All About Mammals by Ron Toel

This is sort of a piece by piece examination of mammals by Ron. He subdivides them by areas of the body…so to speak.  Ron is as knowledgeable about tha natural world as anybody I have known.  It is actually as series of talks that he will deliver to his church.

Most mammals fall into a category of four body shapes…….

1) square…..elephant, rhino, hippo, horse, cow, Koala,

2) torpedo shaped…..most toothed whales, seals, dolphins and porpoises, prairie dogs and moles, some rodents, most insectivores, and a few others.

3) torpedo but flattened vertically…….. sperm whale, antelope, cats, dogs, Many marsupials, and many of the smaller carnivores

4) torpedo but flatted horizontally……..Most diggers, primates, baleen whales, most egg layers, bats,

Now to the ears…….The internal part of all the ears are the same. We all have the three little bones and all the other parts. The only basic difference is the external ear. Ears are made for hearing and heat regulation. Usually the bigger the ear, we find the animal lives in warmer places….look at the African elephant and the fennec fox as desert creatures. Big ears and many blood vessels run through them in which to dissipate body heat. The elephants also fan these ears to create air movement over their bodies to help them keep cool. Look now at the African Elephant with much bigger ears as compared to the Asian Elephant….. This also has to do with the climatic aspect of their life. The temperature is similar but the amount of sunshine and humidity is much different.

Most ears point forward on the head. They do so to listen for sounds of something that might threaten their lives.

Most of us think that all predators are sight hunters. Many are….. however, ever watch a coyote or fox in two feet of snow hunt? He will walk on top of the snow, and suddenly stop. He cocks his head a few times. Then he jumps way into the air and comes down head first…..penetrating the snow until he only has his haunches and tail sticking out. Then he backs out of the snow with a vole in his mouth. He did not see this animal. It was all done by the ears. The ears pointing forward gives the animal pin point accuracy as from where the sound comes.

Ever watch a bat. They too, hunt by their ears. Well indirectly that is. They emit a high pitched sound and it echoes the shape of things from which it bounces back. This is how they detect the flying bugs.

I know nothing about the ears of whales other than they must have them. I know this because the sing. I have been told that they have a line along the lower jaw bone which picks up vibrations of their echoes. Also some of the toothed whales have a melon on their head (beluga) which can pick up the echolocation others make. Sea cows and dolphins, have this too.

Shrews have very tiny ears but they also indulge in echo location. Their echos do not help them find food but instead help them to determine their environment. It would be as if we would blind fold my daughter and made her yell into the door of the nature center or turned her around and made her yell into the woods. The echos would sound much different. I saw one once on a asphalt path…..completely out of its element. I picked it up and moved it to a lawn type environment and it was undetectable in minutes.

Now I know about moles but this isn’t really ears but are so on detection. Moles have this tunnel that they burrow through our lawns and gardens. When an earthworm falls into this tunnel and starts crawling, a mole can detect these vibrations hundreds of feet away. Imagine what the vibrations of a heavy footed person must feel to him…..Like a 9.9 on the rickter scale.

Seals are different. There are two types…… eared seals and earless seals. These are used above water, on such things as mating calls, location of babies, Territorial disputes….now most of this sounds like voices rather than ears.

I guess this would be a good place to tie the two together. Each animal has its own distinctive voice. No two are the same. A momma seal comes ashore from a fishing trip and beaches herself on a beach with 5000 baby seals. She finds her baby by its voice.

Think about the bats flying looking for insects. There are thousands of bats flying out of a cave and all start hunting. If there were no distinctive voices, the air would be full of echoes and the bats would not know which echoes were the ones they emitted.

This is true for whales, and dolphins and porpoises as well. Just think how many songs are floating around the ocean, yet the whales have to be able to distinguish their own from others. It is the blowhole system that creates the clicks and sounds of the whales as they have NO vocal cords.

Just a side note…….How many have heard the songs of the whales. To me that is a most beautiful sound. So slow and drawn out. How many have heard the sound of a whale speeded up a hundred times. It sounds exactly like a bird chirping. Look at the size of these two, yet when put on the same wave length, they are the same sound, but different voice. To me that is amazing.

Women with children know their babies cry. So do monkeys. Sheep know the bleat of their hungry baby when it is feeding time. All of this is because we all have different unique voices.

Lets look at the eyes next. There are only two significant differences in eyes. Some have rods and cone which allow for the animal to see in color, and some do not which means they see in black and white. Most predators hunt at night and because of that fact they need more light to come into their eyes to see better, Most colors are indistinguishable anyway in the dark, so color is not a major thing to them. However, the prey animals need to be able to see that blob of yellow getting closer to them and then to realize it is a cheetah ready to pounce.

The other factor of the eyes is the placement of they eyes in the head. Eyes like the primates and most predators create binocular vision which allow fairly accurate focus of distance. This only gives vision in the direction the head is turned. When the eyes are on the side of the head, usually in prey animals, there is a much larger field of view forward and aft to see the approach of many animals, friends or foe.

In this article we will concentrate on feet. As I mentioned earlier, all of the mammals have basically the same bone structure. They have the phalanges and the tarsal bones and the ankle, but when one looks at the whales and seals, we do not see all these bones. However, if one dissects them out, they are there.

I am going to start with the hyrax….a small animal like a rabbit but it has four toes with pads on the end of them. I saw these animals in Africa. They can out run a rabbit. They have a foot like a rabbit, however they have hooves instead of claws on each toe. They are at home on rocks ( so I assume they have pads and have been told that they secrete sweat that is sticky to help them maneuver their obstacles. ) and they can climb trees. I have not a clue how they do that.

The primates are like ours with the opposable thumb. Even the opossum and many marsupials has that but only on its hind feet. However the Kangaroo has it on its forelegs. They are used for grasping.

When we look at the ungulates, the (cud chewers), we see a two toed foot. These two toes ( cloven hoof), with two dew claws, are actually the fingernails developed into hoofs which allows them to walk and climb around on rocks. Most of the ungulates live in prairie type habitats where they do not need more than just the hooves. These hooves allow then to run and lope without injury.

When one looks at the sheep and goats, they are not avid runners, but instead rock hoppers and climbers of the mountainous areas. They also have the cloven hooves but they have a pad which is found between the toes and on the bottom of the feet which helps them grasp the rock surface and prevents them from slipping. The camel also has this adaptation, but they do not live in the mountains, but instead the deserts. These pads then form an area which is resistant to heat and allows them to walk on the burning hot sand without harm to their feet.

When one looks at the horse, it has only one hoof and no dew claws. It still has all the carpal and tarsal bones that the other animals have, but they are developed into a much bigger ankle. With all these bones, it is the reason a horse can break an ankle so easily when running. The horse has one toe….. the hippo and rhino have three toes, and big flat feet. As I said before, this is due to their bulk which these feet have to support. When one looks at the over all body structure of these animals, one would not suspect them as runners, however, they can move. When I was in Africa, I saw a hippo away from the river grazing. We, in the vehicle, were going 35 miles an hour on the plain and could not keep up with this hippo.

The elephant even bigger still has basically the same structure as the hippo and rhino but has five toes on big broad flat feet. I am guessing, but that is probably because it has so much more mass, and therefore, spreads the weight of the animal over a bigger area. If the elephant had feet like a gazelle, their feet would be driven into the dirt, and submerged probably up to the belly.

Now let’s look at the carnivores….. Starting with the bears. Big strong massive animals……so what kind of feet would you suspect? Big flat feet…..which they have. They not only have big flat feet, but they have big pads on the bottom of there feet, as do all the carnivores. These pads protect the feet from bruising and just all sorts of injuries as they walk on many surfaces. One can think of it as really thick calluses on their feet. Looking at the polar bear and the habitat in which he lives…..also has a layer of hair on the bottom of his feet. This protects the feet from the cold and helps provide traction on the ice.

The rodents have very similar feet also with pads. Here we have animals of a more diverse habitat. Some, as the porcupines and squirrels, are climbers, and some, as the beaver and muskrats, nutria, capabarra, are swimmers, and the remainder are ground dwellers. The pads serve the same purpose, but in the swimmers, they have webbing between there toes.

The monotremes and marsupials feet are very similar to other animals already discussed. One exception and that is the Kangaroo. Look at how big their feet are. Their feet must take a beating….they jump 60 feet in the air and then they land on them….the percussion alone has to be enormous. It is amazing to me how they handle this, but God seems to have adapted this means for them.

Bat feet are almost non existent, but large enough to cling and support the body weigh of the bat.

Now lets look at the mammary glands…. Ever stop to think why some animals have their breast at the hind leg, some at the fore leg, and some with multiples all the way in between.

Most animals with their breast at the fore leg, only have two nipples. These animals include all the primates, all the elephants, the hippo, the sea cows, the pinnepeds (seals), and the whales. Then we have a few like the bears that also nurse from that position. In almost every instance these animal give birth to one offspring…..bears being an exception routinely.

If we look at the ungulates (cud chewers). Most have an udder and two nipples by their hind legs, but then the cow and a few more that have four. Why? I cannot answer that. Most of these animals also produce only one offspring as well. I am going to add here that the more nourishment these animals receive, the greater the chance they have to produce twins or triplets.

Now lets look at the carnivores (cats and dogs), mice and the other rodents, the mustilids (weasels and skunks), some marsupials (pouched animals) primarily the possum, and the insectivores, (shrews etc.) and hogs. These animals routinely have two rows of nipples stretching from the fore limb to the hind limb. They can have as many as 12 nipples. In all the animals mentioned, there is routinely multiple births…..I think the record is a mouse with 32 babies.

Then we have the Marsupials (kangaroo, Koala, and a few others) that only have one baby, and it is placed in a pouch where the baby finds a nipple and never lets go for the first few weeks. The babies of these animals are the size of a small pea when born. The baby of a bear is also very small……..four will fit in my hand.

I think we have covered most of the animals now and since we are talking about mamas and babies I am going to cover the monotremes (egg layers).Monotremes lay eggs. However, the egg is retained for some time within the mother, which actively provides the egg with nutrients. Monotremes also lactate, but have no defined nipples, excreting the milk from their mammary glands via openings in their skin. All species are long-lived, with low rates of reproduction and relatively prolonged parental care of infants.

The echidna. It has no nipples, because its body is covered with spines. Oh! but so does the porcupine you say. True, but the porcupine has soft hair on the underside where the baby can cling and the breast are located there as well. The echidna has a long nose and a long tongue, and the baby pushes its nose between the spines to get to the “milk”. The mama echidna has mammary gland that secretes the “milk” and it lays on her skin while the baby pushes its nose between the spines and licks the milk from mama’s body. Unique no?

Following the gestation period, a single, small, rubbery-skinned egg is laid from her cloaca directly into a small, backward-facing pouch that has developed on her abdomen. The egg is ovoid, leathery, soft, and cream-coloured. Between laying and hatching, some females continue to forage for food, while others dig burrows and rest there until hatching. Ten days after it is laid, the egg hatches within the pouch. The embryo develops an “egg tooth” during incubation, which it uses to tear open the egg; the tooth disappears soon after hatching.

Hatchlings are about 1.5 centimetres (0.6 in) long and weigh between 0.3 and 0.4 gram (0.011 and 0.014 oz). After hatching, young echidnas are known as “puggles”. Although newborns are still semitranslucent and still surrounded by the remains of the egg yolk, and the eyes are still barely developed, they already have well-defined front limbs and digits that allow them to climb on their mothers’ bodies.

Hatchlings attach themselves to their mothers’ milk areolae, specialized patches on the skin that secrete milk through about 100–150 pores. I say again…..Unique no?

In the armadillo, another animal that is unique, a single egg is fertilized, but implantation is delayed for three to four months to ensure the young will not be born during an unfavorable time. Once the (fertilized egg) does implant in the uterus, a gestation period of four months occurs, during which the zygote splits into four identical embryos, each of which develops its own placenta, so blood and nutrients are not mixed between them. After birth, the quadruplets remain in the burrow, living off the mother’s milk for approximately three months.

Well that pretty much covers babies and nursing, one of the traits for being a mammal.

Now lets look at fur, hair…….another of the traits of mammals.

Ever wonder why some animals have long fur and others have short fur?

Ever wonder how the artic fox and the ermine and some hares change color in different seasons? I do and I have yet to read how that happens. I don’t know. Why it happens is so the animal will blend in with its environmental surroundings. Guess it is one of many questions I will have to save until I meet my Creator.

Ever wonder why an armadillo has about one hair per square inch on his shell and the pangolin has many hair, but all under his shell?

Most body coverings (fur) is made for protection from the elements, cold, heat, sun and rain or snow.

Most markings are there for a form of camouflage. It works too! I once watched a deer fawn being born. I knew where it was…..3 days later, I went back to take the little fella’s picture, and I walked past it ten times before I saw it. Those white spots imitate the sun spots that hit the forest floor.

Let’s take an extreme……zebras…..black and white……two outstanding colors. How can that be camouflage? When I was in Africa I watched the zebras for a while. When they grazed, they stood out. But when the rested they got into groups of 3-5 and stacked themselves in a particular way. I asked one of the Masaii hunters why they did that. Very interesting reply……The zebra does that so they can watch in all directions. Should anything sneak up on them, their first form of defence would be to kick and then run. Their scattering like that would confuse the predator and they would get away. Now see how they sway as they stand. Most predators, because they hunt at night, are lacking in the rods and cones in their eyes that enable them to see color. The black and white stripes, the swaying and the group stacked as they are, makes them appear as bushes in the dark, when most of these predators hunt. I took one of the images of the zebra and changed into black and white photo…It kind of works for me. Now tell me that is not amazing behavior.

Going Back to the white tailed deer, they are a reddish color in summer and a brownish color the rest of the year. They shed their hair in the spring and when it is growing back each hair is engorged with blood, hence the red color. But when the rut is about to start, a hormonal change takes place and the blood is needed elsewhere and the hair is then becomes hollow. These hollow hairs are an insulating factor to keep the deer warm in winter. Most members of the deer family are like this.

All in all, there are many patterns and colors on many of the animals, and all are there for a specific reason, but most of it is centered around camouflage.

We have animals like the elephants, and rhino and hippos, even hogs fall into the category, that have very little hair. Their hair does not protect them from the elements. These guys use dirt, or mud by wallowing to cover their body to protect their skin from sunburn.

Again in Africa, we happened upon one of these wallows as we were following some pachyderms. There were about six animals like stair steps, so I am assuming a mama and her babies for a few years. When they hit the wallow, the largest one reared up and jumped into the mud and in one flail swoop she was on her side in the mud. A couple of the wee ones followed suit. Just then I notice a turtle come running from the wallow. Guess he thought it safer in the prairie grass then being laid on by an elephant.

Looking at the pinnepeds, elephant seals in particular, they have hair similar to a horse. They live in the cold waters of the ocean but they have their blubber to keep them warm. Yet every year in May or June, they beach themselves and go through ecdysis (shedding) of their hair. During the process they look like they have been rolled in butter and it hardened on them. As they roll in the sand, this yellow comes off and a new coat of hair is underneath. Other seals and walrus do have similar habits.

I don’t know anything about whales fur.

The chiroptera, bats, I have caught a few and know they are covered with fur so their young have something to cling to, but I do not know if they shed or anything about their fur.

A couple of side lights……Why the do lion and the horse have manes? I can only guess……Have you ever seen them fight? They are vicious biters. Horses bite the necks of their rivals, the mane is protection from this. The same is true with the lion, who also has claws. The mane would protect the jugler from being slashed open.

Now lets look at the foremost part of the body, or as my dad used to say, the part that goes over the fence first. That would be the nose.

Noses have four functions….one as the opening to breathe in the air needed for the body (another trait of mammals), and two as the apparatus used to pick up the smells, and three the part that goes over the fence first, and four in some cases as the elephant, it is the food collection apparatus or houses the collecting apparatus.

We will start with number four first… this will be the easiest one to deal with. We all know the elephant nose is a trunk. It is used for many things. The most important is that of picking grass to put in the animals mouth for food. It also can submerge itself and the trunk then can stay out of the water and take in the air to breathe. Tapirs can do this as well. The elephant trunk also picks up things…..as a help to man, it can lift heavy objects (at least a ton), or as self indulgent, it can throw dirt on itself to scare insects or help prevent sunburn, or spray water on itself to cool down. It has many uses.

Now lets look at another strange nose….The one of the anteaters. Almost trunk-like, but it is not flexible. It is solid bone. It has to provide a cavity to house that long tongue. It still breathes, but it also makes use as a tool. The long claws tear apart the anthills, while the nose wedges through the mound and the tongue picks up the ants.

We will start on number three……Going over the fence first. We have to talk about body shape, and the nose has a lot to do with that. Look at the dolphins with their torpedo shaped body, and the gazelle with their torpedo shaped bodies, and the seals with torpedo shaped bodies, see a pattern here?…..when they are in fast gear in movement, it is that nose that split’s the water or air currents and allows no drag to slow the animal down.

Oh! Oh! The dolphin does not have nostrils on what we would call the nose, therefore is it really a nose or does it breathe out of the back of its head? In actuality what I call the nose is called a beak and it houses the teeth and mouth. The nose is not an extremity in this case. The actual nose is called a blow hole……all toothed whaled including the dolphins have only one, while the baleen whales have two. It is these blow holes through which they breathe in and exhale the air from their bodies. It is the blowhole system that creates the clicks and sounds of the whales as they have NO vocal cords. They also possess NO sense of smell. Some of the whales can dive down to a depth of 6-8 thousand feet and not get the bends, as well as stay down there for up to an hour. Imagine holding your breath for an hour.

The last thing noses do Is what they are known for…..picking up smells. We all know, when Wayne is popping pop corn, it emit’s a very distinct odor. We all know when there is a dead skunk in the middle of the road.

We all have seen dogs run up to other dogs and sniff each other. Know why that is? How many have seen the movie of dogs and cats. This is a movie where the dogs verses the cats to gain superiority in the human household. An OLD backwoodsman once told me that all the dogs in the state were having black tie event and all dogs were invited. They had several committees to discuss different plans to set into operations to gain that superiority. So the meal was served and the it was time to roll up their sleeves and go to work. The dogs all checked their tails, took off their stiff collars and rolled up their sleeves and started work. However, out side the convention hall were the spies from the cats. They heard a lot of the plans and knew they had to disrupt things……So they all went running through the hall yelling “Fire. Fire! Save yourself. it’s burning! Fire!” The Dogs never checked to see if it was true, but just headed for the door and grabbed a tail on the way out. Afterwards, they found out that all was a trick, it was late and they all went home. When they got home, they discovered they did not have their own tail. They wore what they had, but that is why when two dogs meet they sniff each others tail in search of finding their own real tail. …….Just a bit of humor.

Seriously now. Another part of noses is that smell they are trying to pick up. It is something called PHEROMONES. Pheromones is defined as a chemical compound, produced and secreted by an animal, that influences the behavior and development of other members of the same species. In simple terms, it is how we smell. I am going to start with the animal world first on this one and after I do, you will understand why. Ever seen a cat or a dog mark its territory? They do that with their pheromones that are emitted through the secretions that with which they use to mark it. Hogs have a gland on their back that they rub to mark theirs. Deer have a gland on their cheek. Bears rub their back on trees like they have an itch. This scent is in the urine, in the scat, and in the scent glands, and their sweat glands, and is virtually left on everything any animal touches, with one exception. I just said the cetaceans have no sense of smell.

Pheromones are used mainly to mark territories and to find a mate. This smell is unique to each and every animal. No two are alike. If one emits the pheromones, it tells the sex of the animal, the size of the animal, if female…if it has babies, and how often it marks its territory determines how big the territory is and how badly the animal will defend it.

Yes, we humans have them too. However, since we bathe like we do, we wash most of them from our bodies. We wear perfumes and wash clothes with scented soap, and do just about anything to mask our smell. Just to show how lacking our sense of smell is……We cannot pick up other animal pheromones, while they can pick any and all other animal smells.

FYI…….

Bats have a food sense of smell. The bats that are pollinators can pick up the scent of a flower as they fly through the air.

Bears can pick up human scent up to three miles from the individual.

Now lets examine tails, or as my dad would say…. the part that goes over the fence last.

This to me is very interesting to research. Just think about all the different tails on the different animals. All different shapes, sizes, functions, colors,….OH! So many.

Here we go. Let’s look at the cats…..The tiger being the largest, long and strait. The lion, long and strait but with a tuff of hair on the end. The cougar, long and slender, The cheetah, long and slender. The jaguar, long and strait. The leopard, long and strait. The jagurundi, long and strait, the ocelot, long and slender. Now we look at the lynx and bobcat and serval which have virtually no tails. Why is that? My theory is that the lion has a tuff because it chases flies with it, like a cow. Maasai warriors on a lion kill, take the tail so they have a fly chaser and it is also a status symbol for bravery, but not as much so as the mane.

When I was in Africa, I observed that the lions lay around all day and hunt at night. When they hunt they depend on stalking and not running down their prey. Thus, they need a fly chaser. Whereas, the rest of the cats that possess the long and slender tail mostly hunt in the daylight. They also chase their prey and pursue it until it is caught. In doing so, they need that long straight tail to help balance them in making those sharp corner turns. As far as fly chasers…..tigers and jaguars rest in water, leopards, ocelots, and jagurundis rest in trees where flies seldom go, cougars live high in mountains where few flies live, and that leaves the cheetah when bothered by flies just rolls over on their back in the grass.

Now then, why does the lynx, bobcat, and serval have virtually no tails? They too, all are tree dwellers, and that eliminates the need for a fly chaser. They hunt by stalking and chasing down their prey, however, their prey is far from being as fast as a gazelle. Yes, rabbit can make quick turns but they can only run a hundred yards. Thus they have no need for a balancing apparatus. So they really have no need for a tail.

The Canids or dogs of North America and the dingoes, all have big busy tails. They pursue prey and use it for balance. They also have another function for it. When they sleep, they curl up, and place their tail over their face. This serves as three functions…..first, it helps camouflage the animal by hiding its face. Secondly, it adjust the air that is breathed in and lastly it also protects the animal from blowing sand and stuff during storms.

Other carnivores, otters, mink, and other aquatic carnivores use their tail for balance when on ground and as a rudder when in the water. Most of these tails too, are long and slender.

The land carnivores……the badger, is a digger and there a tail would just get in the way. Weasel and ferret, long and slender, used for balance in the chase. Skunks and raccoons, like the canids, they sleep curled up with tail over face.

Now look at the chiropter, bats. They virtually have a nonexistent tail. Why? Because it would hinder their flying abilities. Also one can lump the pinnepeds, the seals, in this group. They have short squatty tails between their rear flippers, so as not to get in the way when they swim.

The cetacea , whales, the sirenae, the sea cows, all have broad flat large horizontal tails which they use as their means of pushing themselves through the water.

The ungulates , the cud chewers, except for a few all have virtually no tails or short tails. Look at the deer, the antelope , moose and elk, all have small tails. But then we have the cow with a long tail with tuff on the end. One can say it is used for swatting flies from the cows back. Goats have a small tail but sheep have a long tail fluffy tail, however not long enough to swat flies (besides what fly could penetrate that wool coat of the sheep).

The giraffe has a small tail compared to the size of its body, however, it is longer than most ungulates, but definitely not long enough to keep flies from the back of the animal. It and the elephant and the hippo and rhino all have very similar tails. So what are they used for? This is just a hypothesis on my part, But I think it is to keep their bottom clean and free of flies. This could also be the case with the deer and antelope. As they defecate, their tail is bushing it from side to side and spreading their waste. This also could be a way they spread their pheromones. (Their scent) I also observed that in the elephant the tail is used but the younger generations as we would hold hands to lead a small child. Just think about this,….Mom defecates and then tells baby to grab her tail as they are going for a walk. Would you want to be that baby?

Another grass eater, the horse and zebra have a tail made of many, many strands of long hair and not a long shaft covered with hair. I feel this is mostly for insect protection. Remember how I told that the zebra stand to protect themselves by their path of sight, this also works as a means to protect themselves and others from the insect world. Their tail switching protects their flanks as well as the sides of their neighbor in the group. Horses always stand head to tail if they are at ease.

Now lets look at the Marsupials, pouched animals. Koalas have not tail. Possoms have a tail like a rat…..long, not much hair, but instead covered with a skin which is shed as it grows. It is also prehensile meaning it can grasp onto things. It and its opposable thumb make this guy a good climber. Now the kangaroo…..big, long, flat, muscular tail covered with short hair. It is definitely a counter balance for the roo as it bounds and when stationary it acts as an balance and a support for the animal.

The insectivores, have varying tails. The armadillo has a tail covered in armour used to protect its body when it rolls into a ball. The giant anteater has a large fluffy tail made of long hair. Again a hypothesis…..I know that when it walks the tail is erect, but after it has torn apart an ant hill, the tail is down…..these long hairs are sweeping the ground. Is it to uncover more ants or is it to agitate the ants to keep them from biting its feet? As I said just a guess.

Then we have the shrews and moles. The moles have very small or no tail. Most shrews have a short tail but there are a few with longer tails. I have never seen a long tailed shrew so I don’t even have a clue. Most of these are southern hemisphere.

We have covered most of the families except for the rodents…..Again many kinds of tails. Mice, rats, muskrat and nutria and others all have a skin tail like a possom. That is so that their predator has a toothpick when the animal is consumed. Just checking to see if you were still awake. In the aquatic animals, their tail is used as a rudder. Then we have the beaver with a skin type tail but it is flat and quite broad. Also a rudder, but many other uses…..Signal danger with the slap of the tail, and a carrying device as it piles mud on it and carries the mud to build a dam and them packs the mud with slaps of the tail.

The porcupine virtually no tail as it would probably get in the way as it climbed, and besides who would want to use their tail for a pillow while sitting in trees.

Now we have another boreal rodent, the squirrel. These animals make highways through the trees. If you watch them, they use the same routes over and over, and they all use the same routes.

I have a hickory tree outside my house. I surprised a squirrel in the tree as I walked out onto my porch. He went running up to the tippy top of the tree, and was going to jump to the next tree. It missed its branch and started a 40 foot fall. That tail was just a going to keep its balance so as, like a cat it landed on its feet. It hit the leaf litter on its feet and did a back flip in order to grab another tree and never missed a step to keep on running. That big old fluffy tail is used for balance. Could it not be used for warmth, one might ask. It is possible if they curl up in their nest, if they sleep on a branch the tail is over their back and not over their face. Still this prevents rain and snow from reaching the body.

The Flying squirrel has a tail like a weasel and it is used as a rudder when it extends its “wings”.

Bears have virtually no tails, as they would probably get in the way when climbing.

Humans have no tails but they possess a tail bone. The great apes are similar. But then the rest of the primates mostly have tails. The New World primates have a tail that is prehensile which aids in climbing, either in balance or swinging. The lemurs is used mainly for balance.

And the dogs are still hunting their own particular tail.

Now lets look at teeth…..

Canines for meat eaters to rip apart the meat, Molars for grinding up vegetative matter on herbivores and ungulates, the cud chewers, Incisors for gnawing on the rodents, regular chompers for insectivores, and so forth.

Teeth of whales….. The toothed whales and the baleen whales. A couple of years ago when I spoke on the oceans I had had baleen described to me, but had never seen it. I have since seen it. It is 8-9 feet long and has soft strainers attacked to strain out the plankton. Most of beaked whales have no teeth, some, mostly males have 4 for harem control and territorial disputes. Then there is the narwhal with just one tooth and it is up to 10 feet long. It is usually the upper left canine tooth.

The difference between dolphins and porpoise is their teeth. One has round, and the other has flat teeth. This controls their diet.

Seal teeth……mostly used for fighting and food gathering.

Elephant tusk…..illegal to possess.

The final thing we are going to look at is scat, droppings, poop.

If one is going to study an animal thoroughly it is one more thing that that helps identify an animal.

How does one gracefully talk about this subject? Mice, shrews and moles, and bats look the same, and I suspect we all could Identify it. Rats and the next size larger animals are the same shape, but larger. Possom is the size and shape of a wheat chex. Then we got to the rabbits, the deer and antelope, sheep and goats, all look like raisins. Elk and moose look like tater tots. Bison, buffalo, cows and a few others, because of the extra saliva compartment in the stomach to aid in digestion have a very loose stool, and it forms pies shaped piles. After it is dried, it looks like big chips. Horses and zebra have more formed stool about the size of apples. Then we have the rhino and hippo which is same texture but larger. Elephant is a big pile of grapefruit sized dung forming a pile or a heap.

The carnivores mostly have a hard stool which is cigar shaped. Cats smaller and they bury theirs so it is not often seen. Dogs is a little larger. Bears larger still, unless it is berry season and then it is pie shaped. Primates larger still.

Now that is all I am going to say about scat, other than that, there is still a lot I have to learn……

We have just taken a different type trip through the mammals, in which we compared all their similar features or parts.

My favorite words…..Stop and think….. As we compared all these groups of animals, we saw how many intricate parts there are to make all these animals function as perfectly as they do. We have the animal there to study and to watch to observe all these traits and functions. Isn’t it amazing to see all these things. And yet we did not even delve into any aspect of physiology, they working within the body itself to digest food, to make the muscles work which would include the circulatory system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, and everything else. We did not go into behaviors of all these animals. We did not go into some environmental factors of these animals. We did not go into any of the cycles involved in these animals lives, or how dependent they are upon each other and how delicate all of these systems are as they intertwine with each other.

Yet our Creator made everything we just talked about from scratch on day 5…..That means from the first inkling of an idea, from formation to the perfect completion in just 24 hours. Each one is unique in there DNA, their nose print, their pheromones, their voice, and other ways…..and all are perfect. Just think about that.

I don’t know about you, but when I see this natural world through my eyes, I am in awe of our Heavenly Father, and how amazing it is going to be to live with the ONE who created all of this. Hopefully after today, you will see some of this as well and start to understand the Greatness of our Creator.

That concludes the mammals study. However, in knowing about all these things will in fact make one a better photographer by being able to understand each of the animals in their ways of behavioral aspects according to their structure

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1 Response to All About Mammals by Ron Toel

  1. Pingback: Paying Homage | Wayne Nelson's Earth Images Blog

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