Cumberland Times-News

November 3, 2012

Science talks feature mammals from Asia

Bob Doyle, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— In November, my Science Sunday talks (at 4 p.m. in Compton Science Center) will be on Asian mammals. Our half-hour presentations are in Compton 224, a large classroom next to the Pendulum on the second floor.

I have been giving nature presentations on Sundays since February as a substitute for our Planetarium shows. (The new planetarium facility (MLC) will reopen in February 2014.)

Following my public nature talks, any of the audience are invited to tour our Science Discovery Center where a wonderful collection of preserved animals from five continents are on display.

This is the Cavallaro Collection donated to Frostburg State by Dr. Joseph Cavallaro, a retired medical doctor. Dr. Cavallaro is a native of Westernport and graduated from Bruce High School. He now resides in West Virginia.  

Both the talk and tour are free. Some visitors that have seen our collection compare it to the displays at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.  

So consider coming on Sunday. Be sure to bring a camera for photographs of the specimens with your children or friends. Our specimens, always poised, have no problem with flash cameras.

Many children often have hamsters as pets. These are Golden Hamsters found mainly in war-torn Syria. A much more common hamster in Asia is the Desert or Dwarf Hamster.

These hamsters could fit in the palm of your hand. Pale brown on top and pure white underneath, these hamsters live in burrows, lined with camel or sheep hair. They prefer millet or grass seeds but will settle for beetles or locusts.

 A larger desert mammal is the Saiga, in between a goat and antelope. Our Saiga specimen in our Discovery Center has a notched nose, resembling “Mork” from 1970s television.

During the bitter winters in central Asia, the Saiga’s hair turns white and becomes much thicker. Saiga congregate in herds of up to 2,000 to migrate to feeding grounds in the winter. The herds are one sex only, with the male herd ahead of the female herd.

Another desert mammal is the Asiatic Mouflon sheep, the ancestor of our domesticated sheep. As other sheep, females and their young form herds while the males are either solitary or form bachelor herds.

Mouflon in Asia weigh about 120 pounds. The males’ sharp horns curve in back of their heads and are up to two feet across.

Farther south in Asia are the Sloth Bears. All black except for white fur around their neck and the top of their chests, Sloth Bears subsist on ants, termites and fruit.

With their five inch long claws, they pull out insect nests from openings in trees. Then the Sloth Bear closes its nostrils and through an opening between their front teeth slurps up the insects and honey.

The sucking sound they make can be heard up to 300 feet away. Our Sloth Bear at the Science Discovery Center is a “greeter” that you will pass by as your enter.

Other animals from my presentation include Giant Pandas, Grey Wolves (the ancestors of our domestic dogs), Long-Tailed Macaque (ground dwelling monkeys), Bornean Orangutans (largest of primate tree dwellers), Tigers (the largest cats) and Asiatic Elephants.

SKY SIGHTS IN NOVEMBER: The moon is now leaving the evening sky, rising later each night. On Nov. 11, the crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus in the 6 a.m. dawn.

On Nov. 15, the crescent moon will appear near the planet Mars in the 5:45 p.m. southwestern dusk. The evening moon will appear half full on Nov. 20.

On the night of the full on Nov. 28, the moon will appear close to the bright planet Jupiter. On the mornings of Nov. 28 and 29, the brilliant planet Venus will appear close to the planet Saturn in the southeastern 6 a.m. dawn.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.