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A ZOOLOGIST'S DREAM?

Posted Mar 18 2012 12:00am

HOLY WEATHER CHANGE, BATMAN!!!  ...as we used to hear in the old Batman and Robin comics, TV series, and movies.  Helpful Buckeye was able to take 3 long bike rides outdoors this past week with temperatures in the low 60s and on Friday, I drove down to Phoenix with a good friend to see my LA Dodgers play a spring training game.  We basked in the warmth of 87 degrees and got to work on our tans.  Now, just 2 days later, I shoveled 21" of snow, with another 4-10" expected by tomorrow morning.  I suspect that this can only happen in the very diverse state of Arizona.  Those readers who think Arizona is all hot desert should consider visiting northern AZ between October and April...perhaps you'd be able to experience one of these big dumps of the white stuff.

Anyway, back to the animal stuff.  Our young reader, Jamie, from College Station, Texas, who e-mailed last week's question about dogs getting sunburned, has a younger sister who sent Helpful Buckeye a question of her own.  Maria wondered what I meant in last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats by describing all the species of animals I'd seen on one of my bike rides as a "Zoologist's Dream."  Well, Maria, I know from your e-mail that you already understand that biology is the study of living things, including plants and animals.  A zoologist is someone who does the animal part of that group, while a botanist takes care of the plants.  Then, zoology can be broken into two major divisions...vertebrates (animals with bony skeletons) and invertebrates (animals without bony skeletons). 

My undergraduate degree was in zoology and I was pursuing a graduate degree in marine biology when Uncle Sam intervened in 1969.  As result of being trained as a medic in the US Army, I opted to combine my interest in animals with that medical training and go into veterinary medicine.  So, my area of interest became the vertebrates (specifically, dogs and cats) although many veterinarians work with all five major groups of vertebrates. 

Those five major groups are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals...all having a bony skeleton.  Helpful Buckeye would like to use the next couple of weeks to present some interesting articles about these "other" vertebrates (besides dogs and cats) that may help our readers gain an appreciation for some of the other species of animals.  Thanks again, Maria, for initiating this discussion!

Salmon virus confirmed at Nova Scotia fish farm

Cooke Aquaculture won't stop $150-million expansion
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed an outbreak of salmon virus at a commercial Nova Scotia fish farm, but Cooke Aquaculture says that won't stop a $150-million expansion from being built.


"This does not impact our plans," Nell Halse, Cooke spokesperson told CBC News Thursday from the company's headquarters in Saint John, N.B.  "We're still going full steam ahead with our plans for Nova Scotia, for creating new jobs and building a hatchery and a plant and expanding our feed mill," Halse said


The infectious salmon anemia (ISA) was confirmed by the agency Wednesday after a sample of 13 salmon, weighing about two kilograms each, were tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  The company confirmed the outbreak was at its Shelburne N.S. facility.


"The release confirms we have a very good system in place for monitoring fish health and for managing it, and it also confirms that the actions we took several weeks ago were the right ones," Halse said.  Though plans will continue with its expansion, the company says its taking the outbreak seriously.  She said the company has dealt with infectious salmon anemia in New Brunswick in the past.


3 cages to be destroyed in total


When the virus was first suspected in February, Cooke voluntarily destroyed two cages of salmon at its Shelburne facility.  The salmon — believed to be in the thousands — were disposed at a rendering plant.  CFIA says it ordered the destruction of a third pen of fish after ISA was confirmed.


Cooke would not say how many fish are being destroyed, nor estimate the value.  "We're just not giving specific details of how many fish, but we have 20 cages on a farm, so it is still a small percentage of the overall production on this farm," Halse said.


Under new federal rules, owners of water-based animals are entitled to compensation when the government orders them eradicated.  The ISA confirmation is sure to renew the debate over aquaculture in general and Cooke's expansion, especially into Jordan Bay next to Shelburne.  The company is currently seeking government approvals for two farms, each holding up to one million fish in Jordan Bay.


Lobster fisherman Ricky Hallett said he does not accept that ISA poses no threat to the lobster fishery.  "In light of the problems found in Shelburne Harbour, there should be no expansion into Jordan Bay," Hallett said.


Others worry about the potential impact on strugging Wild Atlantic salmon.  "It's just more damaging to wild fish," said Lewis Hinks of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. "It's just another nail possibly in the coffin. It causes us great concern no matter how you look at it."


Nova Scotia's fisheries minister said the situation is serious but in hand.  "It's a normal business day, and that these particular incidents are being managed in an appropriate fashion," said Sterling Belliveau.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it will continue to monitor and test the rest of the salmon at the Cooke facility. If more ISA is found, more fish will be destroyed.

Adapted from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2012/03/08/ns-salmon-virus-cfia.html

This situation in Nova Scotia not only involves aquaculture (the farming of fish) but also the possible conflict between farmed animals and those in the wild.  These conflicts will continue as long as there is any kind of animal farming.

Piranha-Proof Fish May Build Better Body Armor
Scientists hope to replicate the fish scales of a tough, ancient Amazonian fish that repels predators' bites

THE GIST



• The arapaima can grow to nearly 8 feet long and weigh more than 500 pounds.
• Piranha normally don’t attack the arapaima.
• The arapaima's outer scales are mineralized bio-material, while the inner ones are made of collagen fibers that form a flexible laminate, almost like a woven cloth.


 The arapaima is a South American tropical freshwater fish. An ancient Amazonian fish with thick piranha-proof scales may hold the secret to building better bullet-proof body armor, puncture resistant gloves or even safety goggles and CD cases.

Arapaima scales


Researchers at several institutions have been looking at engineering new materials that contain some of the same properties as these fish scales; they’re light, flexible and often transparent. Now some are taking a step forward and actually building these materials.


At the University of California, San Diego, materials science professor Marc Meyers has been studying the scales on the massive freshwater arapaima, which use two layers of scales to repel bites from the predatory piranha.


Piranha normally don’t attack the arapaima, which can grow to nearly 8 feet long and weigh more than 500 pounds, however when food supplies are low and water levels drop in the Amazon basin, everything in the water is considered a meal, Meyers said.   “The arapaima is called the cod of the Amazon,” Meyers said. “When there is not a lot of food, the piranha will attack anything that is in trouble.”


Meyers likes to go fishing in the Amazon, and once hooked a 100-pound arapaima. At his lab in San Diego, Meyers used a special device to press a piranha tooth into the arapaima scales to measure the force it took to penetrate them. But the piranha tooth failed to penetrate into two layers and broke when it was pulled out.  “What arapaima have are fairly thick triangular ridges that other fish don’t have,” Meyers said. “It can bend at the same time, like a ceramic that would be flexible.”


The outer scales are mineralized bio-material, while the inner ones are made of collagen fibers that form a flexible laminate, almost like a woven cloth.  Meyers experiments were published in this month’s Advanced Engineering Materials.


In Canada, scientists are using the scales of a more common fish, the striped bass, as inspiration for new materials that could even change the shape and form of airplane wings.


Francois Barthelat, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at McGill University, has tried to puncture the much lighter and weaker bass scales with a sharpened steel needle, which simulates the shape of a tooth used by predators.The results showed the scales were stronger than protective plastics used for CD cases, biomedical equipment and safety goggles.


Barthelat said it’s the formation and pattern of the scales, rather than their intrinsic properties that make them tough. Now he’s used this research on scales to build a composite material that he one day hopes will be worn by both soldiers and athletes.  “We actually made a large scale material inspired by the scales that can duplicate its properties,” Barthelat said. “Once we have proof of concept in the lab, then we can put more effort into fabrication. I don’t think it’s very far down the road.”


Barthelat is also considering an idea to match the flexible bio-armor with something called morphing materials that change shape. Rather than using fixed-wings on aircraft, for example, he envisions a scale-coated rubber wing that would constantly alter its shape for improved aerodynamics as it flies. “The wing would be inspired from birds,” Barthelat said. “And it would have protection on top from fish scales.”

Adapted from: http://news.discovery.com/tech/arapaima-fish-body-armor-121502.html

Amphibians, Reptiles and Salmonella
Many people are aware that turtles and other reptiles can carry Salmonella bacteria, but not many know that amphibians can carry it, too. Since April 21, 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 241 individuals in 42 states were infected with Salmonella typhimurium. All of the individuals were infected through contact with amphibians – more specifically, water frogs – or their habitats. The majority (69%) of the ill people were less than 10 years old, and the median age was 5 years. According to the CDC, 30% of the ill persons were hospitalized but no deaths were reported. The CDC's investigation determined a common source of the infected frogs: Blue Lobster Farms of Madera County, California. This doesn't mean amphibian and reptile owners should get rid of their pets. What it does mean is that amphibian and reptile handlers and owners should take precautions to protect themselves and their families. Simple, common sense measures can significantly reduce your risk of amphibian- or reptile-associated Salmonella infection, including:


• Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching or handling any amphibian or reptile, its housing, or anything (including food) that has come in contact with a reptile or amphibian or its feces (stool).

• Adults should closely supervise children when they handle amphibians or reptiles, and should assist young children with hand washing.

• If you or any of your family members develop diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever or other signs of illness, contact a physician. Make sure you inform your physician of your contact with a reptile or amphibian.

• Children less than 5 years old should not be allowed to come into contact with amphibians or reptiles without close supervision. Children less than 5 years old are at high risk of Salmonella infection.
• Elderly people and people with weakened immune systems are at high risk of Salmonella infection and should be especially cautious about contact with amphibians or reptiles or their environments.

• Amphibians and reptiles should not be kept in child-care centers.

• Reptile and amphibian pets should not be housed in children's bedrooms. This is especially important when the children are less than 5 years old.

• Do not allow amphibians or reptiles to roam freely throughout your house.

• It is especially important to keep reptiles and amphibians out of food and drink preparation areas.  Do not bathe reptiles or amphibians in your kitchen sink or near any areas used for food or drink preparation. If you use a bathtub for this purpose, it should be thoroughly cleaned and bleached afterward to kill any bacteria that may remain on the surface.

When cleaning the reptile's or amphibian's habitat:


o Wear gloves and do not clean the habitat in or near any areas used for food or drink preparation.

o If possible, clean the habitat outside of the house and in an area that is not frequently accessed by children, elderly or immunocompromised people.

o Do not clean the habitat near any sources of food (such as gardens or crop fields) or drinking water.

o After cleaning the habitat, remove and discard the gloves and thoroughly wash your hands.

o Children less than 5 years old should not be allowed to clean the reptile's or amphibian's habitat.

Adapted from: http://www.avma.org/public_health/salmonella/amphibians.asp

Crocodiles Have Strongest Bite Ever Measured, Hands-on Tests Show

"Extraordinary" study hints crocs are "force-generating machines" rivaling T. rex
Brian Handwerk, for National Geographic News

Crocodiles may be the world's champion chompers, killing with the greatest bite force ever directly measured for living animals, a new study says. In fact, their bite forces may rival that of mighty T. rex.


Paleobiologist Gregory M. Erickson and colleagues put all 23 living crocodilian species through an unprecedented bite test. The "winners"—saltwater crocodiles—slammed their jaws shut with 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi), or 16,460 newtons, of bite force.  By contrast, you might tear into a steak with 150 to 200 psi (890 newtons). Hyenas, lions, and tigers generate around 1,000 psi (4,450 newtons).  And while a 2008 computer model estimated that a 21-foot (6.5-meter) great white shark would produce nearly 4,000 psi (17,790 newtons) of bite force, that figure hasn't been directly measured.


Erickson and colleagues did physically measure the bites of several 17-foot (5.2-meter) saltwater crocs—as well as Nile crocodiles, alligators, caimans, gharials, and other crocs, some for the first time ever.  The team spent countless hours wrestling with the reptiles at Florida's St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and getting them to bite a force transducer—a "very expensive, very durable, waterproof bathroom scale that's padded with leather."


"The testing is like dragon slaying by committee, often involving ten or more people to test a single animal," said Erickson, of Florida State University.  For every croc species, the transducer registered impressive power, suggesting that a big bite is at the heart of what it means to be a crocodilian, according to Erickson.


"That's why I think they've been so successful," he said. "They seized on a remarkable design for producing bite force and pressure to occupy ecological niches on the water's edge for 85 million years, and nothing else evolved that could wrest those niches from them."


Surprisingly, at least to Erickson, variations in the bite forces of croc species turn out to be largely based on body size. In many animal groups this variation is tied to differing jaw shapes and tooth forms, but those features didn't much affect the croc chomps in the team's tests.  This suggests crocs were big biters from the dawn of their evolutionary line, said Erickson. "I think the most primitive development of the crocs was basically as a force-generating machine," Erickson said. Variations in snouts and teeth arose later, fine-tuning that powerful bite for prey ranging from fish and snakes to birds, mammals, and even insects.


"Think of a Weed Eater with a big engine that has different attachments, like a grass cutter or a tree trimmer. During evolution [crocs] basically played around with those sorts of attachments," said Erickson.  In a typical croc environment, "big game comes to the water's edge, mollusks grow there, birds land—and anything that's around that water, they can eat it."


Paleobiologist Laura Porro, who wasn't involved in the new research, added, "People have been talking about how differences in snout shape and tooth shape and diet may impact crocodilian biomechanics, but no one has been able to collect all these data. It's extraordinary."


In addition to shedding light on living crocs, the new data could illuminate the extinct animals at the roots of the croc family tree, said Porro, of the University of Chicago, who studies live alligators but also models biomechanics of extinct reptiles.  "This kind of work with living animals can help us try to validate our models," she said. "And I think you could definitely extend this model to the fossil crocs, even the giant ones, that look relatively similar to modern crocs."


Erickson and team have already done some such scaling—producing an image of a truly ferocious ancient croc.  "We tested several 17-foot [5-meter] saltwater crocs," he said. "If you scale the results up to 20-footers, you get estimates of 7,700 pounds [34,250 newtons], which is the low end of T. rex bite-force estimates.  So if you want to see what T. Rex bite force looks like, go look at one of these crocs."


Furthermore, by Erickson's calculations, the extinct, limousine-size Deinosuchus, or "terrible crocodile," had an estimated bite force as high as 23,100 psi (102,750 newtons)—greater even than new estimates that put T. rex's bite at 12,814 psi (57,000 newtons).  "It's mind-boggling to think about that one," he said.


The University of Chicago's Porro noted that no Tyrannosaurus rex muscle survives, so estimates for the dinosaur's bite force are based on its body size, wide skull and short snout.  Those T. rex bones look capable of a stronger bite than any croc's, Porro said. "But then again, if you dissect a croc's head, it's amazing just how much muscle mass they have. They have huge jowls ... all jaw-closing muscle, so who knows?" she said. "Maybe it's a matter of crocs just having more muscle."


We may never know for sure whether a croc or a tyrannosaur was the world's all-time champion chomper (and in any case, a giant prehistoric shark likely has both beat).  "There is always going to be some uncertainty," Porro said.


Modern crocs are remarkably similar to prehistoric ones, which in some ways makes things easy for ancient-croc researchers, she noted. But "we have nothing today that looks very much like a T. rex."

Adapted from:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120315-crocodiles-bite-force-erickson-science-plos-one-strongest/  

For a comparison to the bite force of the most popular dog breed in the USA, the Labrador Retriever, here are the numbers
...to put the record measurement into perspective, hyenas, which are bone-crushing mammals, have a bite force of 1,000 pounds, slightly more than the 940 recorded for lions. Dusky sharks manage 330 pounds of force, and the Labrador Retriever bites with 125 pounds of force. Humans surprisingly beat out the pet dog, and measured in at 170 pounds of force.

Adapted from: http://dogbitesinformationandstatistics.blogspot.com/2008/01/canine-bite-force.html

Pretty impressive for the crocodiles, huh?  Helpful Buckeye had his share of dog bites during his working career and, even though most of them did hurt, he's glad he wasn't working on crocodiles!

Gecko Feet Inspire Amazing Glue That Can Hold 700 Pounds On Smooth Wall
For years, zoologists have been amazed by the power of gecko feet, which let these 5-ounce lizards produce an adhesive force roughly equivalent to carrying nine pounds up a wall without slipping. Now, a team of polymer scientists and a zoologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered exactly how the gecko does it, leading them to invent "Geckskin," a device that can hold 700 pounds on a smooth wall.


Doctoral candidate Michael Bartlett in Alfred Crosby's polymer science and engineering lab at UMass Amherst is the lead author of their article describing the discovery in the current online issue of Advanced Materials. The group includes zoologist Duncan Irschick, a functional morphologist who has studied the gecko's climbing and clinging abilities for over 20 years. Geckos are equally at home on vertical, slanted, even backward-tilting surfaces.


"Amazingly, gecko feet can be applied and disengaged with ease, and with no sticky residue remaining on the surface," Irschick says. These properties, high-capacity, reversibility and dry adhesion offer a tantalizing possibility for synthetic materials that can easily attach and detach heavy everyday objects such as televisions or computers to walls, as well as medical and industrial applications, among others, he and Crosby say.


This combination of properties at these scales has never been achieved before, the authors point out. Crosby says, "Our Geckskin device is about 16 square inches, about the size of an index card, and can hold a maximum force of about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass."


Beyond its impressive sticking ability, the device can be released with negligible effort and reused many times with no loss of effectiveness. For example, it can be used to stick a 42-inch television to a wall, released with a gentle tug and restuck to another surface as many times as needed, leaving no residue.


Previous efforts to synthesize the tremendous adhesive power of gecko feet and pads were based on the qualities of microscopic hairs on their toes called setae, but efforts to translate them to larger scales were unsuccessful, in part because the complexity of the entire gecko foot was not taken into account. As Irschick explains, a gecko's foot has several interacting elements, including tendons, bones and skin, that work together to produce easily reversible adhesion.


Now he, Bartlett, Crosby and the rest of the UMass Amherst team have unlocked the simple yet elegant secret of how it's done, to create a device that can handle excessively large weights. Geckskin and its supporting theory demonstrate that setae are not required for gecko-like performance, Crosby points out. "It's a concept that has not been considered in other design strategies and one that may open up new research avenues in gecko-like adhesion in the future."


The key innovation by Bartlett and colleagues was to create an integrated adhesive with a soft pad woven into a stiff fabric, which allows the pad to "drape" over a surface to maximize contact. Further, as in natural gecko feet, the skin is woven into a synthetic "tendon," yielding a design that plays a key role in maintaining stiffness and rotational freedom, the researchers explain.


Importantly, the Geckskin's adhesive pad uses simple everyday materials such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which holds promise for developing an inexpensive, strong and durable dry adhesive.


The UMass Amherst researchers are continuing to improve their Geckskin design by drawing on lessons from the evolution of gecko feet, which show remarkable variation in anatomy. "Our design for Geckskin shows the true integrative power of evolution for inspiring synthetic design that can ultimately aid humans in many ways," says Irschick.


The work was supported by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through a subcontract to Draper Laboratories, plus UMass Amherst research funds.

Adapted from:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120216165500.htm  

Silenced songbird could have mites
By Jeff Kahler


Today we will discuss the case of "the songless canary."  Romeo is a 2-year-old songbird whose cage hangs from a stand in an atrium in Margret's house. The echo provided by the atrium's glass walls sends his song throughout the house.


A singing canary is a wonderful gift, and I can imagine the sadness Margret felt when Romeo stopped singing. Actually, according to Margret, Romeo began to sing less frequently about two weeks ago and is to the point now where he does not sing at all. He still appears to be eating, but it is obvious to Margret that he does not have his former zest for life.


Canaries, like many types of birds, are flock animals. They live in large social groups for mostly survival reasons. A flock can forage for food with greater success than an individual bird, and a flock provides protection. When presented with a flock of birds, a predator can become confused and find difficulty in singling out any one victim. A flock can also act together in defense against a predator. As good as the flock strategy can be for survival, however, it can also be ruthless to an individual bird that might become debilitated for any reason.


When a member of a flock becomes ill or injured, it will stand out from the rest. It becomes an easier target for a predator and, indeed, attracts unwanted attention to the flock. These individuals will be forced out of the flock for these very reasons. It is this flock mentality that causes individual birds to hide their disease symptoms.


You might now ask what this has to do with Romeo. My point is that Romeo has likely been sick for a while and has instinctively hidden his symptoms to avoid being excluded from the flock. He no longer can hide his symptoms and Margret has become aware Romeo is having a problem.


There are many possible disease processes that could be causing Romeo's decreased auditory performance and generalized decrease in activity. We do not have time to cover them all, but I will share one distinct possibility based on my experience working with both breeding colonies of canaries, as well as individual companion canaries.


The key focus is that Romeo has stopped singing. This once-prolific crooner has become silent and that is likely a symptom of a respiratory problem. There are many causes for respiratory problems in canaries, including bacterial and viral infections. The most common cause I have seen is air sac mites.


Air sac mites are tiny little bugs from the arachnid group, the same group that contains ticks, spiders and various mange mites we see in dogs, cats and other mammals. These little pests get into the canary's air sacs, part of their considerably complex respiratory system, through the trachea, and multiply to the point where they become obstructive to airflow. This obviously compromises the bird's ability to breath and, as Romeo has demonstrated, results in no singing and decreased activity.


Diagnosing air sac mites in canaries can be fairly straightforward. Romeo can be examined by his avian veterinarian and with the use of a powerful pinpoint light source it is often possible to see the mites crawling inside the bird's trachea. The beauty of this disease, if that is not too much of an oxymoron, is that it is very treatable. An injection or application of a topically absorbed parasiticide will kill the little invaders and, if my diagnosis is correct, Romeo will be back on concert tour in no time.


Along with treatment, Romeo's cage environment needs to be thoroughly cleaned. He should have one or maybe two more treatments of the parasiticide to account for any new mites that may have hatched from eggs in Romeo's environment, each of these treatments should be accompanied by cage cleaning.


Hopefully, Romeo has a simple case of air sac mites and he can soon return to serenading Margret and filling her house with his beautiful gift.

Adapted from: http://www.modbee.com/2012/03/12/2109432/silenced-songbird-could-have-mites.html

How's that for an "arm chair" diagnosis?  And, speaking of flocking behavior, here's a study that looks into the dynamics of flocking
Study finds European starlings flocking patterns similar to metals being magnetized
Scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike have long been fascinated by the abilities of some groups of animals to move in lockstep with one another, most specifically with schools of fish and flocks of birds. Now, new research by a team of researchers studying the flocking abilities of European starlings has shown that some of their abilities might be mathematically defined, and that the ability of the birds to change directions almost simultaneously follows the same model as metal when it becomes magnetized. The team is set to publish the results of their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 Prior research by the same team regarding the velocity of the birds in a flock showed that if just a single bird changed its speed, that change would propagate out to all the other birds in the flock. In this new research, the team focused on orientation. They wanted to know how individual movements of birds in the flock caused changes in the direction of the flock as a whole.


To find out, they set up multiple cameras around Rome, where the huge size of starling flocks is legendary. They took both video and stereometric stills which produce 3D imagery to allow them to capture the positions of birds in a flock as well as to project where they were going and how fast.


In so doing, they discovered two things. The first is that a change in path by one bird impacts exactly seven birds surrounding it, regardless of the size of the flock. The second is that changes in flight path for the flock as a whole happens very similarly to the way single electron spins within a metal line up when a magnetic field is created.


The first finding demonstrates that birds having neighbors is what is important to the flock, not how close they are. The seven birds that are impacted by the movement of one bird, then cause a change in the seven birds around each of them and so on until the entire flock has changed its alignment.


The second finding demonstrates that at least some of the ways birds move in a flock can be defined mathematically, which means other models may be found as well. If so, they may lead to predicting how a flock will respond in various scenarios, which when combined with the way the birds impact their neighbors, may finally solve the age old mystery of how they fly in flocks the way they do.

Adapted from: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-european-starlings-flocking-patterns-similar.html
 
Our last non-mammal story will finish off this week's issue.  For those who understand the connection between Madagascar and penguins, this one's for you:
 
Penguin launches 'Madagascar'-style daring escape from Japan zoo
The hunt was on today for a penguin that scaled a sheer rock face to escape from a Tokyo zoo and was last seen swimming in a river in the Japanese capital.  The one-year-old Humboldt Penguin was snapped bathing in the mouth of the Old Edogawa River, which runs into Tokyo Bay, after fleeing its home in the east of the city, echoing the hit animated movie Madagascar.

Takashi Sugino, an official at the Tokyo Sea Life Park, said the 24-inch (60cm) bird appeared to have climbed over a rock wall twice its size and made a waddle for it.  "We first noticed the penguin might have fled when the director of a neighbouring zoo emailed us ... with a photo," Sugino said.


A second picture provided by a visitor allowed keepers to identify the errant bird as one that hatched last January.


Sugino said it was not entirely clear how the creature had managed to get out of the enclosure it shares with 134 other Humboldt Penguins.  "Of course it can't fly, but sometimes wildlife have an 'explosive' power when frightened by something. Maybe it ran up the rock after being surprised," he said.


Zoo officials were scouring the area where the penguin was last spotted in the hope of capturing it today.  "It's a bit of a struggle to catch it when it is swimming, because it swims at a tremendous speed," Sugino said. "We are hoping to catch it when it climbs up on land to sleep."


Adapted from: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/penguin-launches-madagascar-style-daring-escape-from-japan-zoo/story-fn3dxity-1226289943641


While those zoo officials are waiting for the penguin to fall asleep on land, you can be preparing for next week's continuation of A Zoologist's Dream...which will deal with mammals other than your typical dog and cat.  Stay with us....
 
To give you something extra to think about, here are 2 questions to mull over for next week
1) What is the most common bird in the world?

2) What mammal has more names than any other mammal?

Any questions, suggestions, or answers can either be sent to Helpful Buckeye at: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com or added at the end of this issue in the "Comment" section.
 
SPORTS NEWS
Yes, the LA Dodgers seem to be getting some of their old spunk back now that they know a new owner is just around the corner.  My friend and I were impressed with their hustle and attitude on Friday as they handily defeated the Texas Rangers...one of last season's World Series participants.  Also, this was my first visit to the Dodgers new training facility in Glendale and it is a big, beautiful tribute to the game of baseball.  I found myself feeling tingles of excitement as we approached the field and just about bumped into none other than Tommy Lasorda...the current reigning Dodger icon.  What a great day!

The Ohio State Buckeyes won their 2 games in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, with the second game against Gonzaga being tight until the end.  The final victory margin of 7 points was misleading...the game truly could have gone either way.  Now we go to the Sweet 16 next Thursday and the games probably won't get any easier.  NCAA basketball has the best playoffs of any sport in America...the excitement and anticipation continue to increase each week until the Final Four.

PERSONAL STUFF
As mentioned at the beginning, I was able to get 3 outdoor bike rides in this past week.  This marked the earliest outside riding date since I began biking 9 years ago.  It was also the earliest 35-miler I've done...I've been working hard at my conditioning coming back from the torn calf muscle and, so far, it has really paid off for me.  Believe it or not, our temperatures are supposed to be back in the 50s-60s by Wednesday so I look forward to being back on the bike trail soon.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye will also take advantage of this warming trend by heading back to Sedona twice...once to have an outdoor lunch with a couple of birthday buddies and secondly to take some more of the hikes we listed as "must dos" as part of our 2012 work-out plan.  Whether on the trail by ourselves or with our hiking buddies, we always seem to benefit from the principle described by Mark Twain "Now, the true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk. It is no matter whether one talks wisdom or nonsense, the case is the same, the bulk of the enjoyment lies in the wagging of the gladsome jaw and the flapping of the sympathetic ear."  From A Tramp Abroad

Of course, one could easily say that Mark Twain obviously never saw the Red Rocks of Sedona....

We had our St. Patrick's Day dinner celebration over the weekend, with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.  Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains, along with Van Morrison, provided the Irish music for the enjoyment of all.  We found that we all have at least a little Irish in each of us....

"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time."   Abraham Lincoln
...bring it on, Abe!


~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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