March 2012

Reptiles Versus Amphibians

I have never actually explained the difference between reptiles and amphibians and I think it’s important that people realize that these are two separate branches of the evolutionary ladder. There are many differences between the two and it’s while they may look similar, they are completely different.

Defense

Reptiles can have claws and venomous teeth to defend themselves from predators. You won’t find these on a amphibian. Instead, the can secrete venom from their skin. Reptiles are also more aggressive defenders than amphibians. Reptiles are built for offense and amphibians are built for passive defense.

Colorado Names Salamander As Official State Amphibian

It’s one small step for man and one giant leap for amphibians. (I had to do that joke, it was begging for it.) The state of Colorado now has an official state amphibian and it’s the Western Tiger Salamander.

Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed the legislation after the petitioning of several middle school students. The Western Tiger Salamander can be found in every county in the state and it was only natural for it to make its way to a celebrity.

The salamander is one of the largest of its species in the United States growing to about 9-12 inches and is often found near ponds, streams, marshes and underground burrow during the rainy season and in prairies, forests and fields during the rest of the year.

Amphibians Are Another Sign Of Spring

The weather is getting warmer and the birds are starting to sing, but another tell tale sing that spring is quickly approaching is the return of amphibians. Frogs, toads and other amphibians are coming out in droves now that the weather has finally broke and old man winter has left for another year.

 

As we all know, amphibians are very connected to their environment and perhaps they are as good if not better indicator that winter has left us for the season. Frogs and toads are very sensitive to temperature, humidity and other factors. When the winds of change start blowing, the frogs and toads are the first to say goodbye to winter and hello to spring.

 

The funny thing is that you will hear long before you actually see them. While they may be coming back, the cold night still effect frog and toads, so they will be much less mobile and more likely to be staying in the warm mud and temperate water rather than out in the open. You'll hear the telltale croaking than actually see them. It will still be several weeks before the overnight temperatures are comfortable enough for the amphibians to spend the bulk of their time unsheltered.

Annoying Animal Sounds

Since I recently wrote about animal sounds that I like, I thought I would blog about animal sounds that are annoying. I like most animals, so I had to think a little bit about animal sounds that are annoying. Here's what I came up with:

1. Braying donkey

This can get really annoying. I worked at a wildlife park for about a year, and there was a herd of donkeys on the premises. One or two or more would start braying every morning. It grated on my nerves.

2. Bellering Cow

Unfortunately, I live across the road from a large animal vet. Most of the time he has 15 or 20 cows, bulls and calves in the lot next to his office. I have to put up with a cow bellering or even a bull at night. I have no idea what they are trying to convey, but it's disturbing to me.

Slash, Betty White Star In Amphibian Commercials

Former Gun’s and Roses guitarist Slash and television legend Betty White may seem like strange bed fellows…there’s an image not going away anytime soon… but they have teamed up to give a little extra promotion to the Los Angeles Zoo’s Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles exhibit coming soon.

White has been avid supporter of animals for decades and apparently Slash has soft spot as well. He is on the board of the wildlife center and has made many contributions. The duo have already shot several commercials for the zoo and they are as funny as the might sound.

The L.A.I.R. exhibit is set to feature more than 60 species of the animals and set to open on March 9. It’s not unusual for television and music stars to put their famous faces on commercials for their charities of choice, but it is the pairing of these unique icons that makes it worth noting.

Dolphins Call Each Other By Name

Special whistle sequences identify individuals

While we may name our pets, even teach them to recognize a specific name as their own, we usually don't think of animals having monikers on their own terms. I'm fond of that Neil Gaiman line in Coraline that explains how cats don't need names because they know exactly who they are. Animals generally seem to recognize each other as individuals even without verbal tags. But research indicates that dolphins, perhaps our closest intellectual relatives, do in fact have individual names for themselves.

Animal Sounds I Like

If I had to make a list of animal sounds that I like, they would be the following:

1. Song bird's song

As I am writing this, I am serenaded by the beautiful sound of a song bird -- not sure which -- outside of my window. It's light, it's melodic (although somewhat repetitive) and it's pleasant. I could definitely listen all day.

2. Cat's purr

Currently, I don't have any feline friends, but I did at one time. I love to hear a cat purr. It's a sound that, more often than not, shows their contentment.

3. Woodpecker's Work

Now this may sound strange, but I think it's really cool to sit in a forest and listen to a woodpecker working on a tree. The rat-a-tat-tat of its beak against the wood resounds through the trees.

4. Dog's tail wagging