January 2010 Archives

Grand Canyon National Park: Hiking The North Rim

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
A two-hour-long drive from Zion National Park, the forested North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a shady alternative to the rocky South Rim. In summer, the national parks of the Southwest get unbearably hot, so we went in early November. Depending on how much snow falls, the North Rim sometimes closes in October, but the visitor center was open when we went. It was cold enough in the evenings that we were obliged to wear our winter jackets, but in the afternoon we hiked in T-shirts. (It gets hot in the day - bring lots of water!) Another advantage of visiting the North Rim instead of the South Rim is that, because only ten percent of all tourists traveling to the Grand Canyon visit the North Rim, it is not crowded. The campground was closed during our visit; consequently, we camped at the much warmer Zion. The following trails we hiked in a day, so none are very long or strenuous - no one wanted to hike 21 miles to the South Rim!

Bright Angel Point
Even though Mikaela hates heights (she is terrified of Ferris wheels, although they are Katrianna's favorite amusement park rides), this hike allowed for good photo-taking opportunities. The view is best when seen in the morning because air pollution worsens in the afternoon, making it harder to see. The paved, often narrow trail climbs though switchbacks, using fences in some spots and only shrubs in others to block the steep cliffs, to the viewpoint. The Colorado River can be seen from the overlook, still carving away at the canyon it formed. Coconino Overlook is more scenic and GC cconno2.jpgless scary but Bright Angel Point is more dramatic. Of course, nothing is as terrifying as the cracked Angel's Window, but this hike will not be enjoyed by people with acrophobia.

Coconino Overlook

People who hike from rim to rim pass this pretty panorama on their way up or down. We only went 1.5 miles round trip along the North Kaibab trail, which leads through switchbacks into the canyon. It is very easy on the way down and, although the return trip is uphill, it is not very difficult even coming out. The unpaved trail goes through a forest and over a fallen log slanting across the trail. For a short part of the walk, you travel under overhanging boulders (which look scary but assuredly will not fall on your head). Katrianna found it fun to yell things into the canyon and listen to the echoes. The view of the river was Mikaela's favorite scene of the canyon because it was shady and forested. Best of all, she was not scared.

Cliff Springs Trail
Driving along the paved road to Cape Royal, you will see a pullout with a hard-to-spot sign reading, "Cliff Springs." If you park there and cross the road, you will see a flight of pine-needle covered steps leading down into the forest. We hiked this trail at dusk, when it is mysteriously shadowy and very nice (even though it gets cold after sunset). A few steps down the trail, we came to an ancient Puebloan granary. The old walls had partly crumbled, revealing the inside chambers. Continuing down the trail, we hiked though a subalpine forest of aspen, pine and fir trees, a habitat we had not expected to find in Arizona. But the actual "spring" was the best part. To access it, we had to walk under a rock ledge that in parts was dripping water - and growing mold - across damp, sandy patches and through a small stream (which Dad found slippery, and proved it by almost falling in). The sunset was making the rocky hills on the other side of the valley glow with a soft pink light. It was definitely a worthwhile trail.

GC angl'swndow2.jpgCape Royal and Angels Window
Those with a fear of heights should not attempt to walk out on Angels Window. Cape Royal Overlook was also scary - in Mikaela's perspective - but is tolerable to acrophobics and will not leave them with quaking knees. We went a few steps out onto the window (which in national parks does not refer to a software program, instead meaning a narrow rock formation with a hole in the center). From our viewpoint you could not see straight down but on either side was a sheer drop with a frightening panorama. When we had returned to the first view of the window and were looking back at it, we were startled to see the crack that had been directly under our feet. The window is prettiest at sunset, when it is softly pink with the fading light. Cape Royal was another overlook and is easily confused with Bright Angel. The view from the point, however, is worth the short walk.

Gc brghy2.gifTo Keep Passengers Entertained On Long Drives
Get a copy of Brighty of the Grand Canyon, by Marguerite Henry. It's a short (224 pages long) novel based on the life of a real burro named Brighty. In the book, Brighty has many adventures. In one chapter, the burro accompanies Theodore Roosevelt on a mountain lion hunt and in another he is the first to walk across a bridge spanning the Grand Canyon. His owner, a prospector named Old Timer, was killed by a miner who wanted the valuable minerals on Old Timer's property. In the end, Brighty and his new owner, Uncle Jim, take the miner into court for a trial. The story is especially interesting to visitors to the Grand Canyon. WARNING: This book is extremely hard to put down and will inevitably be the cause of quarreling between readers in the backseat, who turn to questionable means to get the book (including hiding it between the folds of a jacket or snatching it from another reader's lap when they were not holding it). Nevertheless, it is still worth getting.

Tool Use in Animals: From Otters to Octopuses

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Everyone’s heard of chimpanzees using relatively sophisticated tools to perform everyday tasks, like to eat their food or to hunt. But other animals, like elephants, octopuses, and even some species of fish also use tools to perform common actions. Here are twenty such silly animal anecdotes.

In Depth Measure
Gorillas and orangutans have been observed using sticks to measure the depth of bodies of water. And when an orangutan saw local humans spear fishing, he was spotted using a stick to catch fish from a net.

“Checkmate!”
Rooks are more than just a chess piece. They are large, raven like birds which, as in Aesop’s fable, can drop stones into a narrow glass of water to reach the worm floating inside.

Good Neighbors
According to the elephants, Robert Frost was wrong when he asserted that fences make good neighbors. They have been known to take huge stones, carry them to an electrical fence, and drop it down! That either breaks the fence or cuts off the electricity. Elephants also use branches as fly-swatters or back-scratchers.

Can Openers
Sea otters have been observed using stones to dislodge their prey. Once they have caught it and are again floating on the surface they also use stones to crack the shells of their dinner.

Stepstools Honey badgers, which live in Africa and parts of Asia, can use logs as tools. One was seen rolling a log through an underground cave. It then climbed on top of the log to reach a kingfisher fledgling trapped in the roots coming through the cave’s ceiling.

Modified Toy Common bottlenose dolphins blow bubbles, which they form into rings and play with, using their noses and bodies to keep the ring from floating to the surface. That’s a fun kind of tool to use!

Betty In an experiment with “Betty,” a laboratory crow, scientists laid an assortment of wires, some straight and some with hooked ends, in her cage. Then, they put a basket-shaped metal piece in a narrow glass for Betty to pull up. The scientists did not expect what the crow did: she picked a straight wire, bent it into a hook, and used it to hoist the basket out of the glass.

archrfi.jpg

Handmade Pocketknives Captive capuchin monkeys were given a flint stone and a closed box containing fruits. The capuchins broke the rock into sharp shards which they used to cut into the box.

Built-in Water Guns Archer fish live in freshwater ponds, where they can surprise unsuspecting insects by squirting jets of water at crickets and other small insects sitting on leaves above the water. Their lower jaws have evolved to become larger to help them do this impressive feat.

Getting Into A Scrape
Do you remember how much it hurts when you fall on concrete and graze your knee? When I learned to inline skate, I had to wear elbow and knee pads. Similarly, when dolphins forage for food on the ocean floor, they wear nose pads! They tear off pieces of sponge which they wrap around their noses to prevent getting scraped.

Ostrich Eggs Egyptian vultures use small rocks to crack the thick shells of ostrich eggs. Vultures that have never seen other birds using that technique are still able to manipulate the stone to get inside the egg, proving that it is a genetic trait and not learned.

Fishing for Insects
A common practice in the animal world, using a stick to draw hard-to-reach insects from their homes, is not only for chimpanzees. Although the primates have perfected the art of termite-fishing, chewing the stick’s end so that it splits into paintbrush-like bristles, Green jays and brown-headed nuthatches also probe into tree bark to extract the insects lurking within. Woodpecker finches, which live on the Galapagos Islands, have short tongues. They make up for the lack by using sticks, twigs, or even cactus spines in the same manner.

Coconut Housing Veined octopuses have been seen picking up empty coconut shells, carrying them around, and then hiding inside. Although there is debate about whether this really qualifies as tool use, it is advanced cephalopod behavior.


Monkey Missile White-headed capuchins use tools to defend themselves. They can use sticks to hit snakes either in self-defense or to reclaim their stolen baby. But a human observer got the most absurd treatment. The capuchin picked up a much smaller squirrel monkey and hurled it at the human!

Cracking Up Waiting at a traffic light on a Japanese university campus, carrion crows watched cars run over their freshly-picked walnuts. A tragedy? No. The lights changed and the cars halted. The crows walked across the road, eating the exposed meat of the nuts. The cars were cracking the nuts! Similar behavior has been observed in American crows. (To find out more, see PBS’ article.)

Oyster Drive Like the crows with their walnut-dropping habits, seagulls drop live, unshelled oysters onto roads so that passing cars will crack them open. They drop so many that driving along waterway roads is sometimes hazardous!

Underwater Discovery
In a recent experiment, captive stingrays were found using water as a tool in a manner similar to that of the archerfish. Scientists gave the stingray a tube, which was sealed on one end, containing some food. The stingray used jets of water to move the food through the tube towards them.

hron.jpg

Well Diggers Despite their not having hands, elephants use their trunks as a tool. Elephants dig holes to drink water, but after they’re done they don’t leave the hole to evaporate. Instead, they use a special technique to keep it from drying out! They rip bark from a tree, chew it into a ball, drop the ball into the hole and cover the hole with sand. The elephants remember where their well is so that they can go get free refills whenever they like.

A Heron’s Bait Green herons, which live throughout North and Central America, drop insects, food, or other small things into the water to attract fish. Hooded crows behave similarly.

Stopping the Hole
American badgers are carnivores who eat prairie dogs, some kinds of ground squirrel and other burrowing creatures, which live in underground tunnels. The badgers have developed a technique to catch them: they use stones and other objects as corks to stop the burrows’ exits. The hunted animal will have no emergency escape route, enabling the badger to catch it.

      SAUG.jpgIn 2006, lab scientists grew hog meat from stem cells. Although they said the pork was too squishy, the untasted meat still seemed to be a success.

     NASA decided to give it a try, because they thought their astronauts would be able to eat meat in space that way. They began a research program, but the scientists just got a layer of pig tissue -- astronauts would just have to be vegetarian.

      To build meat on Earth, they separate stem cells from muscle cells. They then put it in a nutrient-rich jelly. It might not work, however. Making a small pork chop would require letting the cells sit for 30 days. However, we may be able to develop advanced technology such as "Cell Incubators" to breed fake meat.

      Is it really humane to do this? Although it allows some pigs to be saved, it still makes for an unlucky few to be killed for their cells Vegetarianism is definitely a better policy, as it doesn't allow any pigs to be killed (for cells or meat).


This is still important, however, as a million pork cells = 999,999 pigs saved from the slaughterhouse......

Gesundteit to A Cat?

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)


iguanasneeze.jpgDo fish cough?                                          
Do dogs and cats sneeze?
Do lizards sneeze?
Do mice sneeze?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Iguanas sneeze to rid their bodies of excess salt (sodium chloride). Dogs sneeze if they sniff something offensive. Mice sneeze with a tiny, dainty cough.
Fish only cough, as they have gills.



Below is a funny animal video of a baby panda and its mother-the baby panda sneezes.





s

Spot The Difference: Coral Reef

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Find five differences between these pictures:


Coral-Reef-sea.jpg
Coral-Reef-Photoshop.jpg

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

February 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.