provides great protection. The animals' upper parts are purplish-grey to blue-black, while the under parts and areas around the eyes and ears can be brownish-pink.
Their skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance which is red-coloured. The secretion is sometimes referred to as "blood sweat” but is neither blood nor sweat. This secretion is initially colourless and turns red-orange within minutes, eventually becoming brown.
Nevertheless, this natural sunscreen cannot prevent the animal's skin from cracking if it stays out of water too long.

Biggest killers in Africa: Humans, Mosquitos, Tsetse Fly, Black mamba, Buffalo, & Hippo — the adoringly pudgy hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth and kill about 500 people in Africa each year.

Semiaquatic: Different from all other large land mammals, hippos are of semiaquatic habits, spending the day in lakes and rivers. Proper habitat requires enough water to submerge in and grass nearby. Despite being semiaquatic and having webbed feet, an adult hippo is not a particularly good swimmer nor can it float. It is rarely found in deep water; when it is, they sink to the bottom and move by pushing off the bottom in leaps.

Hippos leave the water at dusk and travel up to 10km inland to graze on short grasses, their main source of food. They spend four to five hours grazing and can consume 36kg of grass each night.
The hippo has a complex three-chambered stomach but does not "chew cud". They can store two days' worth of grass in their stomachs and can go up to three weeks without eating. Hippos are born with sterile intestines, and require bacteria obtained from their mothers' faeces to digest vegetation.

Speed: Though they are stocky animals, hippos can gallop at 30-40 km/h on land but normally trot; and can move at speeds up to 8 km/h in water, typically resurfacing to breathe every three to five minutes. Usain Bolt’s set the  record of 44.72km/h during the 100 meters sprint at the World Championships in Berlin on 16 August 2009. Bolt's average speed over the course of this race was 37.58 km/h

Habitat: Hippos inhabit rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of five to thirty females and young. They emerge at dusk to graze and use the same paths on land which, over prolonged periods, can divert the paths of swamps and channels.
Grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land except if you get between IT and the water.

Territorial: The territories of hippos exist to establish mating rights and dominant males are very protective over their group. To warn off rival males, they open their huge mouths and display their long, curved canines! They also make loud grunts and aggressive splashes in the water.
“Yawning" serves as a threat display. When fighting, male hippos use their incisors to block each other's attacks and their large canines to inflict injuries. 
Hippos mark their territory by defecation. While depositing the faeces, hippos spin their tails to distribute their excrement over a greater area. 

Communication: Hippos appear to communicate vocally, through grunts and bellows, and they may practice echolocation. Hippos have the unique ability to hold their heads partially above the water and send out a cry that travels through both water and air; individuals respond above and under water. Hippos will also express threat and alarm with exhalations.

Cleaning stations: As with fish and turtles on a coral reef, hippos occasionally visit cleaning stations. By opening their month wide, they signal readiness for being cleaned of parasites by certain species of fishes.


STORIES: Hippopotamuses have been the subjects of various African folktales. According to a San story; when the Creator assigned each animal its place in nature, the hippos wanted to live in the water, but were refused out of fear that they might eat all the fish. After begging and pleading, the hippos were finally allowed to live in the water on the conditions that they would eat grass instead of fish and would fling their dung so that it can be inspected for fish bones.

In a Ndebele tale, the hippo originally had long, beautiful hair, but was set on fire by a jealous hare and had to jump into a nearby pool. The hippo lost most of his hair and was too embarrassed to leave the water.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

What animal am I? -> GIRAFFE

Week 6 of our “What animal am I?” series .…Clues during the week -> featured animal revealed on Thursdays.

Clue 1: Insomnia? -> They usually sleep standing, sometimes sitting, curl their necks and sleep for about five minutes at a time, sleeping no more than 30 minutes a day.

Clue 2: built like a battering ram -> Male giraffes fight for females by “necking”. They stand side by side and swing the backs of their heads into each other’s ribs and legs. Their skulls are thick and they have horn-like growths called ossicones on the tops of their heads. Their heads are like battering rams and are capable of breaking their opponents’ bones.

Clue 3: Ruminant -> any of various cud-chewing hoofed mammals having a stomach divided into 4 (occasionally 3) compartments. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions.


GIRAFFE

Did you know: Evolution - around 15 million years ago, antelope-like animals were roaming the dry grasslands of Africa. There was nothing very special about them, but some of their necks were a bit long.

Within a mere 6 million years, they had evolved into animals that looked like modern giraffes, though the modern species only turned up around 1 million years ago. Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth with the okapi being its closest relative.
The Giraffe’s legs alone are taller than many humans—about 1.8m, but their neck is too short to reach the ground.

Giraffe:
Lifespan: 20 – 25 years (in the wild)
Speed: 60 km/h for short sprints & 50 km/h for several km
Scientific name: Giraffa
Mass: 800kg – 1200kg (female – male adult)
Height: 4.3 – 5.7 m (female -male)

Name: “Camelopard" is an old English name for the giraffe deriving from the Ancient Greek for camel and leopard, referring to its camel-like shape & movements and its leopard-like colouring.

Herd: Giraffes live in herds of related females and their offspring, or bachelor herds of unrelated adult males, but are sociable and may gather in large aggregations. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon.

Neck & necking
A giraffe's neck alone is 1.8 – 2.4 m long and weighs about 272 kg. The animal's legs are also around the same length. Their necks are however too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.

Until recently it was assumed that giraffes’ long necks evolved to help them feed, reaching leaves on tall trees that nobody else can reach.  This advantage is real, as giraffes can and do feed up to 4.5 m high, while even quite large competitors, such as kudu, can feed up to only about 2 m high.

Picture: The giraffe (right) and its close relative the okapi (left) both have 7 cervical vertebrae (like us humans!). However the giraffe’s vertebrae’s can EACH be over 28 cm long

New research however has another theory: Male giraffes use their necks as weapons in combat to fight for females by “necking”. They stand side by side and swing the backs of their heads into each other’s ribs and legs. To help with this, their skulls are unusually thick, and they have horn-like growths called ossicones on the tops of their heads. Their heads are like battering rams and are capable of breaking their opponents’ bones. What do you think, plausible?

Horns: Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. The ossicones of females and young are thin and display tufts of hair on top, whereas those of adult male’s end in knobs and tend to be bald on top.

Thick-skinned: The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray. Its thickness allows the animal to run through thorn bushes without being punctured. The fur may serve as a chemical defence, as its parasite repellents give the animal a characteristic scent. However some parasites feed on giraffes and they may rely on oxpeckers to clean them of ticks and alert them to danger.


High Blood pressure: The tallest ever giraffe was 5.8 m tall and to pump blood all the way up its long neck, the giraffe has several adaptations in its cardiovascular system. Its heart, which can weigh about 12 kg and measures 60 cm long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain. Giraffes have unusually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.
Making it the biggest heart in the animal kingdom!

When the animal lowers its head the blood rushes down a complex web of arteries and veins lying very close to each other in the upper neck, prevents excess blood flow to the brain. When it raises again, the blood vessels constrict and direct blood into the brain, so the animal does not faint. The jugular veins contain several (most commonly seven) valves to prevent blood flowing back into the head while the head is lowered.

Legs & movement: The skin of the lower legs is thick and tight preventing too much blood from pouring into them. Their legs are incredibly powerful and each of them ends in a hard, sharp, 30-centimetre hoof. A giraffe can kick in any direction and in a manner of ways and its kick can not only kill a lion.

Unsurprisingly, very few predators bother an adult giraffe. However, in the Kruger National Park, lions have adapted to chase Giraffes across tar roads in the hope they slip so they can get to the Giraffes necks to kill them without exposing themselves to the dangerous kicks.

A giraffe walks like a camel, moving the legs on one side of the body at the same time, then doing the same on the other side. When galloping, the hind legs move around the front legs before the latter move forward. The giraffe relies on the forward and backward motions of its head and neck to maintain balance while galloping. If you have ever watched a giraffe gallop, you will agree – it looks like slow-motion.

Calf:  The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. A new-born giraffe is 1.7–2 m tall. After their +/- 2m drop at birth, the giraffe calf can stand up and walk about an hour later and within a week, it starts to sample vegetation.
Mothers with calves will gather in nursery herds, moving or browsing together. This is known as a "calving pool”.

Habitat: Grasslands and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannahs and woodlands.

Food: A giraffe eats around 34 kg of foliage daily, primarily acacia species. As a *Ruminants*, the giraffe first chews its food, then swallows it for processing and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew again. Giraffes only need to drink once every few days as most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.

*Ruminant*: any of various cud-chewing hoofed mammals having a stomach divided into four (occasionally three) compartments. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions.


Tongue: The giraffe's tongue is about 45 cm long. It is purplish-black in colour, perhaps to protect against sunburn, and is useful for grasping foliage, as well as for grooming and cleaning the animal's nose.

Insomnia: In the wild, giraffes almost never lie down because of vulnerability to predators. They usually sleep standing, sometimes sitting, and they give birth standing up. When giraffes sleep, they curl their necks and sleep for about five minutes at a time, sleeping no more than 30 minutes a day.

Sounds: Whilst it was thought that giraffes did not make any sounds, this is now known to be untrue, as giraffes bellow, snort, hiss and make flute-like sounds, as well as low pitch noises beyond the range of human hearing.