Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

December 1, 2012

Science Sunday views Middle East animals

My Science Sunday talks for December will be on unusual mammals of the Middle East. These public presentations are given at 4 p.m. in room 224 in FSU’s Compton Science Center. This presentation will be given again on Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

The Middle East includes two African countries (Egypt and Sudan) and nearby Asian countries from Turkey to Afghanistan. I selected Middle East mammals, some of which are on display in our Science Discovery Center.

After my brief half hour talk, visitors are invited to see the Cavallaro Collection, which includes specimens from five continents. Dr. Joseph Cavallaro, a retired medical doctor and researcher donated his entire hunting collection to Frostburg State.

This collection includes many full body mounts, where the animals are posing as they would be seen in their native lands. Bring your camera to take pictures of your children or friends next to the animals.

   The mammal most associated with the arid Middle East is the Dromedary Camel. Dromedary camels have one hump as opposed to the two hump Bactrian camel.

Bactrian camels still live in Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia. Bactrian camels have a long shaggy coat to protect them against the severe cold in central Asia.

When the two types of camel interbreed, the offspring have a single elongated hump. The humps store body fat, which can be converted to energy and water. Camel kidneys can process brackish (salty) water, the main type of water available in arid lands.

Dromedary camels can weigh over a ton with a length (head and body) of up to 10 feet, with a shoulder height of 6 feet. Pregnancy lasts from 14 to 15 months with one offspring. Dromedary camels typically live from 12 to 15 years.

   Perhaps the most elegant Middle East mammal is the Ibex, a mountain dwelling goat. Male Ibex have swept back, ridged horns that can be over 45 inches in length. The male Ibex lower their heads and charge at each other to determine who will be able to mate with the females.

Ibex can weigh over 300 pounds with a head-body length of five feet. Female Ibex have smaller horns to ward off attacks on their young. Ibex are herbivores, eating grasses, leaves, mosses and lichens.

A scary mammal living in Middle East and in both Europe and throughout Asia is the Wild Boar. Male Boars have fearsome tusks emerging from their lower jaws to slash and wound.

The Wild Boar’s nose or snout can rotate as they seek food; their nostrils can be closed to prevent dirt from entering. Wild Boars can weigh over 700 pounds, with a head and body length from three to nearly six feet. They stand nearly three feet tall at the shoulder.

Through breeding, farmers have transformed the Wild Boar into our domestic pig, that lacks the wild boar’s thick coat, long tusks and mean disposition.

   One of the cutest small mammals of the Middle East is the Fennec fox, weighing only a few pounds with a tail nearly a foot long. This fox has relatively big ears, to act as radiators (throw off body heat) and to give them better hearing to detect small rodents.

Fennec foxes fluff their tails and wrap their tails around their feet to reduce loss of body heat on cold nights. (My indoor male cat, Sunny also does this when sleeping on the sofa.) Fennec foxes have fur on their soles to protect them while walking on hot desert sands. Naturally, the Fennec fox has a tan coat to blend in with desert sand.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: This evening the giant planet Jupiter is closest to the Earth at a distance of 378 million miles. Jupiter appears very bright because of its large size (11.2 times the width of Earth) and highly reflective ammonia crystal cloud tops.

The sunlight from Jupiter’s cloud tops takes about 34 minutes to travel to the Earth. Jupiter appears as a bright steady point in the East as it gets dark.

In the middle of this week, Mercury is at its farthest angle from the sun in the southeastern dawn. Look below and to the left of the brilliant planet Venus in the southeastern dawn about 6:20 a.m.

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.

1
Text Only
Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014

  • A long and winding road faces our food

    Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.

    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

  • Moon-watching easy when you know how

    Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.

    June 21, 2014

  • Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets

    How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).

    June 15, 2014

  • Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one

    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

    May 18, 2014

Latest news
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads