Friday, September 26, 2014

Allosaurus: The Lion of the Jurassic

You guys will have to forgive me: I didn't post how many days it was until Autumn began and Elephant Appreciation Day. In fact, I had forgotten about fall until someone at church pointed it out! I can't believe the summer's gone already! Depending on where you are in the world, you'll see birds migrating south for the winter, leaves changing colors and eventually falling to the ground, shorter days and perhaps even snow. Here in the part of Utah where I live though, the only change I'm going to expect is a reduce in temperature. The days are also getting shorter. I can't believe fall is here already! I mean, soon we'll be singing Christmas songs! (Actually, I'm already seeing Christmas commercials and movies on TV!). Anyway, before any more time passes, let's get started! Today, I decided to post a fall-related video from the television show Phineas and Ferb. Technically, in this episode, Phineas and Ferb create S'fall. You can watch it below:

Days till:
It is: 17 days till Columbus Day
It is: 35 days till Harvest Day, aka “Halloween”
It is: 46 days till Veterans Day

In the Spotlight:
I've got several goodies this week about the upcoming movie Jurassic World, the fourth Jurassic Park movie. After a few weeks of practically no updates, a rumor has sprouted that that we'll be seeing the first trailer for JW this November!!! You might recall that earlier this year, many JP fans were speculating that we'd be seeing some footage at San Diego Comic-Con. Unfortunately, none was shown. However, Boxoffice Forums speculates that we'll be seeing some footage at the November premiere of the Legendary Pictures film Interstellar. Though it was believed by some that we might get a JW trailer at the premiere of  two later upcoming movies – The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 and Dumb and Dumber 2 – a JW trailer at the Interstellar premiere makes loads of sense considering Legendary Pictures is doing both this movie and JW. However, this doesn't rule out the possibility of JW trailers being shown during the two other movies I mentioned. Interstellar is coming into theaters on November 7th, so hopefully, we'll finally be able to see the first trailer of Jurassic World!

In additional news, director of Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow posted another picture from Jurassic World that perfectly reflects the movie itself and the time of year we're entering now. This is the picture he posted with the word “Autumn” in the description:

Laying forgotten amid the leaflitter is the East Dock sign from Jurassic Park. Will it return in Jurassic World?
Does this sign lying amid the leaf litter look familiar? It should if you've seen the first Jurassic Park movie! This sign that's supposed to point in the direction of Isla Nublar's East Dock was knocked over by Dennis Nedry's jeep in the first film. This could suggest many different things. Perhaps this picture is just Trevorrow's way of reminding us about the upcoming movie; maybe he's hinting at a trailer due to be released in “Autumn.” Or perhaps this is actually from the movie! Some JP fans have theorized that we'll see this sign in the state seen in Trevorrow's picture in the film. It is believed that some of the film's characters will encounter some of the original locations from the Jurassic Park movies (e.g. the Visitor's Center). Perhaps this is from one of those scenes. If so, this would be the first time in the Jurassic Park movies that a location from previous movies is revisited It might also be part of a flashback. Either way, it's a cool photo.

The update from Jurassic World that I have for you all today is a picture apparently taken by Twitter user Brycenator100. It reveals the inside of the new Visitor Center in the Jurassic World theme park! Here it is below:

Welcome to Jurassic Pa- Oops! I mean Jurassic World!
So what can we gather from this picture? Well, it appears to be rather similar to the Visitor Center from the first film. However, it's going to be different in several ways. You might notice the green wall in the background; this is likely for special effects, like hologram images that are rumored to appear in the film. And in the foreground of the picture, to the left, you can see an information panel labeled “...nosaurus Rex”. I think we all know what the full word is. Of course, I can't be sure, but I think that in the center of the platform in the middle of the picture, we might have the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus, like in the first movie. Whatever happens, I can't wait to see this movie!

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan

Meet Allosaurus fragilis, the Lion of the Jurassic
Unless you are a paleontologist or dinosaur enthusiast, it's unlikely that you will have heard of Allosaurus, or recognized it before when you've seen it in various forms of dinosaur pop-culture. Even though this dinosaur might look a little like a lesser-evolved T. rex at first glance, Allosaurus was jam-packed with its own unique specially designed features and abilities that made it an awesome and efficient killing-machine; it was intelligently designed to thrive in the habitat God placed it in 6,000 years ago.

Allosaurus was a very different dinosaur from Tyrannosaurus.
So what is an Allosaurus? Well, first of all, the name Allosaurus (meaning “different lizard”) is one of the largest theropod dinosaurs of the Jurassic habitat; the “lion of the Jurassic”. The average Allosaurus was 28 feet long and stood 8-10 feet from head to toe. Despite its size however, the creature only weighed about 2 ½ tons. The largest confirmed Allosaurus specimen ever found is 32 feet long. As you will find out, life in the Jurassic was tough for an Allosaurus – the prey they hunted was often either really fast, really well-armored or really huge, (and I do mean really huge) and there was competition from other predators for resources. Somehow though, fossil evidence shows us that Allosaurus was the ultimate Jurassic survivor.

Size comparison between several Allosaurus specimens and an Epanterias and a human.
Before we get into the behavior and ecology of this dinosaur, let's learn some basics about its anatomy and the history of its discovery. Allosaurus was discovered during the Bone Wars and was described by paleontologist Charles Marsh in the year 1877. This dinosaur broke the record for being the largest carnivorous dinosaur; the previous title-holder was probably Megalosaurus, a carnivore about 20 feet long. It is classified in the group Carnosauria, and inside of that group it is assigned to the Allosauridae family. For a long time, Allosaurus was portrayed as a creature very similar to T. rex, but smaller. If you have mistook an Allosaurus for a T. rex sometime in the past, you're not alone. Ray Harryhausen – one of the most important stop-motion creators of his time – is quoted for saying,
“They're (T. rex and Allosaurus) both meat eaters, they're both tyrants... one was just a bit larger than the other.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Scientists continued to portray Allosaurus as a dwarf T. rex for much of the 20th century until some special discoveries were made in the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Emery County, Utah. Even though the site was described in 1945, major fossil hunting didn't start until 1960. Between the years 1960 and 1965, paleontologists discovered a treasure trove of dinosaur bones, mostly from Allosaurus. In fact, it's estimated that they found at least 46 individuals of the Jurassic predator! This evidence seems to suggest something catastrophic killed and rapidly buried the Allosaurus and other dinosaur species found at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, such as the Genesis Flood. These findings helped us know a great deal more about Allosaurus. It is thanks to these finds that we've been able to piece together the truth about Allosaurus.

For a long time, Allosaurus was assumed to be a slightly smaller version of a T. rex.
Contrary to many depictions through much of the 20th century, Allosaurus walked with its body held forward and its tail off the ground. It wasn't a sluggish predator either; instead, it was fast and agile. There are two, possibly three, known species of Allosaurus known to science, Allosaurus fragilis (the type specimen), Allosaurus europaeus and possibly Allosaurus jimmadseni, with other potential species coming, going and being hotly debated over the years. To keep it simple, I will stick to mostly talking about A. fragilis unless otherwise specified. As its species name suggests, europeaus fossils have been uncovered in Europe, Portugal to be precise. Jimmadseni fossils have been found in Tanzania, Africa and A. fragilis fossils are found in the western United States.

The yellow area represents the Morrison Formation; the dots represent where notable Allosaurus specimens have been discovered; plus marks represent the location of several Allosaurus fossil finds.
Allosaurus fragilis was one of the apex predators of its Jurassic domain, which is why it is sometimes nicknamed the “Lion of the Jurassic”. The western United States where this dinosaur lived (represented by the Morrison Formation) were very different in the pre-Flood Jurassic world than it is now. Instead of being a dry desert, these areas were much more lush. Fossil evidence suggests that this area was filled with river-lining forests of conifers and ferns, gallery forests and fern prairies. Roaming these areas was a vast array of herbivorous dinosaurs, from the diminutive and fleet-footed Dryosaurus and Othneilosaurus to the large sauropods like Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus and Diplodocus. Other herbivores like the well-known Stegosaurus also made their home here. With ample herbivores, there's no doubt that there was a load of carnivores able to hunt many of them down, and Allosaurus wasn't the only one. Ceratosaurus was a smaller carnivore that lived in the region. Like Allosaurus, it had a crested head, but it might have been more of an opportunist than the aforementioned carnivore, as fossil evidence reveals it ate a wide variety of prey. Another carnivore Allosaurus had to compete with was Torvosaurus – on average, this predator was larger than Allosaurus and could have caused a major threat. In order for these three carnivores to coexist, they must have filled different ecological niches within their environment.

Torvosaurus was a major competitor of Allosaurus. In Europe, Allosaurus was smaller than this dinosaur.

Ceratosaurus would always have to have been wary of Allosaurus, because it was smaller than the Lion of the Jurassic.
But what's the point of living in a place with lots of prey without the equipment to bring it down? Well, Allosaurus had just that! As I've said before, this dinosaur was faster than Tyrannosaurus, meaning it would have been able to chase after prey for a longer period of time. Scientists predict Allosaurus could run up to 30 mph in short bursts. This dinosaur was ready to bring down its prey once it was in range. Allosaurus' jaws bore 4-inch teeth; each tooth was re-curved and serrated both front and back, just like a steak knife. Like other theropods, the teeth are specially designed to break and fall out quite often. This is because the teeth are replaced continuously to always insure Allosaurus has a set of sharp teeth ready for action. In addition to its teeth, Allosaurus also has a set of three sharp claws on each hand.

Allosaurus had a lot of herbivorous dinosaurs to prey on.
Now it's time for an Allosaurus to go on the hunt! Even though studies reveal it likely had relatively poor hearing capabilities, it seems that this dinosaur could hear low frequency sounds very well. This is useful when tracking down herds of large dinosaurs that would have been making low frequency noises with each footstep. A good sense of smell and a wide range of vision would have helped it pinpoint the location of its target. When an Allosaurus attacked, you can be sure that other dinosaurs would have been terrified! Once close enough, Allosaurus would have put its claws and teeth to work. Remember when I talked about this creature's teeth and how they are pointing backwards? This is to ensure that the victim can't escape without suffering devastating slash-like wounds. Scientists were curious about Allosaurus' bite force. Surely an animal weighing 2 ½ tons has a bone-crushing bite, right? After running tests, paleontologists were in for a surprise when their calculations suggested this dinosaur had a bite force of 805-2,148 newtons! This is less than a lion; in fact, it's rather on par with a leopard. Ironically, Allosaurus' skull, the scientists found out, could withstand great amounts of pressure that would be expected for a predator that's tackling active prey.

Allosaurus had a bite force weaker than a lion!
However, Allosaurus didn't need a strong bite to bring down prey! You see, Allosaurus had teeth designed for slicing through flesh, unlike the bone-crunching Tyrannosaurus, and this (combined with this dinosaur's bite force and skull design) suggests that it actually used its head like an ax when attacking prey. It would probably latch onto prey with its jaws and begin slashing flesh away with its teeth without breaking the prey's bones. This way, after making enough devastating damage, Allosaurus could take a step back and wait for the prey animal to succumb to its injuries, suffering from a massive amount of blood loss and shock. Then Allosaurus could go in to start the feast. Of course, it's likely Allosaurus could have used other methods to bring down prey as well.

Opening its jaws nice and wide, Allosaurus was able to cut deep wounds into prey by slashing into it with its teeth, sort of like an ax.

Even using this technique, the 2 ½ ton Allosaurus would have no conceivable way of tackling the large adult sauropods. However, we have evidence that sauropods were at least scavenged upon by Allosaurus, as several sauropod fossils have gouges and bite marks caused by Allosaurus. But there might have been a way for these predators to tackle creatures like the 35-ton Apatosaurus – maybe they worked as a team. This way, only the largest adults could be safe from this predator. Evidence for pack-hunting in this species comes from fossil sites such as the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in which these dinosaurs have been found in the same location. As you might recall, several tens of allosaurs have been uncovered there, ranging from adults to youngsters. It's possible that during the Genesis Flood, several packs of Allosaurus would have become trapped on islands that formed as the Flood waters rose upon the earth as it describes in Genesis 7.

This is a good time to bring up Allosaurus' small horns on top of its head. Paleontologists aren't sure what they were used for, but they were likely covered in a horny sheath in life and brightly colored, perhaps to attract mates or used in species recognition. Species recognition would have been very important to these dinosaurs if they at least occasionally hunted in packs.

An Allosaurus attacks a mother Stegosaurus and her young.
As I mentioned before, Allosaurus is really an amazing survivor! These dinosaurs often had tough lives – individuals of this species are often discovered with nasty injuries. Several pathologies have been found, including:
  • Willow breaks in ribs
  • Humerus and radius fractures
  • Distortion of joint surfaces in foot due possibly due to Osteoarthritis (yes, dinosaurs had this disease too)
  • Amputation of a chevron and foot bone (possibly caused by bits)
  • Coossification of vertebral centra near end of tail
  • Etc.

There is an Allosaurus vertebrae with a hole punched into it; the tail spike of a Stegosaurus fits the hole perfectly, suggesting that it wasn't always easy for Allosaurus to bring down these creatures. The interesting thing about these injuries is that, believe it or not, many were in the process of healing (this includes the Stegosaurus-inflicted injury). This means that the injuries happened while the Allosaurus were alive and they continued to live for months, or even years after the injuries occurred! Many of the pathologies suffered by these and other dinosaurs would be life-threatening to a human. One Allosaurus specimen, named Big Al, is a sub-adult individual who suffered from at least 19 deformities caused either by disease or injury, including broken ribs (which were in the process of healing before he died) and even a swelling toe infection! Paleontologists believe Big Al was about six years old at the time of his death.

Big Al was one of the most complete Allosaurus skeletons ever found; by the time of his death, he had several broken bones and even a toe infection.
And as if this isn't impressive enough, there's another Allosaurus discovery that took place in the western United States – during the Bone Wars, the lower jaw bone of a dinosaur was discovered, but it was so distorted, that paleontologists couldn't identify it for a long time. Finally, they were able to determine the jawbone's owner was an Allosaurus. The jawbone was distorted to the fact that it was broken. And again, the jawbone was in the healing process at the time the animal died, months or years after the injury was inflicted. Scientists aren't sure how this Allosaurus broke its jaw, but some have suggested it happened when tasseling with prey, such as the whiplash-like tail of a sauropod as is portrayed in Discovery Channel's Dinosaur Revolution. Isn't it amazing? Even 4,350 years ago (years before veterinarians), God designed these animals with the ability to heal themselves from these horrific pathologies.

This Allosaurus suffered with a broken jaw for months or even years before his death.
As Ceratosaurus wasn't as large and Torvosaurus didn't appear to be as common, nothing could have taken Allosaurus' title as one of the apex predators of the Jurassic habitat . . . no living creature that is! The fossils of Allosaurus that we find buried in rock layers are all that remain of these creatures that lived in the world before the Genesis Flood. At the time of the Flood, around 4,350 years ago, the Bible records that all land-dwelling, air-breathing creatures perished in the waters of a global Flood except those that were on board Noah's ark. This would have included dinosaurs. But we also know that these dinosaurs were later killed off after the Flood by environmental changes and also probably human's hunting them and forcing them from their natural habitat. The last dinosaurs soon met their doom.
Fossil tooth marks prove Allosaurus at least scavenged on the carcasses of sauropods like Apatosaurus. They probably hunted juveniles of the species as well.
Allosaurus was one of the top predators of Jurassic Portugal, Tanzania and western North America. And as we just learned, it was beautifully designed to thrive in its dangerous world. Even though life (after the Fall of Man) was tough for these creatures, the species was able to survive. What an impressive and wonderfully designed dinosaur.

This is Ebenezer, the Creation Museum's Allosaurus skeleton. This mighty Allosaurus is a wonderful reminder of the devastating Flood that destroyed the pre-Flood world 4,350 years ago.


Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Beauty of the Phoenix

Hi everyone! Things are moving right along this week with our latest theatrical drama at church: The Cheatham's - Howey's Wedding Celebration. I can't believe it's going to be time to present it soon (in November). Other than that, there isn't anything to share this week. So onto our "usuals".

Days till:
It is: 3 days till Elephant Appreciation Day
It is: 24 days till Columbus Day
It is: 42 days till Harvest Day, usually referred to as "Halloween"

In the Spotlight:
Unfortunately, there wasn't really anything for me to report on this week.

Topic of the Week by Joy Hammond

The phoenix is a powerful bird of Greek and Egyptian mythology.
Imagination is one of the best attributes in a human, more or less. Today I'll be talking about the Phoenix bird. It's origin is in Ancient Greek and Egyptian Mythology. It was a bird that is one of a kind. Sort of like in that movie the Water Horse, the Phoenix is the only one in existence and when it dies another one comes to take it's place. This bird is different than normal doesn't just die. It burns up in a fiery flame and then in ashes a new bird is born. There's actually an example of this exact even in a Harry Potter movie. But like all movie making magic, unfortunately the Phoenix bird is not real.

Before death, the phoenix is said to construct a nest before burning up in flames. In its place is a phoenix egg, continuing the life cycle once again.
Supposedly the bird could live over 1400 years. It has feathers of green, purple, red, and yellow. It's been used as a symbol of royalty or even of rebirth, the sun, or time itself. Some people have referred to the phoenix being a raven of some sort or another common bird somewhere else. Sometimes known simply as a peacock or an eagle.

This is a sculpture of the phoenix from Japan.
In Egypt, the bird was known to sing a beautiful song and the sun god, Re (or Ra), would stop his chariot to listen to the music. Later the bird would eventually make a nest and set it on flames, consuming itself in the fire. In the ashes would be an egg and another phoenix was born. It would put the egg on the alter of the sun god. The phoenix is very powerful and it's tears could heal someone. The Phoenix has been known to be the symbol of resurrection as well. This incredible bird would be a sight to see, if it was real. The phoenix bird is an important symbol for many people but it's unfortunate it's not alive. Stories about the phoenix is probably the only reason it exists in the first place. Words may disappear but the memories won't.

Though not real, the phoenix is a symbol of renewal.
DisclaimerMany (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The World of Dolphins

Hello, welcome to my blog. I can't believe that Dolphin Tale 2 is out in theaters today! I'm so excited! Finally, three years after the first one, a sequel has been produced. To celebrate the release of the movie, I'll dedicate this blog post to Dolphin Tale 2 and its dolphins.

Days till:
It is: the theatrical release of Dolphin Tale 2 today!
Yesterday was: Patriot Day

In the Spotlight:
Well, with the filming of Jurassic World complete, as I expected, updates that are being released to the public are becoming few and far between. However, this shouldn't last too long, perhaps until January, a mere five months before the film's release.

Though there isn't much news to report today, revealed some important information concerning one of the characters in the film portrayed by Judy Greer. In her interview, she explained that she is in fact portraying Claire's (Bryce Dallas Howard) sister in a "small, but poignant role." Whether or not she'll meet any dinosaurs is at this point uncertain. Whatever the case though, I can't wait to see the film!

In additional news, Dolphin Tale 2 is being released in theaters today! I can't wait to see it. 

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan

Dolphins are surely one of the most interesting of God's creatures.
Just last week, the film Dolphin Tale 2 came out in theaters. So I figured why not focus on everyone’s favorite marine mammals? Dolphins are popular with everybody. Everywhere you go, you'll see dolphins in movies, books, TV shows, aquariums and even theme parks like Sea World. But how much do you really know about these amazing creatures?

Here is Winter the dolphin from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium!
When the word “dolphin” is said or read, people picture a gray-colored creature with a relatively long-snout. But there are many different species of dolphins within the suborder Odontoceti and are classified in the order cetacea (this group contains all whales and dolphins). Most of the dolphins we'll be looking at today are members of the family delphinidae, or the dolphin family. But before we start talking about different species of dolphins, let's go over what dolphins are in general. Despite the fact that they are aquatic animals, dolphins aren't fish; they're mammals, just like dogs, cats, elephants and us. Dolphins come in a great variety of shapes and sizes. As sea creatures, the Bible tells us that God created dolphins on Day 5, with other sea and flying animals.

A mother bottlenose dolphin swims with her calf.
Dolphins vary in size, the smallest is Maui's dolphin at 4 feet long, while the largest is none other than the orca, or killer whale at 30 feet long and 11 tons! However, as the genus Tursiops, or the bottlenose dolphin is the most famous and easily recognized, this is the one we'll focus most of this article on. However, we will also touch on other species of dolphins. The bottlenose dolphin can grow between 6-13 feet in length and weigh 330-1,430 lbs in weight; males are generally larger than females.

Maui's dolphins are one of the smallest dolphin species, measuring only four feet long!
Dolphins are specially designed for life underwater. Firstly, they have long and streamlined bodies. Unlike all other mammals, dolphins are mostly hairless – a few hairs are found on the tip of their snouts and are lost either before birth or shortly after. The lack of hairs means that dolphins are able to move through the water at fast speeds, as hair would produce drag. Another important feature dolphins have is the blowhole on top of their heads. Since they don't filter oxygen out of water with gills like fish do, they must return to the surface to breath. They often hold their breath for 2-3 minutes at a time. To propel them through the water, God designed these mammals with a strong tail fluke. The tail fluke is so important to a dolphin, that dolphins in the wild would die if the tail was lost. This is clearly evident in the case of Winter, the now-famous bottlenose dolphin with a prosthetic tail at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Dolphins are able to use their tails to "walk" through the water.
Dolphins live in every ocean on the planet, from the warm, clear waters of the equator, to the frigid waters of the Arctic and Antarctic; whatever the habitat, dolphins have adapted to thrive. Did you know dolphins aren't only found in the ocean? Different species of river dolphins can be found in bodies of water in the Amazon, and in Asia. It's very easy to forget that these mammals are fierce predators (it's just that humans aren't on the dolphin's menu). The bottlenose dolphin and most of its kin like to eat small fish (though some dolphins in some parts of the world include tuna and mackerel in their diet), crustaceans and squid, which they catch with their needle-sharp teeth.

The blue coloration represents where bottlenose dolphins like to live.
How do dolphins catch their prey? Well to answer that, we have to learn a bit about their social behavior. Many species including the bottlenose are social and live in groups called pods. The number of bottlenose dolphins within a pod varies depending on what region the dolphins live in, their gender and whether or not females are in the mood for mating. Adult males are normally found alone or in groups of two or three. Females and young individuals are much more social, living in groups of up to 15. But, as I said before, dolphins are very social creatures and groups of dolphins will often fuse together to create a massive pod numbering 100 to over 1,000 animals!

Dolphins, like these spinner dolphins, often form large groups called pods, sometimes numbering in their hundreds and thousands!
Now we can tackle the question of how dolphins catch their food. God gave dolphins and several other animals an amazing ability: they can use echolocation to navigate. Here's how echolocation works: the dolphin emits up to 1,000 high-pitched clicking sounds per second. The sounds zoom through the water until they bump an object and travel back to the dolphin's head. The dolphin then receives the bouncing sounds through a special organ in the forehead called the melon. Now the dolphin knows everything about its surroundings. In fact, dolphins are so good at using echolocation that they can be blindfolded and still find their way around as if they could see! This method is much like sonar used on submarines. Isn't the Creator of the dolphin amazing?

This is how echolocation works: the dolphin sends out a high-pitched sound; when the sound bumps into an object in the water, it returns to the dolphin.
Ready to go on the assault, dolphins have a number of ways of catching the fish and other prey they like to eat, but they like working as a cooperative team. If they encounter a shoal of fish, they will drive the fish into a large ball shape and they all take turns diving into the fish-ball to gobble down fish. Some dolphins in Georgia and South Carolina engage in a very unique way of catching fish called “strand feeding”. What they do is herd the fish toward the shore until they are practically on the sand itself and the dolphins breach themselves to catch the squirming fish. What makes this technique interesting is that only dolphins in Georgia and South Carolina have been known to do this, meaning this behavior is not instinct. It is in fact a learned behavior and the dolphins have passed down from generation to generation.

Dolphins use a variety of techniques to catch fish; above you can see one example.
Speaking of which, dolphins are extremely intelligent animals. They're some of the most intelligent organisms on the planet. Not only are they capable memory, acoustic and behavioral mimicry, monitoring self-behavior, mirror self-recognition and numerical values, but they also are able to interact cooperatively with other species, including humans. Some dolphins have learned to assist Mauritanian fishermen to catch fish, and both parties reap the rewards.

To sleep, dolphins shut off half of their brain and close one of their eyes; meanwhile the other half of the brain and other eye are still functioning, alert and active.
Dolphins are smart and social creatures. They not only are fierce hunters, but they can also prove more than a match for many predators. The only predators that pose a threat to dolphins are sharks, such as the dusky, bull, tiger and great white shark. Dolphins not only are agile enough to dodge many shark attacks, but they also can fight back with great ferocity by charging at the predatory fish; a group of dolphins will also team up to mob the predator, forcing it to retreat or risk serious injury (dolphins often target the vulnerable gills of sharks when driving them off). Some killer whales (which are dolphins themselves) sometimes also hunt smaller dolphins, but others swim with smaller dolphins peacefully.

Just like humans, dolphins love to surf!
Now that we've learned a lot about dolphins, let's look at a few species:

Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
Bottlenose dolphins are the most easily recognized and common species of dolphins. They can often be found in large pods, as they're sociable creatures. When it comes time for a pregnant dolphin is ready to give birth after a 12-month gestation period, the teamwork and sense of community are clearly seen in this genus. The mother dolphin is sometimes assisted by another dolphin when the baby dolphin (called a calf) is born. At birth, calves aren't very good swimmers, so several members of the dolphin pod will assist the mother dolphin get her baby to the surface to get its first breath. A bottlenose dolphin calf is only 20-66 lbs at birth. Like all mammals, dolphins feed their young with milk. The calf will continue to rely on its mother's milk for 18 months to 8 years and will remain with its mother for several years after it is weaned. Bottlenose dolphins can live up to 40 years or so in the wild.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Atlantic spotted dolphins resemble bottlenose dolphins at birth; they develop spots as they mature.
As their name suggests, Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) are found throughout the Atlantic ocean and are covered in beautiful white spots. These animals typically grow seven feet long and weigh up to 310 pounds. Strangely enough, spotted dolphins don't have spots or dark-colored skin at birth, but as they grow and mature, the skin darkens and spots are more distinctive. These incredibly fast swimmers often ride the waves caused by the bows of ships.

Amazon River Dolphin
Amazon river dolphins are also called Botos.
Before you saw the picture above, you would probably think I'm telling tales if I spoke of a pink dolphin that lives in Amazon rivers. Well, the Amazon river dolphin is no joke! These dolphins are quite unlike any found in the ocean – they have long snouts and large foreheads. Their diet consists of crabs, catfish, crustaceans, shrimp, small turtles and other river fish. For the Amazon river dolphin, echolocation is extremely important because the rivers of the Amazon are often murkier than the ocean and are therefore much harder to see through (and in the flooding season, echolocation helps the dolphins navigate through the tree trunks). Some river dolphin species in Asia have lost their eyesight almost completely, relying on echolocation.

False Killer Whales
False killer whales were once thought to be extinct.
The creature you see in the picture above may look like a cross between a killer whale and a dolphin, the false killer whale is a member of the dolphin family and is not in the same genus as the true killer whales (hence their name). Nonetheless, they're very similar in appearance and thrive in many of the same waters. Believe it or not, the false killer whale, described by paleontologist and biologist Richard Owen (the same scientist who invented the word “dinosaur”), was thought to be an extinct species until Johannes Reinhardt found a large pod of them in Kiel Bay in 1861. These awesome cetaceans can grow up to 20 feet long and can weigh 4,900 lbs.

The Orca is the largest species of dolphin.
Despite their awesome size, the killer whale, or Orcinus orca, or orca for short, is also a member of the dolphin family. At 30 feet from snout to tail fluke and weighing up to 11 tons, they're the largest species of dolphins. The name “killer whale” is a bit of a misnomer, as they aren't “killers” as they were often depicted in movies – as oceanic savages ready to eat anything they see – and they're closer related to other dolphins than true whales. Orcas are quite different from most other members of their kin, as they're the top natural predators of the ocean. There are three to five different “races”, types or subspecies of orca. In fact, scientists are wondering if they should be split into different species. The three main types are resident, transient and offshore orcas. I mention this because each of the three types has its own diet. Resident orcas, that live in waters of the Northern Pacific, eat mostly fish, but will also go for squid. Transient orcas prefer eating marine mammals (fortunately humans are not on the menu!). Offshore orcas eat mostly fish, but also mammals and even sharks. (Keep in mind that orcas are very opportunistic predators and aren't only limited to their main food choices). Unlike most other dolphins, orcas are not only capable of fending off sharks, but actually eating them! Even the great white shark is no match for the mighty orca! Orcas live in large, complex societies and can live up to 90 years of age.

Dolphins are quite amazing animals that God created, aren't they? These beautiful creatures are not fast swimmers, intelligent, vocally and socially sophisticated, but they're also perfectly designed for life beneath the way, just like we'd expect if they were created by an intelligent, all-powerful Designer.


Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Roadrunner: The Sprinter of the West

Hi everyone! The year's moving right along, isn't it? I can't believe it's already the month of September and we'll be having Thanksgiving dinner relatively soon. Without further ado, let's move on to our "usuals".

Days till:
It is: 6 days till Patriot Day
It is: 7 days till Dolphin Tale 2's theatrical release
It is: 38 days till

In the Spotlight:
Not much to share today, but I've found quite literally a treasure trove of clips and interviews for the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2 movie! I can't believe it's coming out next week! I am so excited (needless to say, right?). I don't know if I'll be able to see it in theaters, but you can be sure that if I can't, I'll be one of the first people to check it out on DVD!

Here are several movie clips, actor and actress interviews for Dolphin Tale 2:

See? I told you I found a lot of stuff! And those are just movie clips (which, I might add, are totally awesome!), below are some interviews for the movie:

Am I finished yet? Nope! I found out some more cool information: remember Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who portrayed Hazel Haskett in Dolphin Tale 1? Well, not only is she reappearing in DT2 (which, if you watched any of those clips above, you should know that), she also wrote and sung the song that's going to be at the end credits called Brave Souls! This is really exciting for me. Here is her beautiful song below:

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan

Roadrunners are small, fast ground birds.
After moving to Utah, my family has seen a lot of really amazing things in nature, from the red mountains to cool desert plants and animals. One bird that particularly caught my interest is small ground bird common in the deserts in the southwestern parts of the United States: the roadrunner! While strange-looking, they're really interesting things I learned about the roadrunner that really surprised me and things that might come as a surprise to you. So let's learn more about the roadrunner.

Just as portrayed in the show, roadrunners are fast-running ground birds.
Needless to say, (if you're over the age of 40) you remember a roadrunner from the television show by the same name, in which this bird frequently foils Wile E. Coyote's plans to capture the bird and eat him. Despite being ground birds, roadrunners are the largest members of the cuckoo bird family, Cuculidae. Today, I plan to focus primarily on the most well-known roadrunner species: the great roadrunner.

This is a picture I took of a roadrunner in front of an auto repair shop near where we live.
The Cuculidae family consists of many types of birds, but it was named for the common cuckoo that lives in Europe. Here are a few species of birds in this family below:

Common cuckoo
Guira guira
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Blue coua
As you can see, there is great variety within the cuckoo family. However, both genetic evidence and the Bible tell us that God created different kinds (likely referring to the “family” in modern classification methods, rather than “species” or “genus”) of birds on Day 5 of the Creation week, 6,000 years ago. (At the moment though, we don't know whether or not God's Day 5 creations included ground-dwelling birds as well as flying ones or if ground-dwelling birds were created on Day 6, with other land animals; some evidence seems to suggest some flying birds changed into ground birds over time through natural selection processes (not evolution). But this topic is beyond the scope of this article.) Inside the original created member of the cuckoo family, was all the genetic information for other species within this kind of bird, including the roadrunner. Sometime after the Genesis Flood, the cuckoo family diversified into various species “according to its own kind” (Genesis 1:21); one of these species settled in the southwestern United States and became the greater roadrunner.

Roadrunners live in dry, arid habitats.
This bird grows only 9-11 inches in height and up to two feet long and weighs 7.8-19 oz, so it isn't very big. I was able to see a roadrunner several times when it passed in front of where my Dad works. It might have been the same one every time. Other characteristics of the roadrunner include a bushy crest of feathers on top of its head, a thick darkly-colored beak, a long tail and four toes on each foot, two pointing forwards and two pointing backwards. Take a moment to observe the beautiful coloration of the roadrunner: it's mostly colored in brown with black streaks and the occasional pink spots. The underside is colored white. This perfectly enables this bird to blend into its habitat.

As seen in the Roadrunner cartoons, roadrunners actually do live in deserts. They mainly can be found in the southwestern deserts, open country and scrub lands of the United States, but they also live in northern Mexico and have even been spotted as far east as Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Missouri.

Roadrunners are fierce predators, eating anything from insects, as seen above, to snakes and everything in between!
The goofy appearance of the greater roadrunner is rather deceptive, God created these animals as fast and efficient predators (after the Fall of Man occurred, of course). They have wings and can fly, but they prefer to run after prey, using their long tails for balance and maneuverability. These birds regularly eat insects, like wasps, and other arthropods – like centipedes, spiders, scorpion, and millipedes – small rodents, eggs, carrion, reptiles and they'll also eat fruit. Roadrunners are able to kill larger prey by making devastating blows to the base of the small prey's neck or by beating its prey against a rock. They will sometimes leap into the air to catch smaller birds and flying insects and pairs of roadrunners have also been spotted teaming up to take on a relatively large snake, including the infamous rattlesnake!

Roadrunners are beautifully designed for desert life.
The fact that roadrunner's are predators, doesn't mean that they don't sometimes become prey for other creatures. Common predators of roadrunners are animals like hawks, skunks, raccoons and, yes you guessed it, the coyote. This is a major reason why roadrunners have speed on their side; able to run 15-26 mph, they're going to give both prey and predator a run for their money. However, unlike the cartoon, real coyotes can run faster than a roadrunner, so the bird must rely on agility rather than pure speed in order to escape.

Roadrunners can run 15-20 mph to escape predators and chase prey.
Another interesting fact about roadrunners is that they appear to mate for life. During courtship, a roadrunner will often give its mate a present, such as a twig or a piece of grass. When it's time to reproduce, the birds make a nest of twigs and lay 3-6 white or pale-yellow-colored eggs. The male and female both help incubate, care for, and protect the young before and after hatching. After about 18-21 days after leaving the hatching, roadrunner chicks leave their nests and join their parents in the open, where they will continue to be fed for an additional 30-40 days.

Roadrunners are a common source of food for coyotes.
So there you have it, the skinny on one of the most iconic and interesting of American birds. Roadrunners may or may not live near you, but there are loads of other species that do. What do they eat? Where do they live? Do they fly or mainly walk? Go outside into God's creation and see what amazing flying creations you can find!
Roadrunners are just one of the amazingly designed birds God has created!
Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.