Head in the Clouds

Is it just me?, life, Metaphors in Nature, This is Why I Don't Have Friends

Hours upon hours of fresh, local and international news plays constantly on television and radio everyday. Newspapers and magazines overload us with current affairs and celebrity life events. 

For many people, keeping up with the latest news across the globe is a daily duty. Watch some news channels with morning coffee, read the newspaper at lunch, pick up a magazine on the weekends – it’s normal and pretty much expected of all adults. 

And then there’s the people like me. The ones who are caught up in the irrelevant mysteries of the multiverse, the purpose of all life on the planet, and the new season of Doctor Who. The people who don’t have a clue what’s going on in the real world because there’s a multitude of science fiction left to discover before our final doom comes into play.

It’s important to know all species that exist in the Star Wars Extended Universe, all theories of space beyond the view of the most powerful telescope, and to finish every Halo novel that’s ever been published. 

‘Current affairs’ for people like us doesn’t include discussions on trade with China or tax reduction plans. No, for us, what needs to be discussed is the reunion of Captain Picard and the rest of The Next Generation Enterprise crew.

Shouldn’t I pay attention to what’s happening around me? Why? It’s not like I have the power to stop wars or elect political leaders myself. I can’t solve world hunger or fix the pollution crisis. Better people than me have tried. So I prefer to keep my head in the clouds. Life is too short to stress about things I could never hope to help. I dream of space travel and hanging out with alien species across galactic barriers, venturing below the surface of the ocean and discovering Atlantis.

What’s really going on? Who really ever knows the truth.

I’ll keep my head in the clouds. It’s where I belong.

white cumulus clouds

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Ten Wondrous Facts about Armadillos

Wildlife

In southern states of the U.S. and all the way down into South America, armadillos of different shapes and sizes roam the lands. Here are ten awesome facts about these peculiar creatures:

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1. Armadillos live and love to dig.

In fact, their digging is what keeps them alive. Whether it’s digging burrows or scouring the ground out for insect meals, this is what they’re known for.

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2. The digging habit of armadillos is closely related to their location on the map.

In southern areas, the soil is soft enough for these creatures to dig as much as their little claws desire. The harder the soil, the more difficult it is to do their work. This is why an armadillo won’t be spotted in the northern states where the soil is cold and callous.

Armadillo Close-up

Aside from needing soft soil, armadillos just aren’t built for cold weather. With little stores of fat in their anatomy, they’re often forced to cuddle up in burrows when cold weather hits their habitats.

3. There are 20 different varieties of the armadillo and only one, the nine banded armadillo, can be found in the U.S.


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So if you want to see the diverse sizes and colors of the armadillo species, you’ll have to venture down to the warm climates of South America.

4. The nine banded armadillo is the state mammal of Texas.


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The scientific name for this specific variety of the armadillo is Dasypus novemcinctus. Though Texas has claimed this animal as Her official state mammal, nine banded armadillos can also be found in the U.S states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Kansas.

5. Armadillos found in South America can be much larger than those known in the U.S. They can even grow up to five feet long and 120 pounds. 

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On the other end of the spectrum, they can be as small as five inches and weigh 3 ounces.

6. The word “armadillo” comes from the Spanish language and means, “Little armored one.”

The term “nine banded” is in reference to the number of bands on the shell of the armadillos found in the southern U.S.

The scientific name for armored mammals is xenarthra cingulata.Image result for ant eater clip art

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Mammal + Armor = Armadillo (Xenarthra cingulata)

7. The rough and tough looking shells on the backs of armadillos are there for protection.

Everything serves a purpose, right? Though the shells may look odd to humans, these creatures depend on their firm coating to guard against predators. They are the only mammals to sport these shells of armor.

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Unfortunately, their soft bellies are prone to attack from predators, but the armadillos will sometimes sink down into the dirt when they are under attack to protect the soft side and let their enemies face the rigid shells.

8. A diet of an armadillo primarily includes insects, but they also eat plants and small vertebrates (this could include anything from a tiny fish or lizard up to a little mouse).

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9. Armadillos have terrible eyesight, but make up for this with their amazing sense of smell.

When digging down in the dirt, they use their long snouts to sniff out their dinner.

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With such poor eyesight, it’s pretty easy to sneak up on an armadillo, especially one who is hard at work digging out a new burrow. A close encounter with one of these creatures can be common, but one should always respect the territory and be careful not to spook the armadillo.

10. Armadillos are descendants of a prehistoric creature called the “glyptodon.”

Apparently, these big guys were around the size of a small car.

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Life advice from the armadillo: When facing stressful times, focus on your strengths.

Though they look a little odd and might destroy your yard from time to time, armadillos are awesome creatures that deserve to live on this planet just as much as any other unique species of earth.

Thank you very much for reading this post. My armadillo buddies and I are eternally grateful. ^_^

Carly Twelve

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References

“Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus Novemcinctus).” Texas Parks and Wildlife, https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/dillo/.

“Armadillos.” National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/armadillos/

“Armadillo (Xenarthra cingulata).” San Diego Zoo Animals and Plants, http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/armadillo

You Will Love the Okapi

Wildlife

Perhaps in a zoo or public library you’ve stumbled upon an image of this peculiar creature. The okapi is not vastly well known, even to modern biology, because of the secretive behavior of the animal. Though we may not know everything about this beautiful mammal, here are ten interesting facts that science has discovered:

1 – Okapis are related to giraffes. In fact, they’re the only living relative to the giraffe species.

white and brown giraffe

Photo by Gabriella Herlaar on Pexels.com

Upon further observation of the head of the okapi and the giraffe, similarities between the two species can be noted in the shape of the head and face, the horns on the males, and the ears.

2 – The Ituri Forest is the natural home of the Okapi species. This is a tropical rain forest in central Africa.

This forest also houses the Okapi Wildlife Preserve, dedicated to restoring the  population of the endangered okapis. (https://www.okapiconservation.org/the-okapi/)

3 – The scientific name for Okapis is Okapia Johnstoni. Translated, this means: “forest giraffe.”

giraffe

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Take a giraffe from the Savannah and throw it into a lush, green rainforest, paint it brown and remove a few feet of height – and the result will be a brand new okapi.

To break it down a little more:

/Order: Artiodactyla/
/Family: Giraffidae/
/Genus and Species: Okapia johnstoni/

4 – Okapis like to live and travel alone.

Quiet and solitary, okapis do not travel in pairs or herds unless a mother is nursing an okapi calf. Other than this one circumstance, these creatures like to be isolated, even from other okapis. They mark their territory and let others know to stay away.

5 – The white and brown stripes have a purpose – camouflage in the rain forest.

The stripes on their lower half and the dark brown coat above help to keep the okapi hidden in the dense forests they are native to.

6 – Okapis can live up to 20-30 years. 

And every single one of those years an okapi spends on this earth is precious. Humans are lucky to be able to study and learn about these amazing animals.

7 – These animals are difficult to locate. 

Because of their sensitive hearing abilities and their camouflaged coats in the rainforest, okapis are not easy creatures to track down. They are very good at hiding and evading human detection.

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Photo by Tayeb MEZAHDIA on Pexels.com

This might not be great for researchers, but it’s a huge help in keeping the okapis protected as they keep themselves off the radar.

8 – Okapis’ coats are oily. 

With an oily coat, water slides off instead of being absorbed. This is helpful in a wet, humid environment where the okapi species lives.

macro shot photography of water drops

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

9 – Leopards are the primary predator of the okapi. 

animal big big cat blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The camouflage brown and striped coats and powerful hearing not only protect okapis against humans, but also defend against natural predators as well. The Ituri Rainforest may be beautiful, but it’s not lacking in the area of dangerous predators.

10 – Okapis are Herbivores. 

cascade creek environment fern

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This diet includes leaves, twigs, and other vegetation. No meat.


The okapi still leaves us with unanswered questions, but the species is no longer a complete mystery. This beautiful creature has opened many eyes to the wondrous diversity this earth provides.

What humans learn from the Okapi – be who you are, with stripes, big ears, and all else unique to you. Don’t feel you have to fit in with the rest of the world.

When an opportunity arises, check out the nearest zoo to get a glimpse of an okapi. You will not be disappointed.

 

Thank you for reading this post.

Hope the rest of your day is great!

Carly Twelve

 

References:

Christiansen, P. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Animals. (pp. 91). London, United Kingdom. International Masters Publishers AB.

Bradford, A. (2016, September 23) Okapi: Facts About the Forest Giraffe. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/56233-okapi-facts.html

Okapi. Retrieved from https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/okapi

The Okapi: A Most Curious Animal, A Cultural Symbol, a Species on the Brink. https://www.okapiconservation.org/the-okapi/

 

Ten Enlightening Facts about the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

Wildlife

The ocean provides the world with alluring and interesting creatures of all shapes, sizes, and classifications. The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab is one of these odd and fascinating species found in and near coastal waters. Here are 10 facts about this unique arthropod of the sea:

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1 – The scientific name is Limulus Polyphemus and is part of the arthropod classification. The horseshoe crab is not considered a crustacean and actually has more in common with scorpions and spiders (arachnids) than other “crab” species.

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2 – The term, “horseshoe” comes from the way the unique shells resemble a horseshoe. Here is a side by side comparison – what do you think? What would you have named this creature if you had stumbled upon it while walking along the shoreline?

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3 – The horseshoe crab is a 200 million year old (at least) species and is considered a living fossil. Each individual can live up to 20 years.

Fossil_horseshoe_crab_dead_in_its_tracks

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4 – Horseshoe crabs mature and are ready to reproduce around age 10. They lay and bury their eggs in the sand near the shoreline. The fertilization period of the eggs varies with climate and location.

pair, mating, horseshoe, crabs, limus polyphemus

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5 – Variations of the Atlantic, or American, Horseshoe Crab can be found all along the East Coast of the United States stretching from Maine down to the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the differences among the shell colors, sizes, etc. all of them retain the Limulus Polyphemus classification.

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6 – The exoskeletons of the horseshoe crabs are shed over and over again. As the creature reaches the end of its sexual peak, the shells decrease in size over time. An older horseshoe crab will be smaller and produce less slime than those that are younger.Image result for horseshoe crab exoskeleton

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7 – Natural predators of the horseshoe crab and its eggs include sea turtles and shorebirds. Sea turtles are currently endangered, enhancing the importance of the horseshoe crab as a food source.

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8 – Because of the unique properties of its blue blood, the blood of the horseshoe crab is used in biomedical science, including the FDA, to test medicines and vaccinations.

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9 – Unfortunately, due to the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs for use as bait and testing in the biomedical field, the population has decreased through the years. This has also lead to a negative impact on the species’ that use this creature as a food source.

Horseshoe Crab, Ocean, Sea, Crab, Beach, Animal

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10 – Other issues causing a decline in this population are climate change, erosion of the ocean floor, human development along coastal regions, and air pollution.

Horseshoe crabs on beach - splash

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Conservation teams are working to convince companies to cut back on mass harvesting. Synthetic alternatives to the unique properties of horseshoe crab blood are being tested in order to preserve this species, and to prevent any further decline. With time, hopefully we will be able to see the population turnaround and begin growing.

tagged horseshoe crab

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Life advice from the Atlantic Horseshoe crab: If you take the time to get to know someone, you just might discover that deep down, the two of you are more alike than you would originally have thought.

This is an admirable creature of the sea sure to turn a head or two when it crosses paths with humans. It has been around a long time and hopefully will continue to grace the ecosystem with its presence for the rest of the Earth’s existence.

Thanks for reading this post. ^_^

Carly Twelve

Crab, Horseshoe, Male, Macro, Sand, Beach, Wildlife

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References

Bakker, A.K., Dutton, J., Sclafani, M., Santangelo, N. (2016, April 27) Environmental exposure of Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus Polyphemus) early life stages to essential trace elements. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron_Bakker/publication/310213356_Environmental_exposure_of_Atlantic_horseshoe_crab_Limulus_polyphemus_early_life_stages_to_essential_trace_elements/links/59f25410aca272cdc7d018be/Environmental-exposure-of-Atlantic-horseshoe-crab-Limulus-polyphemus-early-life-stages-to-essential-trace-elements.pdf

Carter, S.C., Carmichael, R.H., Estes, M.G. Jr., and McBarnes, M. (2016, February) American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus Polyphemus): Population Ecology Within the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Retrieved from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2016AGUOSME14D0645C

Krisfalusi-Gannon, J., Ali, W., Dellinger, K., Robertson, L., Brady, T.E., Goddard, M.K.M., Tinker-Kulberg, R., Kepley, C.L., and Dellinger, A.L. (2018, June 05) The Role of Horseshoe Crabs in the Biomedical Industry and Recent Trends Impacting Species Sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2018.00185/full?&utm_source=Email_to_authors_&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=T1_11.5e1_author&utm_campaign=Email_publication&field=&journalName=Frontiers_in_Marine_Science&id=328233

Maloney, T., Phelan, R., and Simmons, N. (2018, May 10) Saving the horseshoe crab: A synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood for endotoxin detection. Retrieved from https://peerj.com/preprints/26922.pdf

Smith, D.R., Brockmann, H., Beekey, M.A. et al. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (2017) 27: 135. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-016-9461-y