Tag Archives: mr. nature

A Very Cool Critter, the Hellbender

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with the biggest salamander in the Western Hemisphere–the hellbender.

All my life I’ve wanted to handle one of these. As a boy I spent many an hour turning over rocks in streams, trying to find a hellbender. But they don’t live in New Jersey. I guess I was hoping for a stray. The only salamanders I ever found were little ones; but the hellbender can grow up to two and a half feet long.

Hellbenders need fresh, clean, cold, swiftly-running water–which is getting harder and harder to come by. I know some of you don’t like cold-blooded slippery critters, but these salamanders are something special. Their only close relatives are the giant salamanders of China and Japan, which are several times the size of a hellbender. Now that would really be something to see!

Not all of God’s stuff is cute and cuddly; but it’s all way cool.

A Herald of Spring

I was talking to Susan on the phone this morning, and she told me, “Spring is on the way–the frogs are calling.”

The wood frog, with its characteristic black raccoon-mask, is almost always the first critter to come out of hibernation. These little guys can really take the cold: you can even find them in Alaska. Sometimes they can almost freeze solid during hibernation–but not quite. As long as they don’t die, they’ll thaw out all right. They want to be ready for when God gives them their cue to come onstage.

God’s stuff: world without end, Amen. And this is Mr. Nature, signing off.

What Happens to Fish When the Pond Freezes?

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Hi, Mr. Nature here, trying to answer a question that a lot of people have.

See that frozen pond? There are probably fish in it. Live fish. You may be able to see them through the ice.

As the weather grows colder, wild fish stock up on food and their metabolism slows way down. The pond freezes over, but there is still some unfrozen water under the ice. The fish stay alive in that unfrozen water, eating little, moving around very slowly, and trying to hold out until the spring.

But if the pond freezes solid, clear down to the bottom, the fish freeze solid with it and that’s the end for them.

But what about all those stories you hear about frozen fish coming back to life?

Well, I know several people with goldfish ponds who say those are just stories. I had a little pond when I was a boy. It froze top to bottom and that was curtains for my fish.

There are a few fish species living in Arctic or Antarctic environments that seem to be able to survive being frozen. But the trick is, they’re not frozen solid. Their blood contains a chemical that works like antifreeze, and as long as their blood doesn’t freeze, the fish can survive if they don’t have to wait too long for the water to thaw.

If you have a goldfish pond, you have to feed your fish special high-calorie food in the fall and then find a way to keep the pond from freezing solid in the winter. And if you do everything right, your fish will be there to greet you in the spring. And they’ll be hungry.

Pond fish in the wild have to prepare as best they can and then hope their home doesn’t freeze all the way down. But God has created them with what they need to keep their species going.

The Four-Eyed Fish

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with a very unusual little fish that lots of people have never heard of: Anableps, aka the four-eyed fish. I met this little creature in a Mark Trail comic in the Sunday paper when I was a small boy, and never forgot it. Not that I was ever going to catch one in my net in Tommy’s Pond. The four-eyed fish lives in ponds and streams in Central and South America.

Does it really have four eyes? Well, just about! Its two eyes are each divided into two different parts so that the fish can see above and below the surface of the water at the same time–something I have tried to do with a swim mask on, but no dice. So this otherwise unremarkable fish has a highly specialized eye, unique to its kind.

This is God’s stuff, marvelous to behold. None of this pfud about the fish’s eye “evolving” from one form to another–it’d be pretty useless at the half-way point; and if a chance mutation resulted in a couple of four-eyed fish hatching out of the eggs of an ordinary two-eyed fish, that’s not much to build a viable species on.

I’m Mr. Nature, and I can end my sentence with a preposition if I want to.

The Giant Ape

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Hi, Mr. Nature here, with a really cool prehistoric creature that ought to get at least a cameo appearance in a Bell Mountain book. Maybe the next one.

Gigantopithecus (“Giant ape”) lived long ago in Southeast Asia. About a hundred years ago, some of its enormous teeth were discovered in Chinese drugstores, where they were sold to be ground up for medicine. To this day all we have of its remains are a bunch of teeth and some bits of jawbone, but the reconstruction is hopefully somewhere near the mark, because these pieces strongly resemble the corresponding pieces in modern great apes. Only much, much bigger! Scientists believe a full-grown Gigantopithecus probably stood ten feet tall. Shades of King Kong.

For a while it was believed those teeth once belonged to gigantic human beings, albeit of a primitive form. Well, that’s Evolution for you. But as Gertrude Stein might say, “A Gigantopithecus is a Gigantopithecus is a Gigantopithecus.” God doesn’t create living things that are on their way to becoming something else. They’re all right just as they are. And all we can say for certain is that there probably aren’t any more of them. Probably.

What must it have been like to see one of these coming your way down a path in the jungle? I don’t think you’d easily forget it!

‘Red Efts, Green Newts, and God’s Stuff’ (2015)

What do you say to a bonus “Mr. Nature” item? And if you click on to the original, you’ll be rewarded with a picture of a gorgeous red eft–the only land animal I can think of whose color is a bright vermilion.


The Ringing Rocks Revisited

A lot of you weren’t here in 2013 when I posted “The Mystery of the Ringing Rocks,” and now seems as good a time as any to revisit. Besides, by now I’ve learned how to post a video to go along with it, so you can hear the rocks ring.

Yes, they ring: when tapped with a hammer, some of the rocks in the boulder field produce a musical tone. But not all of them! Which is hard to understand. And if you put in the time, you could probably find a way to play a tune on the rocks. “Happy Birthday,” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It’s been done by others.

What makes them ring? After studying them for going on 200 years, nobody knows.

Ringing rocks are found, as far as we know, in only seven places, world-wide: in England, Scotland, Australia, Mexico, Montana, and at two sites in Pennsylvania. Why are they so rare? No one knows. I’ve visited Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy, PA, and heard the rocks ring. Back then you were allowed to climb around the boulder field and play with the rocks; I don’t know if you still can.

Just as puzzling as the rarity of this phenomenon, if you break a rock into two or more pieces, the pieces won’t ring anymore. It’s as if something spilled out and was lost. Even more puzzling, if you remove ringing rocks from one of the two boulder fields in Pennsylvania, they won’t ring anymore! Well, they will, sort of–but the sound is too low-frequency to be detected by the human ear. But if you remove a ringing rock from the other field, only a few miles away from the first one, it will still ring.

Something Biblical about it all, isn’t there?

Meanwhile, if you think you’ve got God’s creation all figured out, the ringing rocks should make you reconsider your position. And this is Mr. Nature, signing off for now.

A Natural Marvel? The Blowing Stone

Hi, Mr. Nature here, tackling this report because Mr. Folklore took the noon balloon.

The “Blowing Stone” of Kingston Lisle, Oxfordshire, England, is a rather large boulder with holes in it. One of the holes goes all the way through. And if you blow on it, as on a trumpet, the resulting call can be heard for miles around.

The hole through the stone is apparently due to natural causes. I don’t know how anyone would have ever thought, “I wonder what would happen if I blew on this.” Maybe a freak twist of the wind made it sound, and someone was there to observe it. There’s a legend that whoever blew on the stone so that it could be heard from a famous hilltop, some miles away, would be the next king of England. There’s also a legend that says King Alfred blew on the stone to summon his warriors to fight the invading Danes.

It’s near the White Horse of Uffington, but really, Mr. Folklore will have to field that one, it’s way beyond Mr. Nature’s scope.

Today the Blowing Stone rests beside the Blowing Stone Inn. It was brought there from another location sometime in the 18th century, and first appeared on a map in 1761.

We often talk about the music made by nature, with God as its conductor; but this is the first I’ve heard of a natural musical instrument.

Unless you want to count the “ringing rocks.” But that’s another story.

An Even Bigger Big Cat

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“Unknowable” has pointed out that there is a cat even bigger than the American lion was: the liger, the offspring of a male lion and a female tiger. These hybrids are sterile, which is probably a very good thing. We wouldn’t want them devouring all the elephants.

I, Mr. Nature, stand corrected. I knew about these critters but wasn’t counting them because they can’t reproduce themselves. There’s also a tiglon, with a tiger father and a lion mother: not quite so big, but somewhat more aggressive.

Nature sure is full of surprises.

The American Lion

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It’s snowing today, and we still have our Christmas tree–hooray!

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with another one of those cool Ice Age mammals that aren’t here anymore–the American Lion, Panthera leo atrox, the biggest member of the cat family ever to walk the earth. It was very similar to today’s African and Indian lions, only bigger. A lot bigger.

Why did it go extinct? Nobody knows, really. You’d think it could’ve gotten by, preying on elk and bison and other big game. God does things with His creation that we still don’t understand. Maybe He has stored them somewhere else. Maybe, when He restores all things, He’ll bring back the American lion.

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