Mikaela Sarkar: October 2009 Archives

Mexican Axolotls Face Extinction In The Wild

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Axltl4.jpgMexican axolotls are strange salamanders that never lose their larval gills or dorsal fins. Using a process called neoteny, they do not undergo metamorphosis yet become adults underwater, where they will stay for their entire lives. But, because their freshwater habitat near Mexico City is being drained and polluted, it is not likely that the comical-looking amphibians will survive in the wild. Their popularity in aquariums and as pets has also led to the creature's diminishing numbers. Fish that prey on salamanders were introduced into the ecosystem, which was detrimental to the axolotls' populations because the amphibians are not used to being hunted, except by natural threats like herons and other large birds. And, in some places, humans consider axolotls a delicacy.

Because large populations of captive axolotls exist, they will not go entirely extinct. Reintroduction of the species is unlikely for many reasons, primarily because they would have less genetic diversity and would be more susceptible to a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, which can be fatal to amphibians and is very difficult to cure. It has currently infected thirty percent of all amphibian species.

There are seven species of axolotls, but only the Mexican axolotls never lose their gills. The others are capable of never "growing up" and coming out of the water, but they only stay larvae if the temperature is too cold for them to become adults. The carnivorous Mexican axolotls can live up to fifteen years. Like some lizards, they can replace lost body parts and are therefore used in scientific research. They grow up to 1 foot long and are currently specified as critically endangered.

But there is a chance that the axolotls will not go extinct in the wild. Scientists are working to create new refuges for the animals to live in, so that their numbers do not continue to fall and, ultimately, so that the cute creatures will survive in nature.

The Indian Cheetah: Return From Extinction?

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indian cheetah 2.jpgAsiatic cheetahs once were the dominant inhabitants of the Indian grasslands. Today none are left anywhere but in Iran, where 100 are still surviving. Few Asiatic cheetahs are raised in captivity, and only one litter has been bred in India. They were called "hunting leopards" during Britain's colonialism of India because they were used by the royalty to hunt wild antelope until the cats themselves became hunters' trophies. Habitat loss to growing farmlands also led to the cheetah's eventual extinction.

But reintroducing them is not an easy task either. Iran refused India's requests for two Asiatic cheetahs and would not let them have samples from a captive cheetah that might enable scientists to clone the species. As a result, India is considering importing African cheetahs instead of the Asiatic ones. Because there are few differences between them scientists do not think there will be a problem with introducing the African subspecies.

Some environmentalists are concerned that the cheetahs will be living in a huge zoo-like environment and not truly in the wild. Other threats include poaching due to pecuniary causes or genetic similarities, which cause deficient immune systems and, in cheetahs, deformed tails. Another danger is farmers' concerns for their livestock, which may lead them to hunt the cats. However, cheetahs, preferring wild prey, do not actually kill domesticated animals if they can help it. The males, however, will include farmland as part of their territory, causing problems. (Females do not mark territories.)

Hopefully the Indian government will succeed in its efforts to import the cheetahs, because they are the only big cats not found in India, as their tiger and lion populations are growing. And - hopefully soon - the fastest land animal in the world will again prevail on the plains of India.

More Information:
India plans return of the cheetah
Asiatic Cheetah
India asks for roadmap for reintroduction of cheetahs

Going Bananas: Vegan Banana Nut Muffin Recipe

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Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup oil
4 ripe mashed bananas
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Approximately 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in one bowl; beat sugar and oil in another bowl. Mix the sugar mix thoroughly with mashed bananas, water, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and walnuts, adding water as needed. Bake muffins 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 24 muffins; depending on how full you fill the muffin cups, it may be 22 or 23.

For Energy Muffins:
¼ cup wheat germ
2-4 tablespoons ground flax

Adding the flax and wheat germ makes the recipe healthier; I adjusted it so that it would be filling and wholesome enough to replace the power bars on road trips. It worked. Note that the ground flax seed can be used as a replacement for butter, so the wheat germ, which is dry, is essential.

For High Altitude Baking:
½ teaspoon baking soda
Under ¼ cup oil
3 ripe mashed bananas

Preheat oven to 365 degrees F.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Mikaela Sarkar in October 2009.

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