Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Elephant's Call for Love

I can't believe it's already the middle of February! Where has the “new” year gone? Oh well. Today, we've got a lot of good things to go through in this blog post that I know if you are like me, you'll enjoy. Not only is there some information on the upcoming Jurassic World movie, but I've also oriented today's non-fiction article toward the upcoming holiday, Valentine's Day – the loveliest day of the year, if you get my pun.

Days Till
It is: 1 day till Valentine's Day
It is: 4 days till Washington's Birthday
It is: 32 days till St. Patrick's Day
It is: 66 days till Easter

In the Spotlight
Great news today concerning the upcoming movie Jurassic World, the third sequel to the Jurassic Park franchise! As I've mentioned before, there isn't always much to say concerning this film because it's been under wraps. However, recently, one of the film's main actors, Chris Pratt has not only told us how excited he is to get the role of “Owen”, an ex-military type of guy in the film, but also that he really loves the original Jurassic Park. To him, it's been “his Star Wars”. He also revealed some information regarding the film's plot; it isn't much, but according to Pratt, the plot reveals why on earth they'd go back to a dinosaur-infested island in the first place after what happened in the last three films.

Also, as if this wasn't cool enough, some photographs were recently posted on Twitter regarding set building for the new film! Much of Jurassic World is going to be filmed in the same overall location of the first JP movie, in Hawaii. Click this link to see the pictures of the set building.

I'm not quite sure what exactly this set is, but it looks like it could turn out really cool! Jurassic World is going to be filming in Hawaii this April, so be expecting some production photos, more cast news and perhaps even some information on what dinosaurs we can expect in the film! (Aside from Velociraptor and T. rex, of course!)

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Elephants, while nowhere near the largest animals ever to exist, they are the largest land animals on earth today. It's no wonder so many people adore elephants! I mean, they're just awesome! Being my favorite animal, I love learning more and more about these great creatures God created on the sixth day of the Creation week as recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. (You might recall that the Bible says God created the beasts of the field on Day Six, and elephants would have been included) The largest of the three species of the elephants is the African bush elephant (the other two species are the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant); males, or bulls, of this species can grow 13 feet tall at the shoulders! But did you know that elephants are amazing in other aspects of their lives to, such as reproduction? As Valentine's Day draws near, I thought it would be a great time to discuss just what happens when elephants are in the mood for love (without getting into too much detail, if you know what I mean!). Today, we'll stick to the reproductive habits of the African bush elephant.

The tale of African elephant love starts when a female elephant goes into heat. A common time for elephants to mate is in the peak of the wet season. When a female elephant's ready for a mate, there are a couple of things she'll do to let the males know she's interested; one of thing she'll do is release chemical signals known as pheromones. The other technique is really cool: they'll send noises into the ground that originate from the creature’s stomach called infrasound. Infrasound is to low for humans to hear, but elephants hear them just fine. No, believe it or not, the elephants don't use their large ears to do this. Instead, these low frequency sounds travel through the ground for miles in the savanna and bull elephants pick up this sound through their padded feet! When male elephants smell the female's pheromones and/or pick up her infrasound, they begin to get excited and will start making their way toward the female.
Female elephants typically go into heat at the peak of the wet season.
Male elephants also go through behavioral changes – they enter musth. Musth happens when a bull's testosterone levels increase to ready them for mating. When an elephant is in musth, a wet fluid oozes from the elephant's cheeks and they become extremely aggressive! A word of precaution: never under any circumstances should you approach a male elephant in musth! They're so aggressive that they'll attack literally anything that gets too close, including harmless animals such as giraffes and zebras. African elephants start going into musth when they get about 24 years of age and the older they get, the more often they do so! Now they must track down the cows (yes, female elephants are also known as “cows”).
You can tell when an elephant goes into musth because it will secrete fluid from its cheek.

Something you should know about elephant social structures is that females live in herds consisting of grandmothers, daughters, aunts, female cousins, mothers and their young. Males on the other hand normally live alone or in small groups of other bachelor males and they are normally pretty placid animals unless provoked. When they enter musth, however, everything changes! Male elephants follow the scent of a female's pheromones and infrasound until they reach the herd where the elephant they've been tracking is located. Then they go on the rampage.

African elephant females live in herds consisting of mothers and their young, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and nieces.
Once they've reached a herd, bulls will often “puppy-guard” (or is it “elephant-guard”?) the females from other bulls. Many bulls are deterred by these “puppy-guarding techniques”, but sometimes, a bull won't back down and the two males clash. They ram their heads and tusks together in a sort of ultimate sumo-wrestling match, except pushing the other opponent to the ground isn't the goal. Sometimes, these fights can go on for hours and elephant bulls can be seriously injured or killed. Fortunately, most times the stronger of the two bulls merely ends up driving the weaker one away with no major injuries inflicted. Once a bull has a herd of females to himself, he turns his attention to them in a . . . not-so romantic fashion.

Elephant bulls can have ferocious fights when dueling over females.

Now again using his sense of smell, he picks out a female in heat, but the tiny problem is that the female doesn't often seem ready to mate and flees. The male then chases after her until she finally succumbs and allows him to be her mate. The reason why this fleeing is important is because the female wants the toughest and strongest males to mate with her so that she'll produce offspring with those qualities. Then, after fighting other males AND chasing down a hesitant cow, the two elephants mate and go their separate ways – the cow will most likely continue doing whatever she was doing before the bull began the chase, and the bull will seek yet another mate. Male elephants play no part in rearing young.

A baby elephant weighs around 200 pounds at birth!
So now you know what elephants do when they're in the mood for romance. But that's not where the story ends. The female elephant will have to wait an astounding 22 months before her baby is born (they weigh around 200 pounds at birth, and yes, when in the mother's womb, they kick . . . hard!). This is one of the longest gestation periods in the animal kingdom. With a gestation period that long, you can bet the mother is relieved when birthing is over with!

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