The Saiga Saga

Photo by Tim Flach

How can this be?

You can’t be true!

How could a beast

turn out like you?

 

Your horns are ridged

and pointy too

Your trunk-like nose

divides in two!

 

You stand at only

two feet high

A child could look you

in the eye

 

You’re kin to cow

iflscience.com

and buffalo

You live on plains

where no trees grow

 

You’re native to

Mongolia

and prone to

melancholia

 

There are so few

saigaresourcecentre.com

dear saiga left

If you were gone

we’d be bereft

 

We all should recognize

your worth

An ancient treasure

of the earth

 

The saiga is a diminutive critter about the size of a small goat with distinctive horns and a highly unusual face. It has a nose like no other; long, inflatable nostrils that appear to be a sort of double-trunk. This nose serves a very important purpose. It filters out the dust which always seems to blow about in its western Mongolian native habitat, and when temperatures drop to below zero, the spacious nose pre-warms the air before it reaches the saiga’s lungs.

It is an herbivore and eats plants; lichens, sagebrush, grasses and bushes. They are ruminants, which means that they bring partially digested plant matter back up into their mouths to chew it again. This is called “chewing their cud” and it helps them get as many nutrients and energy as possible out of the plant matter that they eat.

This critically endangered animal has suffered a series of alarming die-offs in the past few years. In one terrible year, in 2015, over 200,000 saiga dropped dead. Scientist discovered that the cause of death was a bacteria, called “Pasturella” was the cause. With normal temperatures, this bacteria, which lives in the large noses of the saiga, is not a problem, but global warming has increased temperatures in the saiga range and that has proved deadly to the poor little animal. A hot, wet climate with the presence of this bacteria causes internal toxins to form and the saiga drown in their own internal fluids. More info at: The Atlantic  and also at: blueplanetbiomes.org

While the saiga are hunted by wolves, foxes and birds of prey, like the Golden Eagle, the biggest threat to the saiga is humans and the global warming that is caused by human activity.

Hopefully, saiga populations will be able to bounce back. These animals can reproduce from a young age and a mother saiga often gives birth to twins. They are ancient critters that roamed across the earth during the Pleistocene or Ice Age period. The saiga survived while the wooly mammoth and saber-tooted tiger died out. We hope this little wonder will be around for generations to come. It is indeed an ancient treasure of the earth.

 

From theatlantic.com

 

A Jolly Polyextremophile

A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade found in moss samples from Croatia in its active state. Credit Eye of Science/Science Source

A Jolly Polyextremophile

Credit: Dailymail.co.uk

The tardigrade is not dismayed

By fifty below centigrade

He’s equally quite unafraid

Of scorching high temps in the shade

That tardigrade has got it made

 

He’s also called a water bear

Although this critter has no hair

And can live almost anywhere

Withstanding endless wear and tear

For toughness he has no compare

 

Water bear. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a water bear

A true polyextremophile

No need to eat for quite a while

A fasting, Spartan, spare lifestyle

Yet still his plumpness makes us smile

Slow-walking with his round profile

 

Tough Water Bear

The tardigrade will be tardy to its grave; it is one tough tiny critter. It may be the toughest little beastie in the whole world. This creature is a true “polyextremophile.” This means that it can tolerate two or more extreme conditions, like extreme temperature, pressure, dryness, lack of oxygen or radiation. I am definitely not a tardigrade. My hands get cold very easily and I’ve already had hypothermia once… and it wasn’t even below zero when I was on that camping trip.

Tardigrades are also called “water bears” or even “moss piglets” since they are commonly found in moist moss. However, these little guys do not just hang around lounging on velvety moss. They can survive extreme cold and extreme hot conditions. They are found high on the tops of frozen mountains, deep in the ice of Antarctica and even in the boiling water of hot springs. They need some moisture to survive, but they can tolerate long periods of extreme dryness as well. They simply slow their bodily functions way down and turn into a dehydrated version of themselves called a “tun.”

The tardigrade doesn’t weigh a ton, though. It is teeny-tiny. It is a microscopic creature that is found all over the world. You could probably find one near you if you have a good microscope. An adult is about 1.5 millimeters. A 10 – 60X power microscope should be strong enough to observe one of these critters.

Even though they usually only live about one year, water bears that have been dried out in their youth, (or curled into their “tun” state) have been brought back to life with a drop of water and seem perfectly fine after their hundred-year nap. They are one of the few creatures that can even survive the vacuum and solar radiation of outer space.

The name “tardigrade” or “Tardigradum” means “slow walker.” Coincidentally, after becoming interested in tardigrades, my husband began working at a company called “Slow Walkers.” I am eager to see what sorts of tough products they will produce. Tardigrade is a tough name to live up to.

Would you like to see a water bear in action? Want some tips on collecting water bears? Click on the following link: thekidshouldseethis.com

Have you ever seen a water bear? A water pig? A slow walker? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Kissing the Whale

 

Justin Hoffman Wildlife Photography

Kissing the Whale

 

Can I kiss the ‘normous whale?

Beluga Whales

Could I perch upon its tail?

I adore him, sleek and black

Would he take me on his back?

 

We could dive deep in the sea

I would meet his family

Greet his wife and baby calf

Sing a song and share a laugh

 

Could I hide them from the ship

National Geographic Image

Hunting on its whaling trip?

Could I save him from the spear

From the dangers creeping near?

 

I could wrap him in my arms

Would that save him from all harms?

How could such a giant beast

Need assistance from the least?

 

— Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

Reuters Photograph of Whale Rescue

 

What is the largest animal to have ever lived on the earth? Much larger than an elephant? Bigger than the biggest dinosaur? The blue whale, of course! For such a gigantic critter, this mammal eats such tiny things. The krill, which make up most of the blue whale’s diet, are tiny shrimp-like creatures. The whale takes a huge mouthful of ocean water where lots of krill are swimming around, and filters its dinner out with its baleen strainers.

Whales sing loudly under the water, and their songs can be heard by other whales as far as 1,600 kilometers away; that’s as far as from Seattle to San Luis Obispo, which is farther than most of us can yell. And they communicate because they care. Blue whales appear to form close attachments over their lifetime of 80 to 110 years… Yes, they can live to be 110, as long as they aren’t captured by a whaling ship.

Blue whales were once hunted so extensively that they were in danger of disappearing altogether. Now, because of the efforts of scientists and conservationists, their numbers in some areas are recovering. Other whales are truly endangered. Only 79 Southern Resident Killer Whales are left. Not many Right Whales are left, even the right-finned ones. Belugas and Bowheads are endangered. Only 100 Western North Pacific Gray Whales remain. These giant, beautiful creatures do need our help to survive.

Here are some links that provide more information and ways that you can help:

Endangered Whale Chart: http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/26/worlds-most-endangered-whales

Oceana ( http://oceana.org ) works to restore and protect the world’s oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education.

The Cousteau Society ( http://www.cousteau.org ) is dedicated to the preservation of nature for future generations.

The Ocean Conservancy ( https://oceanconservancy.org ) seeks to inform, inspire and empower through science-based advocacy, research and public education.

 

Mompossumbus

 

Come hop aboard the possum bus!

This omnibus takes all of us

Mom-possum navigates the trail

With whiskered nose and long pink tail

 

All of us children clamber on  

We cling to her, a possum throng

No fights aboard this crowded bus

‘Cause momma is the boss of us

 

Our possum momma is so strong

To ferry all her kids along

And seat belts are superfluous

We’re safe aboard our possum bus

 

When we were smaller, we’d all crouch  

On lower decks, inside her pouch

But as we grew, we made the swap

And now we ride in style on top

 

— Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

The opossum is the only marsupial (or animal with a pouch) native to North America. This nocturnal critter finds a safe, dry hole in a tree or a log to make its home. It sleeps during the day and trundles about at night looking for all sorts of delicious things to eat: insects, mice, fruit, slugs and snails, dead things, even poisonous snakes (they are not affected by the venom). They eat just about anything and so are called “omnivores.”

This marsupial can hang upside down from its strong tail, (which is impressive) but cannot run very fast. It does not have big teeth or claws to defend itself against predators (animals that might want to eat the possum). If it feels that danger is near, sometimes it will lay down and play dead. It does not decide to do this; it is for the possum, a bit like fainting. It happens naturally when the possum is frightened. It even produces a rotting smell that helps to convince predators that the animal has been dead for too long to make a tasty meal.

The mom-possum is strong and takes care of her children by letting them ride in her pouch when they are small. When they have outgrown the belly pouch, they crawl up onto her back to get a ride through the forest on the momma-bus. A mother possum can carry up to fifteen baby possums as she trundles through the forest highways and byways.

Swimming Pinecones!

Wikimedia Commons

Pinecone Swimmer

 

Wikipedia

The perky little pinecone fish

Is such a charming fellow

Diminutive but diving deep

With scales bright and yellow

 

 

Below his sloping, fishy chin

He plays the genial host

With glowing green bacteria

Wikipedia

He’s like a deep-sea ghost

 

 

He hopes that with his tiny spines

You would not want to eat him

But with his luminescent charms

You really ought to meet him

 

 

 

From “Fishes of Australia”

–Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinecone Fishfacts:

The pinecone fish, sometimes called the pineapple fish, is a tough little deep-sea dweller that grows to about 5 inches or 13 centimeters in length. It is covered with bright yellow to orange hard scales, called scutes, that are vibrantly outlined in black accentuating its pinecone-like appearance. Its sharp spines and locking dorsal and pelvic fins discourage predators. If they attempt to swallow the swimming pinecone, they risk getting it stuck in their throat.

It prefers to live in rocky areas of the deep ocean with reefs and caves where it can hide during the day. The fish emerges at night to feed on brine shrimp, small fish and plankton that it attracts to its mouth by way of two glowing organs located on its chin. These organs house bioluminescent bacteria that glow an orange-yellow during the day and dim to a bluish-green at night. The bacteria benefits by having a host that provides it with an advantageous place to grow. The pinecone fish benefits by using the the glow to attract meals. This is called a symbiotic relationship where both organisms have something to gain from the relationship.

Ice Is Nice

 

 

 

Nice Ice

You may like this balmy weather

You might think it’s kind of nice

That the oceans are all warming

And they’re slowly losing ice

 

 

But this polar bear is worried

That the Arctic’s turned to mush

And I cannot hunt for seals

On a platform made of slush

 

 

Now I have to swim for miles

Just to find a place to hunt

I am losing so much weight now

I’m a total polar runt

 

 

Polar seals, birds and walrus

Need cold weather to survive

Even tiny arctic algae

Need the ice to stay alive

 

 

If you still need more convincing

Ask this polar bear’s advice

I would very gladly tell you

That the North Pole needs its ice

 

 

– Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

 

Polar bears are in serious trouble. As global temperatures rise, the arctic ice melts and polar bears are finding it harder and harder to survive. These bears depend on polar ice for their hunting platforms. They wait by a breathing hole of a seal, and when it pops to the surface to take a breath, the polar bear snatches its dinner. Scientists who study polar bears have watched the bears lose weight and even starve to death. These beautiful, powerful creatures are becoming weak because of how we are treating our environment.

What can be done to help? Do everything in your power to save the arctic wild spaces. Sign petitions and write letters to keep polluters out of the arctic. Walk, bicycle and take public transportation to travel. Limit the number of flights that you take. Make your homes and workplace as energy efficient as possible. Polar bears are depending upon us.

Presenting the Pademelon

I Am a Pademelon
– from Wikipedia

What am I? Have you ever seen me before? My name is “Pademelon” but I am no relation to the watermelon, the musk melon, the winter melon, or even the cantaloupe or honeydew. And no, I am not a kangaroo. I am who I am; a Pademelon. Let me explain….

 

Australian What Am I

I breathe and move and so you know

– from Discoversg.com

My Kingdom’s animalia

I do have fur, and nurse my young

I’m classified mammalia

Be sure to check my infraclass

I am marsupialia

It’s true I have a cozy pouch

And live in warm Australia

 

But, no, I’m not a kangaroo

– from pademelonpark.com.au

Who shrank inside the dryer

And no, I’m not a wallaby

Who wished she could grow higher

I hop about and graze on grass

And don’t do any yell’in

My fur is gray and reddish brown

I am a pademelon

 

The critters in DownUnder 

Are so varied and unique

We bounce and pounce, we splash and dash

We twitter, whirr and squeak

Koalas and the kangaroos

May be the most well-known

But Pademelons matter too

And we are not alone

 

Australia is full of life

Pademelon Joey
– Creative Commons

Strange beasts you’ve never seen

The quokka, quoll and numbat

And a tree ant that is green

A kangaroo found in the trees

The earth-bound walleroo

Yet we agree that none of us

Are quite as strange as you

– by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

Some species of the pademelon are threatened or endangered because of habitat loss and predators that are not native to Australia or Tasmania. The pademelon is a gentle, lovely creature that eats grass, herbs, fruit and mushrooms. Be careful not to confuse the pademelon with the paddymelon which is a small vine fruit that grows in the outback of Australia. Here’s one way to tell the difference: one of them hops and the other rolls.

Honey of an Idea


What is a farmer to do when crops are threatened by a beloved beast that needs protection itself? When elephants threatened to decimate Kenyan crops, farmers came up with a brilliant solution; use bees to chase away the huge mauraders.

Yes, elephants are afraid of something as small as a mouse, but they are also afraid of something even smaller. Elephants are, as it turns out, afraid of bees. Farmers have successfully kept elephants from invading their fields by installing bee hives along the crops’ bordering fences. With their sensitive ears, the elephants can hear they buzzing of the bees and steer clear. If they do venture too close, the bees will swarm and sting the elephants around their eyes and the sensitive ends of their trunks.

Besides keeping the elephants at bay, the busy buzzers help to pollinate the crops. In this way, two threatened species help each other survive and thrive.

For more on this honey of an idea, read the article on ABC’s web site.

Humble Bee

On Bee’s Knees  

Yellow-Banded Bumble Bee

Yellow-Banded Bumble Bee

 

Oh, I’m a humble bumble bee

A yellow-banded stumble bee

Our numbers tumble down so low

That crops will crumble as we go

 

My cousins fill up comb and hive  fig03

These busy buzzers work and strive

And honey is not all bees do

We pollinate the fruit trees too

 

But when you spray your pesticides

You kill the skill a bee provides

I’m begging you on bended knee

Don’t let this be the end of me

 

Save the bees! Please.  

– by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

 

The yellow banded bumble bee is in trouble. It used to be common in the United States and southern Canada, but now it is hard to find these busy little insects. These bees pollinate important plants like potatoes, tomatoes, alfalfa, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and other edible crops. Because bumble bees can fly in lower temperatures than other types of bees, they are important pollinators in northern, cooler climates.

The wild lands that support the bees have been disappearing. Herbicides and pesticides (sprays that kill weeds and insects)  have been killing the bees by making them weak and susceptible to disease. People can help to reverse the disappearance of bee populations by helping to create gardens and open plots of land that provide flowers and habitat to please the bees. We can stop using harmful pesticides and petition governments and stores to ban pesticides.

Bees need us and we need bees. Let’s help each other…. Please!

Coral’s Quarrel

Coral Reefs; the Rainforest of the Sea

Coral Reefs; the Rainforest of the Sea

Coral Reefs

The coral reef, the diverse “rainforest of the sea” is in deep trouble. Coral reefs only cover about one percent of the earth’s surface but yet they are home, habitat and grocery store to twenty-five percent of the ocean’s creatures. Coral is very important, but coral reefs are dying. Human activity is to blame. Destructive fishing that scrapes dredges across the bottom of the sea can destroy an entire coral reef in one fell swoop. Pollution from cars and industry is causing the oceans to warm and changing the waters where coral try to grow. The bleaching of corals happens when the organisms that live inside and with the coral structure start to die. You can see why corals might have a quarrel with us humans.

 

The Coral’s Quarrel

Boulder Brain Coral Closeup

Boulder Brain Coral Closeup

 

We, the coral, have a quarrel

With how humans treat the sea

How they heat up our reef waters

Boosting sea acidity

 

 

Listen to the coral chorus

As we sing our song of woe

When the ocean waters sicken Coral_reefs_papua

Coral polyps cannot grow

 

 

All these years we have been growing

We’ve been building up our reef

Now we watch our home’s destruction  Coral_Varieties

While the coral sings in grief

 

 

Can’t you hear the coral chorus

As we sing our song of woe?

We are losing our bright colors

Coral bones begin to show

Photo by Adam Pender

Photo by Adam Pender

 

 

Symbiotic coral features

Are a vast community

And we’re home to countless creatures

That commune here in the sea

 

 

Come and listen to the coral

Sun Coral Closeup

Sun Coral Closeup

Singing to humanity

You can hear us as we softly

Sing our song to save the sea

                  — Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

 

For more information about coral reefs, please visit Ocean Portal, a site sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Link: http://ocean.si.edu/corals-and-coral-reefs

Coral_underwater-photo-of-coral-reef