I’m getting antsy for Obann, and I want to flush the day’s nooze out of my brain… so let’s join Mr. Nature on a prehistoric safari.
Hi, Mr. Nature here–and the video is in Hindi, so I have no idea what the narrator is saying; but I know a Deinotherium when I see one. Well, okay, there are no more Deinotheriums, only pictures and video recreations.
These are related to the elephants we know and love today, and lived in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Some of them were considerably bigger than modern elephants. Plus it looks like their tusks are on backwards. Deinotherium’s tusks were attached to the lower jaw instead of coming out of the upper, like an elephant’s.
We do not know how this animal used its tusks. Scraping bark off trees? Maybe. They look so much like elephants that the two must have had a lot in common. Except for those tusks. The more you look at them, the more puzzling it gets. What good did their tusks do them, down there?
But God the Designer doesn’t make mistakes, and doesn’t create living things that don’t work. However those tusks functioned, we can be sure they served the animal well.
Jambo, Mr. Nature here–and today our safari takes us back to South Africa in the 19th century.
Once upon a time there was a zebra there called the quagga, more horse-like than other zebras, with tasty meat and a temperament that was thought to be amenable to domestication. But the last wild quagga was shot in 1878, and all we have left are a few taxidermy specimens and even fewer photographs.
Like the passenger pigeon, the dodo, and more other animals than I like to think about, the quagga was killed off by humans. Today there is a Quagga Project trying to breed them back via closely related living zebras, but it hasn’t been successful yet. There are still things about the quagga’s genetics that remain unknown.
To me all zebras are beautiful, and the quagga was no exception. It’s a shame that we don’t have them with us anymore–and it’s our fault.
God has promised that He will restore His creation. I trust the quagga will be restored to its rightful place in that creation. And I trust the Lord will make us better and wiser and kindlier than we’ve been so far.
Jambo, Mr. Nature here–and it’s off to the Kalahari Desert for a brief look at the remarkable Bat-Eared Fox.
Our cats, Robbie and Peep, had ears like this when we first got them, but eventually the rest of the cat caught up to the ears. For the bat-eared fox, forget it. Their ears stay supersized.
Even cooler than the ease with which a fox chows down on a live scorpion is the determination with which the father kit fox protects his daughter from mating with a stranger. But we find his attitude changes when the same suitor, much chastened, comes back and pays his respects to the father before trying again to mate with the daughter. The niceties preserved, father fox then permits the union.
I’ll bet a lot of human fathers can relate to that!
Jambo, boys ‘n’ girls! Mr. Nature here, with the humble fence lizard. My home state of New Jersey is but poorly endowed with lizards, but we do have the Eastern Fence Lizard, one of my favorites. The lizard in this video is a Western Fence Lizard from California, almost the same thing.
The “push-ups” that these lizards do, mostly the males, is a territorial display. It means “get lost!” Most of the lizards in the iguanid family–dozens and dozens of species–make this display, as well as puffing themselves up, showing the dewlap, etc. There are even some Old World agamid family lizards that do push-ups. This is a mystery to me, that totally unrelated lizards should resort to the same threat display.
I once had fence lizards and one of the females laid eggs. We caught her doing it, and so were able to contact the Staten Island Zoo for instructions as to how to care for the eggs. They were good instructions, and all two dozen eggs hatched into absolutely perfect little lizards.
At night the little ones used to bury themselves in cedar shavings with only their heads left showing. One morning our granddaughter came into the living room and saw them like that–only the tiny heads scattered here and there–and totally freaked out. She was sure some fiend had come in the middle of the might and beheaded the baby lizards. But Mrs. Nature was quickly able to reassure her otherwise.
Fence lizards eat live bugs and can be kept together in an aquarium without your having to worry about them assassinating one another. They tame rather quickly and are altogether nice lizards.
Here’s a walking worm… walking.
Let’s re-visit this Mr. Nature outing, shall we? No one’s going to fight over this (famous last words).
The Peripatus, the “walking worm,” is one of those way cool little animals that most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are never going to encounter, even on a lucky day.
I wonder if an encounter with a walking worm would make it a lucky day.
Hi, Mr. Nature here–with another peek into some of the surprises God built into our world when He was creating it.
The ocean sunfish gets its name from its habit of basking sideways on the surface of the water, many miles out to sea. Because it doesn’t often visit shallow water, few people will ever see one of these. And a few who do will freak out. The ocean sunfish is the world’s largest bony fish, and yet it looks like only half a fish. Its favorite food strikes us as pretty insubstantial: jellyfish.
This creature is slow, ponderous, unable to maneuver quickly, without any means of defense, yet living in a dangerous environment, full of predators–nevertheless, here it is. If we knew the sunfish better, we might discover that it is ideally designed for the kind of life it leads
Mr. Nature here–with a prehistoric animal that lasted into historic times: the pygmy mammoth of Wrangel Island. It was still alive when the Egyptians were building the pyramids.
In all respects except size it was a regular woolly mammoth. Wrangel Island is in the Arctic Ocean, just off Siberia. Today it’s frozen. But a few thousand years ago, mammoths lived there. The ground today is littered with tusks and bones.
Islands are funny. Some animals that are small on the mainland grow very large if they’re on an island for many generations. And some that are large on the mainland grow small if they’re confined to an island. Hence the pygmy elephants and hippos, and giant dormice, of various Mediterranean islands.
Think of a mammoth the size of a pony. And marvel at the work of God’s hands.
Mr. Nature here. Somehow the combination of bright red cardinals, pure white snow, and green pine boughs strikes me as irresistibly Christmasy. I’ll bet I’m not the only one, either.
God’s handiwork is all around us, all the time, sometimes whispering, sometimes singing, sometimes shouting, “God is nigh! God is nigh.”
One of these days I’m gonna have to have Jandra’s pet bird–with teeth, claws, and a somewhat nasty temper–featured on the cover of one of my books. Meanwhile, here’s a bird in our own world that has claws on its wings.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Here’s a startling fact that’s been known to science since at least 1977, and no one’s ever acted on it:
Insects raised in cages lined with copies of The New York Times don’t grow normally, and die before reaching maturity.
Why is that not surprising? Look what The New York Times does to human brains. What chance has a grasshopper?