Mr. Nature: Zebras on Red Alert

Jambo! Mr. Nature here, and today’s safari is a proper safari that takes us to somewhere in Africa to look in on the zebras.

The waterhole can be a dangerous place for zebras. Ambush predators are seldom far away. These zebras are barking up a storm and going on the alert because one of them has detected a lion nearby and given the alarm.

You’d think a striped horse would sound more like a horse; but nothing sounds quite like a zebra. I used to want to be one, when I grew up; but I never did master the zebra bark.

Mr. Nature: The Spiny Anteater

Echidna | San Diego Zoo Kids

Jambo! Mr. Nature here, and our safari today takes us to Australia and New Guinea in search of the spiny anteater, aka “echidna,” named for a creature in Greek mythology that was half-snake, half-woman.

These are really weird animals. For one thing, they and the duck-billed platypus are the only mammals that lay eggs. For another, they have the second-lowest body temperature among mammals, behind the platypus. And they’ve got a cloaca instead of separate reproductive and excretory organs. It’s sort of odd that they’re considered mammals at all. But they do have hair, and the babies, once hatched, are fed on milk from the mother’s body. Besides which, what else are we to call them?

As you might expect, they eat ants and termites; and aboriginal people sometimes eat them. No accounting for tastes. They look a lot like hedgehogs but aren’t related to them. They don’t look like platypuses, but those are their closest relatives.

God’s stuff–brought to you by a truly versatile Creator.

The Squeaky-Toy Frog

Jambo, everybody! Mr. Nature here–with a tiny African frog that sounds just like a dog’s squeaky-toy.

Actually, this frog is angrily defending his territory. He needs to work on his threat display. Puffing himself up, that’s a popular frog tactic. It’s the squeaking that makes him as cute as a button.

God’s stuff–it’s just way cool.

Mr. Nature: The Paddlefish

Behold the paddlefish, peacefully going about its business of feeding on microscopic plankton. Like the basking shark, it swims with its mouth gaping wide open, with its gills to filter out the goodies. If it weren’t for the paddle, you might mistake it for a freshwater basking shark.

But it only looks like a paddle. It’s packed with special sense organs to help the fish find food.

Paddlefish fossils are found all over the world, but today these fish live only in the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries. Up until recently they also lived in China; but with their customary reckless disregard for just about everything, the communists have driven the Chinese paddlefish into extinction. Along with the freshwater whale… and the Chinese alligator has just about had it, too.

I would love to see one of these in person, underwater. But it ain’t gonna happen in New Jersey.

Mr. Nature: Sea Spiders

Before we move on to any demoralizing nooze, here’s Mr. Nature with a safari to the ocean floor in search of sea spiders. Please feel free to ignore the cutesy narration.

Very few of this have ever seen one of these critters, and most of us have probably not heard of them. Which is odd, because there are hundreds of species of sea spiders and they’re found world-wide in both deep and shallow water. But as most of them are very small and quiet, it would be easy not to notice them.

I’ve been fascinated by these creatures for a long time. How can you not be fascinated by an animal whose vital organs are in its legs because there’s no room for them in its body?

Fap to the evolution fairy tale. What hath God wrought!

The Invisible Butterfly

Jambo! Mr. Nature here; and today our safari takes us to South and Central America in search of the invisible–well, almost invisible–glasswing butterfly. I’d never heard of them until today. But God’s Creation is so vast, no one will ever know the whole length and breadth of it.

These butterflies have transparent wings, which help them elude predators. Even the caterpillars are partially transparent. We do see color around the edges of the wings; but hey, if it didn’t work, the glasswings wouldn’t be here.

Transparency turns up in other animals, too. I used to go to our local pet store and watch in fascination the “glass catfish” swimming back and forth. Their skin and muscles are transparent and you can see their bones.

As Rev. D. James Kennedy used to say, “Ain’t chance grand?”

Mr. Nature: the Zebra Jumping Spider

I admit I’m not much for spiders, but I’ve always had a soft spot for these zebra jumping spiders–maybe because I wanted to be a zebra when I grew up, and look how close these little spiders have come to doing that.

Unlike other spiders, jumping spiders can actually see what’s going on around them. While I was writing yesterday, I discovered one of these little guys crawling around on my knee. It was easy to induce him to climb onto my hand and then jump somewhere else. He must’ve liked me because he kept coming back for more. So I played with the spider for a minute or two before finally releasing him onto the ground.

But I insist I’m not eccentric–just enjoying some of God’s stuff. And trying to manage a nooze-free weekend.

Mr. Nature: A Weed that Shoots Back

Our safari today takes us out the front door and into the yard–no need to go any farther.

Jambo, boys ‘n’ girls! Mr. Nature here, with the hairy bittercress–a weed that grows right here in my own yard. And when it’s ripe, any little disturbance will cause it to shoot its seeds in all directions. It’s a kind of natural shotgun.

You might have some hairy bittercress handy, never having noticed it before. Give it a nudge and see what happens! (Disclaimer: nothing will happen if it isn’t ripe yet. Or if you just called somebody over to show him something cool.) Anyway, it’s fun to touch these plants and see them do their stuff.

I am told you can use hairy bittercress in your salad, but I’m not ready to trust it that far.

Slime Mold: Animal or Plant?

Down to Earth: The radical collective of slime mold

Jambo, Mr. Nature here–and this is wild: how do you tell whether a living thing is an animal or a plant?

There are more than 900 species of slime molds, they’re found all over–even inside your air conditioner, if the drain gets blocked. They mostly live as single-celled organisms; but when food is scarce, they can clump themselves together and function as a multi-celled organism.

They have neither brains nor nervous systems: nevertheless, slime molds can remember, and some studies suggest they can even learn, modifying their behavior in light of past experience. Yeesh, did I say “experience”? Well, yeah: because that’s apparently what’s going on with them–although just how they do it, no one knows.

Currently biologists have decided that slime molds are not plants but rather a kind of amoeba. The smart kind that remembers things. Go figure.

Just when we think we’ve got Creation figured out, God likes to tantalize us with a mystery like this.

It keeps us on our toes.

Birds No Bigger than Bugs

Baby Hummingbirds: Tiny and Cute | Baby Animal Zoo

I’ve never in my life seen a real, live hummingbird–let alone a baby hummingbird. Look how tiny it is!

It’s a beautiful spring day today, sunny and cool. As I sat outside with my cigar, leafing through The Golden Treasury of Natural History, it occurred to me that I had no idea what a baby hummingbird would look like. I soon found plenty of pictures on the Internet.

As Samuel F. B. Morse once said, “What hath God wrought!” No one has ever seen it all; a lifetime of study wouldn’t suffice.

We have more than a lifetime’s worth of Creation to enjoy.