Pronking: The Happy Dance That Should Kill You (But Doesn’t)

Lambs do it, alpacas do it, even gazelles do it: pronking. Also known as stotting, that joyous all-four-hooves-in-the-air leap can be one of the happiest ways to signal a hoofin’ good time. Their spines are even built for it.

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But pronking’s for more than just fun and games. When danger strikes, hooved animals will do a yipes-like pronk high in the air.

Does this make sense? If you’re being chased by someone, it would seem to make more sense to put your energy into forward motion than just pogo up and down in the same spot while Mr. and Mrs. Sharpteeth come nipping at your heels. Still, pronkers get chased less often, and when they are chased, they’re captured less often than those who just turn tail and flat-out run.

BHR-pronking-gazelle-comparison

Here’s the thing: It takes a lot of energy to pronk. Get up and try it! It doesn’t take many boing boing boings to see that the best pronkers need to be in tip-top shape. Pronking is an example of honest signaling, which means good pronkers are saying, “You can try to catch me, but I’m in such good physical condition I’ll probably outrun you. See? I have all this energy that I can jump up and down here and don’t even need to run from you yet.”

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And the predators say, “Oh. Ok. Thanks for the head’s up. I won’t waste my time. I’ll eat Mr. Slowpoke over here.”And then they do. And the meanest pronkers pronk for joy.

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Elephants ATTACK!

Asian elephants kill, on average, nearly 400 people across India each year.1, 2

Migrating around Asia, they scarf down and stomp on people’s crops, smash their homes, and drink their liquor.

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In all, elephants snarfle down the crops of at least 500,000 families in India each year (each elephant eats about 440 pounds of vegetation per day).1

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The big meanies.

Except . . .

People kill elephants right on back. In addition to the more than 100 Asian elephant retaliatory killings each year, at least

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are electrocuted on fences,

 

 

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die from diseases like anthrax and trypanosomiasis they contract from human-owned cattle, and at least

 

 

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are killed by trains (over 100 total elephants have died from trains). 2

 

Nobody knows how many more elephants die from getting trapped in human-dug drainage ditches, poaching, direct habitat loss, and more, so let’s not count those.

So . . .

Taking the largest estimate of total Asian elephant population today3 and the CIA’s estimate of the total population of Bhutan4 and India5, let’s compare the damage.

Elephants are 12,422 times more likely to die at the hands of humans than humans are to die from elephant-related causes.

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And while humans have encroached on 80 percent of elephant-inhabited forests, elephants have damaged less than one millionth of one percent of Indian farmland. bHR_15

 

Maybe we’re the jerks.

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Or maybe it’s a complicated problem. One that we can help fix.

How Many Does It Take?

Here at Buzz Hoot Roar, we love how humans measure everything and hand out superlatives. Today, we see how many of the biggest, longest, or tallest animals in their class (or order or family!) it would take stacked end-to-end to reach the top of some of our favorite landmarks. (It’s probably pretty important to know how many of the largest known bacteria it would take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower.)

How many of the tallest dinosaur versus the biggest bacteria does it take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower?

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…and how many of the longest jellyfish versus the longest tapeworm does it take to stretch to the top of the Grand Canyon?

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…and how many of the biggest mammal versus the tallest bird does it take to reach the top of the Statue of Liberty?

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…and how many of the tallest marsupial and biggest ant does it take to reach the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

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…and how many of the tallest land mammal and longest snake does it take to stretch to the tip of the Great Sphinx?

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Meet our Contenders!

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Hey, Hot Stuff!

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Check our facts!

1. http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/3/371.short

2. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/33/11808.short

3. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11473305/reload=0;jsessionid=IuKpuL7FE1NYrfBJnY2u.18

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By Roar, illustrated by Hoot.

Buzz Hoot Roar Announces Its First Artist in Residence!

We’re back from summer vacation, and we brought a souvenir! Today, Buzz, Hoot, and Roar are super excited to announce the Very Talented Christine Fleming is our first ever Artist in Residence!

Yes, we’re still working with other talented artists across the globe, and we’d love you to contact us if you’re ever interested in working with us. But for the next few months, Fleming, of spider sex and what’s the difference fame, is going to share her awesomeness with us every other week. Get Ready!

Here, Fleming tells us a little about the maker behind the magic.

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Who: “I’m Christine Fleming, an illustrator currently based in Southeast Texas, slowly making my way out west. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a BFA in Graphic Design, and my illustrations have appeared in parenting magazines, literary zines, blogs, educational workbooks, and personal commissions. I’m also working hard toward my dream of writing and illustrating my own picture books. If I’m not drawing, writing, or staring at my computer screen, I can probably be found cooking way too much food, running with my dog, Oni, or reading in the sun.”

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Why: I’m thrilled to be Buzz Hoot Roar’s artist in residence! Drawing allows me to really see something, giving me a better grasp on the subject, and a greater appreciation of just how weird the world is (have you ever drawn an ostrich?! They’re weird.). Growing up, I was that kid saying “did you know…?!” all the time, and I guess I still am today. Now I get to draw […]

Summer Reruns: Vocabulary Quiz

Buzz, Hoot, and Roar are taking a little summer break for the next couple of weeks. When we come back, we’ll have lots of cool things and more top-of-the-line art from our world’s best science artists to share with you. We wish we were back already so we could show you all the things we have to show you. Until then, it’s summer reruns! This week, brush up on your vocabulary to impress your friends. Quiz yourself! Then be a know-it-all!

Petrichor. Is it:

  1. the official scientific descriptive for the Elephant Man’s bones?

  2. a Petri dish that’s become a little “off color”?

  3. the word for the way it smells after it rains?

Get the answer here!

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Polyphyodont. Is it:

  1. an animal that continuously replaces its teeth?

  2. a space-age binding compound used for waterproofing decks?

  3. a multi-colored avian species?

Get the answer here!

 manyteethed3_011

Actinopterygii. Is it:

  1. a not-so-great consolation prize on “The Price is Right”?

  2. the class of animals known as bony fish?

  3. neither of these things. Buzz Hoot Roar made that word up to sound smart.

Get the answer here!

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Omphaloskepsis. Is it:

  1. the act of contemplating one’s belly button?

  2. a school of thought in which people are skeptical about the relevance of elephants?

  3. a group of individuals who, through a series of research-oriented expeditions, have scientifically proven the existence of Oompa Loompas?

Get the answer here!

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What’s the difference?

When it comes to some animals, it can be hard to say at first glance exactly what makes one group different from another. Besides, someone always breaks the rules (We’re talking to YOU, Mrs. Macaque!). That said, here’s a quick-and-easy guide to help you tell the general differences between some often-confused animal doppelgangers.

What’s the difference between . . .

a frog and a toad?

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an ape and a monkey?

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a turtle and a tortoise?

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a wasp and a bee?

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a dragonfly and a damselfly?

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an ant and a termite?

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an alligator and a crocodile?

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Written by Roar, drawn by Christine Fleming.

Check our facts:

1. Frogs vs. Toads

2. Monkey vs. Ape

3. Turtle vs. Tortoise

4. Bee vs. Wasp

5. Dragonfly vs. Damselfly

6. Termites vs. Ants

7. Alligator vs. Crocodile

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Christine Fleming is an illustrator whose work tends to have a whimsical feel with organic lines, delicate textures, and hidden details. She is currently writing and illustrating her first children’s book. You can see more of her work on her website, and follow her @might_could.

By |May 21st, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|9 Comments

Petrichor: Your new favorite word

Petrichor is Roar’s favorite word.

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It comes from the Greek “petros,” which means stone, and “ichor,” which is the blood that flows through the veins of gods.

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It’s the word for the smell that comes after a rain. You know that smell? The one that’s like the time you fell in love during the spring?

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Or the way it feels to be quiet?

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The smell of the earth, with plants and animals and dirt and rocks and clouds and everything? When it’s the thickest and lushest and fullest?

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That’s petrichor.

Here’s what makes it:

  1. When it’s dry for a little while, plants release oils into the ground1,2.6a

  2. Scientists think these oils stop seeds from growing in tough, dry times36b

  3. Meanwhile, Actinobacteria kick the bucket when it’s dry, releasing something called geosmin46c

  4. When it rains, petrichor and geosmin are released from rocks and dirt, and we can smell it.6d

So it’s all that. Plus stones. Plus the blood that flows through the veins of gods.

By Roar

Check our facts!

1http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0016703766900251

2http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=CH9650915.pdf

3http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v207/n5004/abs/2071415a0.html

4http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1058374/

 

When the solution is Indiana Jones’s worst nightmare

We all know Indiana hates snakes, but should he? Here, a couple of snake experts give us three big reasons why when it comes to snakes, the more the better.

1. More snakes = fewer venomous bites.

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Here’s how it works: Non-venomous kingsnakes eat other snakes, like venomous copperheads. Where kingsnake populations drop, copperheads (and therefore perhaps potential for copperhead bites) leap. Keep your kingsnakes, folks!1

2. More snakes = less disease.

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Snakes eat rodents. When that happens, researchers in Oklahoma say that incidence of rodent-borne disease like hantavirus and Lyme disease take a nosedive. They’re slick and smooth disease-weeding machines!

3. More snakes = more food for us.

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While they weed disease, snakes are also scarfing down field pests and stored grain pests like some birds, mice, and rats.2,3,4

Despite these good deeds, Dr. Jones isn’t alone in hatin’ on the slink and sliver. Snakes remain one of humans’ most common phobias, and we may have evolved this fear to keep us safe in the olden days.5 But we’re not in the olden days anymore. We need to know more about snakes, to watch them without trying to kill them, to understand and appreciate their contributions to our backyards.

 

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By Roar and David Steen.

Check our facts!

1 http://www.hljournals.org/doi/abs/10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-13-00064

2 http://www.pnas.org/content/109/7/2418.short

3http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228329113_Do_predators_control_prey_species_abundance_An_experimental_test_with_brown_treesnakes_on_Guam

4 http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z96-113#.UzrlNVcvmuA

5 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/19/3/284.short

Meet our experts!

Dr. David A. Steen (@AlongsideWild) is a research fellow with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program; his research currently focuses on the conservation and ecology of the Indigo Snake, an animal that was recently reintroduced to the state. David blogs about his work and natural […]

Hoot’s Adventures with Emu Poop

Speaking of poop, while wandering the Australian Kwongan sandplains, Hoot and his companion noticed not all emu poop was created equal1. It turns out that emus are pretty good at helping seeds spread around by scarfing down fruits and plant material and plopping out fertilized seed cakes all over the land2. Check out Hoot’s emu poop glamour shots and marvel at those long-legged seed dispersing machines, emus.

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Check our facts!

1) Mccoy, N. (2009) The Geographical Mosaic of Myrmecochory in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot and the Fate of Myrmecochorous Seeds Dispersed by a Keystone Seed Disperser. (Master’s Thesis) Department of Biology, North Carolina State University.

2) Calviño-Cancela, M., R. Dunn, R., Van Etten, E. J. B. and B. Lamont, B. (2006), Emus as non-standard seed dispersers and their potential for long-distance dispersal. Ecography, 29: 632–640. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-7590.2006.04677.x

By |April 30th, 2014|Uncategorized|3 Comments