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                             TIGER, NO LAUGHING JOKE                             
How is a tiger's face like your thumb?
ANSWER: The stripes on the tiger's face are like your thumbprint. No two
people have exactly the same thumbprint. And no two tigers have exactly the
same stripe pattern.
It takes a lot of muscle to move a 400-pound body (180 kilograms). And a
tiger's body is packed with muscle. So it can leap 10 yards (9 meters) over
level ground, or jump 15 feet (4.5 meters) in the air. Yet it can move so
gracefully that it doesn't make a sound.
Tigers are big-game hunters. They hunt water buffalo, wild pigs, deer, and
other large animals. Water buffalo weigh more than a ton (900 kilograms). It
would take 13 men to move such an enormous weight.
Tigers are also big eaters. In a single year, one tiger must eat about 70
deer or other large animals. That is one reason why tigers hunt alone. If
they lived in big groups, they could never find enough prey to feed them all.
Many people think that a big, dangerous tiger could easily kill all the prey
it wants. But that's not true. In fact, the life of this big game hunter
isn't easy. Most of the animals it tries to attack get away. It sometimes
goes weeks without eating. And then it may hunt animals that can be
dangerous, even for a tiger.
To get enough food, tigers have to hunt day and night. They often hunt at
night, because that's when deer and antelope are most active. Tigers also
hunt at night because they are safe from humans then.
When it hunts, a tiger usually sneaks close to its prey by hiding behind
trees, bushes and rocks.
Tigers cannot run fast for long distances. So they must get close to their
prey before attacking. On their huge, padded feet, they can creep silently to
within 20 feet (6 meters) of another animal without being heard. Its rear
legs press beneath it, like a pair of giant springs about to be released.
Then, in a series of explosive leaps, it attacks from behind.
Next, the tiger grabs its prey with its claws and pulls it to the ground. It
bites the animal on the throat or on the back of the neck
The tiger has had a long history; the name tiger itself comes from the Roman
word "Tigris", named after the mighty Mesopotamian Tigris River. The tiger's
closest living relative is the lion, and believe it or not, they can even be
interbred. The male tiger can reach sizes of up to 8-10 feet in length, with
three feet for the tail, the male Siberian tiger can reach lengths of up to
13 feet with weights up to 750 pounds. Tigers can be found in a fairly
diverse area, from north China and Siberia, to the jungles of Indonesia, even
as far west as Iran and the Caucasus Mountains.
The tiger is a solitary animal, hunting mainly at night. The tiger's vision
and sense of smell are relatively poor; the tiger will rely strongly on its
sense of hearing, moving silently through the brush waiting to ambush its
prey. The tiger's main diet consists of deer, antelope, wild pigs, and
cattle. The man-eaters are all too often the sick and injured, too weak to
hunt and capture wild animals. The tiger would much rather flee rather than
stick around and put up a fight.
Tigers are excellent swimmers and will often rest in pools of water just to
escape the heat, or, will swim from island to island such as in the Sumatran
islands. Tigers are poor tree climbers, often only doing so in emergencies or
when they are young, (and on occasion, just out of curiosity). The Bengal,
or, Indian Tiger is the
                                 SIBERIAN TIGER                                 
The largest of all living tigers lives in the coldest climate; but has thick
fur to keep it warm.  Its pale color makes it difficult to spot in the bleak,
snowy landscape of Siberia and also makes it easier to get close to its prey.
There are no more than 200 Siberian tigers living in the wild.
                                  INDIAN TIGER                                  
The Indian tiger is the most common tiger in the world today.  In all, there
are about 2,500 left, and most of them live in India.
Hunting tigers used to be a sport for the rich people of India.  But it
wasn't really a sport, because the tigers had little chance of escape.  The
hunters rode on elephants, while their servants drove the tigers toward their
guns.  Over the years, thousands and thousands of tigers were killed this
                                 SUMATRAN TIGER                                 
Their stripes hide them as they stalk prey in the jungle.  How?  Their
stripes look like the shadows of tall blades of grass, or like shadows and
light playing across trees.
For a fierce hunter, you'd think that food would be plentiful.  Not true as
most attacks fail.  There may be weeks without eating.
Some Sumatran villagers believe that the tiger holds magical powers and that
it's very bad luck to kill them.
                                                                  SUMATRAN TIGER
Tigers are among the most admired and most feared animals in the world. When
we think of tigers, we think of danger. We think of powerful beasts hiding in
the dark jungle. We think of the strong jaws, big teeth, massive feet, and
long, sharp claws of the tiger.
But we also think of beauty. We picture a tiger running swiftly through a
jungle, or plowing through snowdrifts. Its muscles ripple. Its brilliantly
striped orange and black coat gleams like satin. Its steely eyes glare into
the distance as it looks for prey.
This animal is a hunter. In fact, tigers are probably better than any other
land animal at capturing large prey single-handedly. Even so, the life of a
tiger is not easy. Finding food can be difficult, especially for a tiger that
is old or weak.
When they are desperate, some of them may even attack humans. But tigers also
get blamed unfairly for many deaths. Very few people are really killed by
tigers each year. Most tigers run away when they see people. And with good
What tigers have done to people is nothing compared to what people have done
to tigers. Over the last 200 years, we have almost eliminated them in the
wild. Today, they are one of the most endangered animals on earth.
If humans do not disturb it, a tiger may live 20 years or more. Females
usually live longer than males, because the males live more dangerously. They
often fight among each other. Sometimes one of them is killed this way, or
wounded so badly that it cannot hunt.
It isn't easy for people to tell a male tiger from a female, unless the
female happens to be with her cubs, because only females take care of the
young. Otherwise, the most obvious difference between males and females is
size. Male tigers are much bigger. An adult male Bengal or Indian tiger
usually weighs about 420 pounds (190 kilograms), and from head to rear, it is
roughly seven feet long (2 meters). Females are about a foot shorter (30
centimeters), and they weigh about one hundred pounds less (45 kilograms).
Sumatran tigers are generally smaller than Indian or Bengal tigers. The
biggest tiger ever measured was a male Siberian Tiger. It was over 9 feet
long (2.6 meters) and weighed more than 700 pounds (320 kilograms).
Tigers once roamed over most of Asia. Some trekked over the frozen north,
others climbed the jagged mountains of Central Asia, and many crept through
the steamy jungles of the south. The tigers that lived in these different
places gradually developed into a number of different types, or races.
Although tigers have been able to live in different climates and landscapes,
they have not been able to live alongside people. In fact, people have killed
so many tigers that two races may already by extinct.
The Bengal tiger is the most common tiger in the world today. In all, there
are about 2,500 Bengal tigers, and most of them live in India. The Caspian
tiger is one that you will only see in pictures. This beautiful cat is now
extinct. The Chinese tiger used to live in most parts of China. Today, there
are fewer than a hundred Chinese tigers in the whole country.
The Siberian tiger is the largest of all living tigers. It also lives in the
coldest climate, but it has very thick fur to keep it warm. And its pale
color makes it hard to see in the bleak, snowy landscape of Siberia. This
makes it easier to get close to its prey. There are no more than 200 Siberian
tigers living in the wild.
Sumatran and Javan tigers live on land south of the Asian continent. Their
islands are covered by heavy, tropical jungles. To help them run and hide in
the jungle, these tigers are smaller than other tigers. Today, there are
fewer than 30 Sumatran and Javan tigers left in the wild.
The body of a tiger is like a deadly weapon. It has the quickness and
strength to take down animals twice its size. It has long, razor-sharp claws
for grabbing its prey. And it has enormous teeth, which can easily kill large
But a tiger is also very quiet. It can sneak up on its prey without being
seen or heard. And its stripes help it do this, because they make it easier
for the tiger to hide. You will also discover another reason why a tiger's
stripes are interesting. You can learn to tell one tiger from another by its
Like other cats, tigers usually keel their claws hidden beneath the fur. This
way the claws do not wear down too quickly. And they won't make noise when
the tiger steps on rocks or hard ground. When it wants to use its claws for
grabbing or scratching, the tiger will extend them.
Tigers have longer canine teeth than any other predator. One of these teeth
is at least 10 times longer than the biggest tooth in your mouth. Using its
big canine teeth and its broad, powerful paws, a tiger can kill its prey with
one quick bite.
                                    CUB LIFE                                    
Tigers and other predators play an important role in nature. By killing deer
and other prey, they keep the numbers of these animals under control. And
because of this, the animals that survive are healthier.
If there were no tigers in the wild, the number of prey animals would grow
too fast. At first, they would eat so much that they would destroy many
plants. And then many of these animals would go hungry.
A big, hungry tiger can eat about 100 pounds of meat (45 kilograms) at one
sitting. This is about one fifth of its total weight. That would be like a
10-year-old human eating 40 hamburgers in one meal. Of course, a tiger has to
eat this much because it often goes several days without eating anything.
On occasion, a tiger will attack a baby rhino. This can be dangerous though,
because the mother rhino is probably close by. And even a tiger does not want
to make a four-thousand-pound rhino (1,800 kilograms) angry!
If a tiger is hungry enough, it may even attack a bear. But that may be a big
Baby tigers look like cute kittens. At birth, they are about 12 inches long
(30 centimeters), and they weigh less than two pounds (one kilogram). But in
a year's time, these "kittens" will be big enough to hunt deer and buffalo.
A mother tiger usually gives birth to two, three, or four cubs at a time.
This is necessary so that at least one of her cubs will survive. Many
predators attack tiger cubs. To help keep them safe, the mother stays with
her cubs for three or four years. During this time, the young tigers have a
lot to learn from her if they are to hunt and survive on their own.
Animals, unlike man, must either capture prey, or, evade predators. In order
for these animals, such as the tiger, to get close enough to its prey for the
attack, these animals must be able to hide, or blend in with the background.
That way the prey animal does not know that they are there.
The tiger uses what is known as disruptive camouflage, which means that
instead of blending in with it's surroundings, the tiger uses it's stripes to
break it's outline, or familiar shapes into smaller unfamiliar shapes.
Like all young animals, cubs are full of energy. They spend their days
wrestling, chasing each other, and darting after butterflies. All this
exercise helps prepare them for their first real hunt. And they are ready for
this when they are about six months old.
It's hard to believe that in just six months, a playful little cub will be a
ferocious hunter. By then, it will weigh almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and
have four big canine teeth for attacking prey.
A female tiger is one of the most loving and caring mothers in the animal
kingdom. She cuddles her babies to keep them warm. She feeds them and
protects them from enemies. For three years or more she looks after them,
teaching them how to hunt and survive in the wild.
This cub is only a few weeks old. In the wild, cubs are usually born in caves
and other protected places. The mother keeps them there and brings them food
for about three months. After that, the cubs are big enough to follow her as
she hunts for prey.
The life of a baby tiger can be dangerous. If a mother leaves her cubs, even
for a short time, they may be attacked by predators. Some of the animals that
like to eat tiger cubs are leopards (left), pythons (below left), and hyenas
(below right).
                         CLOUDED LEOPARD: PRECIOUS CARGO                         
One chapter in the Zoological Society's clouded leopard story began early in
1983 with the arrival of a young pair of cats from the People's Republic of
China. The cats were a welcome addition to the Society collection. Staff
prepared a plan to encourage successful breeding, but unfortunately, tragedy
occurred before the plan could be implemented.
In the exhibit, the female was accidentally exposed to a male, which severely
mauled her right foreleg and shoulder. The injury was so severe that, because
of the initial trauma and resulting fast-spreading infection, amputation of
the leg and affected scapula were required to save her life.
The difficult surgery was masterfully conducted. Intensive care was required
for more than two months. The veterinary staff and a hospital team kept the
cat alive through repeated tube-feeding and frequent hands-on care, despite
the cat's aggressive distrust of such treatment. Following many weeks of this
regimen, the cat responded and made sufficient recovery to allow her return
to the leopard exhibit.
A primary hurdle had been cleared -- the female had survived the injury. Next
to be resolved were her adjustments to life on three legs and finding a
method which would allow her reintroduction to the Chinese male.
First, the mammal staff placed the cat in a program designed to help her grow
accustomed to life with three legs. After several months of satisfactory
progress, the staff decided to place her with the male, who had been kept in
a separate but adjoining room. The animals were allowed to make contact as
they chose. To the relief of all, the reintroduction was successful. The cats
proved to be compatible, and, shortly after reintroduction, breeding took
On the morning of April 25, 1984, final proof of the success of a long and
difficult management program arrived-- a litter of two cubs. One cub did not
survive, but the other was taken to the Children's Zoo to be raised by the
nursery staff.
                                  UNIQUE FELINE                                  
The clouded Leopard has intrigued its public, been sought after for its fur,
and mystified those who would try to categorize it. During the early morning
hours of April 25, 1984, a discovery was made which was the culmination of a
saga, which held elements of zoo diplomacy and goodwill, tragedy and
suspense, cooperation and success. The discovery climaxed a chain of events
surrounding this paradoxical cat.
This cat has behavioral and physical traits typical of the small cats, genus
Felis, and the big cats, genus Panther. A paradox to taxonomists and
zoologists, it has been assigned to its own genus, Necrfelis, and is
considered a bridge between the two larger genera. A relationship to the
extinct saber toothed cat has even been suggested, based on the physical
characteristic of having, in proportion to body size, the longest canines of
all living felines. Its canine structure is also similar to that of the
saber-toothed cat.
The clouded leopard has a body size ranging from 24 to 42 inches (616-1,066
mm) Its tail adds another 21 to 36 inches (550-912 mm) of length. This
leopard's weight falls between 35 and 50 pounds (16-23 kg). Its fur is
grayish brown to tawny yellow and has dark markings in a variety of shapes,
which seem to form cloudlike patterns.
The clouded leopard was once believed to be exclusively arboreal and
nocturnal. Recent observations in captivity and in the wild indicate,
however, that it may be considerably more terrestrial and diurnal than
previously thought. It is believed to prey upon birds, young buffalo, cattle,
deer, goats, monkeys, pigs, and porcupines. The species is difficult to
manage in captivity because of a tendency to be highly aggressive toward
other species and humans. The exceptionally long canine teeth can easily
inflict mortal injury. True to its paradoxical reputation, however, some cats
may become extremely affectionate toward humans, even permitting and seeking
physical contact.
                              NORTH CHINESE LEOPARD                              
This leopard is so rare that humans almost never see it in the wild.  It
roams the forests and mountain meadows of northern China and Korea.
It makes its home in a great tangle of fallen trees and shrubs.  When it
kills smaller animals it devours them right away.  But when it comes to
larger prey, like deer and wild goats, the leopard drags the animal home to
save for several meals.
Don't be scared. The teeth of this snarling leopard won't hurt you.
On the contrary. It's the snow leopard that should be afraid.  Its relatives
in the wild are in constant danger from poachers who want to shoot them for
their pelts and teeth.
Even though shooting leopards is illegal, it's considered "good business."
That's because some people still wear leopard fur coats, and others believe
that leopard teeth earrings and necklaces have special powers.
                         SNOW LEOPARD: COLD WEATHER CAT                         
The shy, nocturnal and virtually unknown Snow Leopard is classified with the
big cats, but shares some small cat characteristics, for example it doesn't
roar and it feeds in a crouched position.
The Snow leopard has to contend with extremes of climate and its coat varies
from fine in summer to thick in winter. The surfaces of its paws are covered
by a cushion of hair, which increases the surface area, thus distributing the
animal's with more evenly over soft snow and protecting its soles from the
Snow leopards are solitary except during the breeding season, (January to
May), when male and female hunt together, or when a female has young. One to
four young are born in spring or early summer in a well-concealed den lined
with the mother's fur. Initially, the spots are completely black. The young
open their eyes at 7-9 days, are quite active by two months, and remain with
their mother through their first winter
Snow leopards are extremely rare in many parts of their range due to the
demand for their skins by the fur trade. Although in many countries it is now
illegal to use these furs, the trade continues and the species remains under
                                  SNOW LEOPARD                                  
They live in the snow-covered mountain peaks of Central Asia.  How high do
these Asian Mountains rise?  They reach 20,000 feet in altitude.
The snow leopard's long, thick fur keeps it warm even in the frosty air, and
its creamy white and gray color camouflages it in the snow.  Because humans
are fond of turning its beautiful coat into coats for themselves, the species
is on the brink of extinction.
                                  SPOTTED HYENA                                  
This hyena is also known as the "laughing" hyena. Sometimes a hyena lets out
a cry that resembles a wild human cackle.
Did you know that a hyena can gorge up to 33 pounds of meat extremely fast?
It needs to eat fast because as many as 50 other hungry hyenas may be next to
it, noisily feeding on the same piece of meat.  Scientists have seen 38
hyenas devour a zebra in 15 minutes, leaving only a few scraps behind.
The hyena is famous for eating animal parts that other meat-eaters won't
touch.  You might even see it stamping and biting on an ostrich egg, trying
to eat it.  After devouring everything in sight, the hyena spits out the
horns, hooves, and bone pieces, ligaments and hair.  If there are leftovers,
it buries the meat in a muddy pool.  The hyena's good memory leads it back to
the hidden food when it's hungry again.
The spotted hyena hunts at night.  Hyenas were once thought to be just
scavengers (animals that eat the meat left behind by predators). But now we
know that they're very good at finding their own food, too.
Hunting together in large packs, hyenas have a very effective way of catching
their favorite food.  One hyena scares a herd of wildebeest, looks for the
weakest member of the herd, and then begins a chase. The other hyenas join in
the attack, and a wildebeest feast is soon ready.
If you've ever heard the expression "laughing hyena" and wondered where it
came from, it was inspired by the strange, laughter-like sound hyenas make
when they're being attacked or chased.
                                  EATING HABITS                                  
True hyenas have thickset muzzles with large ears and eyes, powerful jaws and
big cheek teeth to deal with a carnivorous diet. They walk on four-toed feet
with five asymmetrical pads and nonretractile claws. The tail is long and
bushy (less so in the spotted hyena). Spotted hyenas will eat almost
anything, but in the wild much of their food comes from mammals heavier than
44 lb. which they mostly kill for themselves. The frequency of hunting
depends on the availability of carrion; spotted hyenas will loot the kills of
other carnivores, including lions. Group feeding is often noisy, but rarely
involves serious fighting. Instead, each hyena gorges extremely rapidly on up
to 33 lb. of flesh. Pieces of a carcass may be carried away to be consumed at
leisure or, occasionally, stored underwater.
It seems that the success of spotted hyenas is ensured through individual and
cooperative hunting and sharing of food between adults. Cooperation also
extends to communal marking and defense of the territory, in which both sexes
play a similar role, whether or not they are related. Competition within the
clan can, however, be intense. The system of communication shows adaptations,
which reduce aggression and coordinate group activities. Such competition
probably provided the selection pressure whereby females evolved their large
size and dominant position, which in turn relates also to levels of
testosterone in the blood that are indistinguishable from those of the male.
Thus female spotted hyenas are able to feed a small number of offspring alone
and protect them from the more serious consequences of interference by other
hyenas, particularly unrelated males.
                                 WHY THEY LAUGH                                 
Hyenas are often called "solitary," a label which obscures the fact that
their social systems are among the most complex known for mammals. Spotted
hyenas employ elaborate meeting ceremonies and efficient long-range
communication by scent and sound. Even when moving alone, spotted hyenas
maintain some direct contact with their fellows. They respond to sounds,
which are only audible to humans with the aid of an amplifier and headphones.
Calls audible to the unaided human ear include whoops, fast whoops, yells and
a kind of demented cackle that gives this species its alternative name of
laughing hyena. Whoop calls, in particular, are well-suited to long- range
communication as they carry over several kilometers; each call is repeated a
number of times, which helps the listener to locate the caller, and each
hyena has a distinctive voice. Infant hyenas will answer the pre-recorded
whoops of their mothers, but not those of other clan hyenas.
                            AFRICAN LION: FAMILY CATS                            
Lions are among the most admired animals on earth. Their strength and beauty,
combined with their bold nature, have fascinated people for ages. In fact,
the lion has often been called the "king of the beasts." And when you see a
big male lion, with its magnificent main and proud walk, it's easy to
understand why. Lions really do look like kings.
But lions don't always lead the easy lives of kings. They often need to work
hard to survive. Lions are meat eaters, or carnivores, so they must hunt
other animals for food. And sometimes prey is hard to find. When food is
scarce, a lion may go for days without eating.
Lions are members of the big cat family, which includes tigers, leopards, and
jaguars. The main difference between the big cats and all other cats is that
generally big cats can roar but cannot purr. Other cats can purr but cannot
The lion is one of the biggest cats in the world. Only the Siberian tiger is
larger. A male lion may be 9 to 10 feet long (3 meters) and can weigh 500
pounds (227 kilograms) or more. Female lions are smaller. The average female
is 7 to 8 feet long (2 l/2 meters) and weighs 270 to 350 pounds (140
Lions are different from most other cats in that they live in groups called
prides. They hunt together, guard their territory together, and raise their
young together. Lions that live in groups can catch more food than a single
lion can. And they can protect themselves better. Also, lions that are born
into groups have a large family to care for them.
There are two different kinds, or subspecies, of lions: the African and the
Asiatic. Most of the lions in the world today are African lions. These
animals live on the grassy plains of Africa. The few Asiatic lions that
remain live on a small wildlife preserve in India. There were once many other
kinds of lions in the world but all of these are now extinct.
Lions sometimes climb high up into trees to rest on their branches and escape
the biting insects below.
The body of a lion is made for catching prey. Most of the time, lions try to
get very close to their prey before they attack it. Then they make a big leap
and grab the prey. To help them get close without being seen, lions have
golden-brown coats that blend in with the land around them. And to help them
leap, they have strong muscles in their legs. A lion can leap 35 feet (10.5
meters) through the air in a single jump.
Lions do most of their hunting at night, so they have wonderful hearing and
eyesight to help them find prey in the dark. Their hearing is so sharp, they
can hear prey that is more than a mile away. Lions can turn their ears from
side to side to catch sounds coming from almost any direction. When a lion is
moving through tall grass, it may not always be able to see its prey -- but
it can always hear it. The eyes of lions are the biggest of any meat-eating
animal. Like the eyes of other cats, they are specially made for seeing at
Lions often work together when they hunt. By doing this, they increase their
chances of getting food. A lion that hunts alone may have a hard time
catching prey.
Most of the hunting is done by a team of females. They divide the job among
them, with each female doing part of the work to catch the prey. Some of the
females scare prey animals and make them run -- while other females lie in
ambush to grab the fleeing animals.
The extra strength of a male is sometimes needed to bring down larger
animals, like wildebeest or buffalo. And larger animals are the best prey,
because they provide more meat.
No matter how good a lion is at hunting, it misses more prey than it catches.
Sometimes lions will go for days without eating. If lions can't find enough
of their regular prey, they will eat smaller animals like hares and tortoises
-- and even porcupines.
When they can, lions get their food by taking it away from other animals.
This is often easier than hunting. In some parts of Africa, much of the food
that lions eat is taken away from hyenas. When food is really scarce, lions
will eat almost anything they can find -- including snakes, locusts,
termites, peanuts, fruit, and rotten wood.
Baby lions are called cubs. And like most baby animals they need lots of
loving care. A lion cub is totally helpless at birth. It is blind and can
barely crawl. And it weighs less than 5 pounds (2 kg).
Cubs are born in-groups called litters. Usually, there are three cubs in a
litter. But sometimes there are as many as five. For the first few weeks of
their lives, the cubs stay hidden in a safe place away from the pride. Then
their mother brings them out to join the "family."
In a pride, all of the females help take care of the cubs. When one mother is
away hunting, the other lions feed and watch over her young. But sometimes,
all of the adults join the hunt. Then the cubs are hidden in the tall grass
or among the rocks.
A cub is born with dark spots all over its body. Some people think that the
spots may make it harder for predators to see the cubs when they are hidden.
A mother lion carries her babies in her mouth -- just like a motherhouse cat.
To keep predators from finding the cubs, she moves them to a new hiding place
every few days.
                              AFRICAN LION: FUTURE                              
Asiatic lions are endangered, and African lions have less living space than
in times past. This is because people are taking away their homes, or
habitats. The human population in Africa and Asia is rapidly growing, and
people are turning more and more land into farms and ranches. This means that
the lions have less food to eat and so it is harder for them to live.
Fortunately, wildlife organizations throughout the world are working hard to
save the lions' habitats. And governments in both Africa and India have set
aside special land where lions can live in safety.
                           AFRICAN LION: THE MANE CAT                           
Most experts agree that a lion will attack a human only if provoked. But the
experts also suggest that knowledge of the warning signs are mandatory for
anyone who travels by foot in the bush. An angry lion will drop to a crouch,
flatten its ears, and flick its tail tip rapidly from side to side. Low
grunts and growls can often be heard; and just prior to a charge, the tail is
jerked up and down. While these warning signs are important, it is perhaps of
greater importance that a lion can bolt from a crouch and travel 40 yards in
less than 2.7 seconds.
The lion is the largest of the African cats, weighing up to 200 kilograms
(440 pounds). Of the big cats, only the tiger is of greater size. The mane of
a male lion is the most distinguishing characteristic of the species,
although a small percentage of lionesses also have manes. The mane adds to
the apparent size of a male lion, and it is believed that the mane provides
added protection during male-to-male combat. The mane begins to develop at
about one year of age but remains short and scraggly until the male is three
or four years old. Another physical characteristic of lions is the tuft of
long hairs at the end of the tail. This black tassel occurs in both males and
females. Often, when females have cubs or are being courted by males, the
tail tassel is carried high above the ground. Researchers believe that this
behavior allows cubs or males to maintain visual contact with the female when
she moves through dense vegetation. Fortunately for us, it is also an
excellent way for humans to maintain visual contact.
                              LION: NO LONGER KING                              
You may have believed that African lions are the kings of the jungle. Well,
that's just not true. But the reason isn't because lions aren't the lordly
animals that you thought them to be; it's just that lions don't live in the
jungle. They live in the open savannas in Africa, which are grassy plains
with a few scattered trees.
Lions, of course, are big cats, but they're different from tigers, leopards
and other big cats because they are very social animals. They live in a group
called a "pride," which can have as many as 35 lions in it. Adult female
lions, or lionesses, and cubs make up most of each pride, although two or
three adult males live in it, too.
Hunting is how the lions get their food. They eat animals such as zebras,
gazelles, hartebeests, gnus and even buffalo. Lionesses do most of the
hunting but when it comes to eating, the adult males get their share first.
Lions often hunt together. A couple of lions may chase the prey and herd it
toward other lions hiding in the grass. Then the hiding lions leap out and
ambush the prey.
When lions eat, they often eat a whole lot of meat all at once. It's possible
for a wild lion to eat up to 40 pounds of meat at one sitting. But then it
may fast for several days and not eat anything. While it's fasting, the lion
may be very, very lazy and just sleep a lot ... until its time to eat again.
If you've ever heard the roar of a lion, you know what a thundering sound it
is. It's very possible for a lion's roar to be heard five miles away if the
wind conditions are right. Lions often roar just after the sun goes down.
Male lions have manes around their necks. A young male will start to grow a
mane when he's about a year old. It's believed that the mane helps protect
the neck areas of males when they fight with each other.
Baby lions are called cubs. A lioness will usually have three or four cubs in
an area protected by rocks or brush. Many animals are born with their eyes
closed, but it's possible for a lion cub to be born with its eyes open. The
cubs are very playful and love to wrestle and stalk each other. Lionesses
often care for each other's cubs, which is a little bit like baby-sitting.
Although African lions aren't an endangered species, there's a lion
subspecies that lives in Asia that is very rare and endangered.
So remember: While you may not be able to call a lion the king of the jungle,
there's certainly no reason you can't call him the king of beasts.
                                   ASIAN LION                                   
In the past, you could find hundreds of thousands of these lions in the
Middle East and Asia.  Now, they number only 180, living on a small wildlife
preserve in India.  Like the African lion, they've suffered from the
destruction of wild lands and from over hunting.
Once, people thought that Asian lions had shorter manes than African lions,
but that's not the case.  Both can have either long or short manes.
                         COYOTE: PLACE IN THE FOOD CHAIN                         
Every animal on earth lives by eating some other living organism -- plant or
animal. The sequence of eaten and eater is called a food chain. The ultimate
source of the energy contained in food comes from the sun. It is stored in
the grass, and passed on to the grasshoppers. The alligator lizard, which
eats the grasshopper, is the next link in the food chain. It, in turn, is
eaten by a roadrunner, which then falls victim to the coyote.
The coyote is called an ultimate consumer because nothing hunts it for food.
But this food chain is a closed circle, the final link -- coyote -- being
fastened to the first -- the grass. When the coyote dies, its chemicals are
broken down by bacteria and returned to the soil, where they nurture more
plant growth.
Like many wild dogs, the coyote is usually active at night, when it can hunt
safely.  You can often see a coyote in the early evening and morning, as it
goes to and from its nighttime activities.
Coyotes can run as fast as 40 miles per hour, and at slightly slower speeds,
they can run for miles.  If a coyote can stay close to its prey, it has a
good chance of getting a meal.
In hunting style, the dhole is like the hyena. It hunts in a pack with other
dholes, whining, barking and whistling as they go. Whistling usually means
that the hunt is unsuccessful, and the pack should reassemble for another
It is almost impossible for a single dhole to kill a deer, but five to twelve
dholes can manage it together. After the kill, dholes compete for the morsels
by eating very fast. A dhole can chew up almost nine pounds of meat in an
Strong, wise, brave -- all these words describe the gray wolf. But another
word needs to be added to the list: endangered.
Two hundred years ago, the gray wolf roamed throughout North America. But
many of them were shot by European settlers and pioneers, who were busy
cutting down the wolves' forest home for houses and towns. Those wolves that
remained found fewer deer, moose and beaver to eat.
Today, the gray wolf continues to feel the impact of an expanding human
population. That, and the popular belief that wolves shouldn't live near
humans, continues to threaten their presence on our planet.
                                    GRAY WOLF                                    
Did you know that the gray wolf is the largest member of the dog family?
Apart from man, it once was the most widespread mammal outside the tropics.
As humans move into its habitat, the wolf had to move out.
Did you know that after humans, wolves may be the most adaptable creatures of
all? They're able to live in a wider variety of climates and habitats than
most other animals and can survive on many different kinds of food.
                              BEST LEFT UNPROVOKED                              
Wolves prey on many species in the north -- musk ox, caribou, moose, deer,
hares and even rodents. These carnivores are among the most maligned of all
animals, victims of false myths and legends and systematic programs of
extinction. They are accused of attacking humans and destroying entire herds
of domestic animals. But their depredations of livestock are less severe than
often claimed. And unprovoked attacks by healthy wolves in North America on
humans are unknown. Those recorded from Europe's Middle Ages are thought to
have been by rabid animals or hybrids.
The world will be a far lonelier place if the last wolf dies. As biologist
Ernest P. Walker wrote in his book, MAMMALS OF THE WORLD, "The howl of the
wolf and coyote, which to some people is of more enduring significance than
superhighways and skyscrapers, should always remain a part of our heritage."
                                  APES: FUTURE                                  
The future of apes is up to us. All of the great apes are already on the
endangered species list, and all of the lesser apes are as well. Scientists
who have studied them agree that all great apes will soon die out in the wild
unless steps are taken now to protect them.
Gorillas and orangutans appear to have no natural enemies, and chimpanzees
have very few. Gibbons, because they move so fast and live so high up in the
trees, are safe from any animal. Nothing could threaten any of the apes with
extinction until man started hunting them, capturing them, and destroying the
wild lands in which they live.
Today, hunting of apes is against the law everywhere, and there are strict
regulations controlling the capture of wild apes. But illegal hunting and
trapping continues. And the greatest threat of all -- the destruction of wild
lands -- grows greater every day. Tropical forests are being cut down faster
today than ever before ... at the rate of one acre every second, according to
a recent report. At this incredible pace, the homes of many wild creatures --
including apes -- are simply disappearing.
Most endangered of the apes are the mountain gorillas. Today, there are less
than 500 in Central Africa.
And the other apes are not much better off. Nobody is really sure how many
pygmy chimpanzees or bonobos survive in the jungles south of the Congo River
-- but it is probably less than 10,000. There are fewer than 5,000 orangutans
still alive in scattered areas of Borneo and Sumatra. And the numbers of
lowland gorillas and chimpanzees are declining rapidly.
Fortunately, there are people who are trying to save the magnificent apes. In
Central Africa, governments are working to protect the last remaining homes
of mountain gorillas. They have even organized guards that patrol the borders
of gorilla preserves to keep the gorillas safe from hunters. The World
Wildlife Fund and other groups are raising money to buy land and make sure
that it will never be taken away from gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and
gibbons. And scientists everywhere are studying the apes to find new ways to
help them.
                           BONOBO OR PYGMY CHIMPANZEE                           
Biologists who have studied the behavior of these animals say they are the
smarter of two species of chimpanzees. Their hair is parted at the middle and
wisps out to the sides of the head, giving them an obvious physical
distinction from the common chimpanzee.
Both species of chimps are intelligent. They belong to the select animals
that make and use tools. You might see a chimp defend himself with a tree
branch, or take a twig and turn it into a useful devise for gathering or
eating foods. Chimps also communicate with many gestures and vocalizations.
People may feel especially drawn to chimps because of some similar behaviors.
Young chimps laugh when they're tickled. Bonobos quarrel over food, but hug
and kiss to make up.
                        BONOBO: WORKSHOP IN CONSERVATION                        
The bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee, is one of only four living species of great
apes. The other three species, the gorilla, orangutan, and common chimpanzee,
have received far greater attention until now. Not even recognized as a
separate species until 1929, the bonobo still remains much of a mystery in
its native habitat, the central rain forests of Zaire. Often confused with
the common chimpanzee, the bonobo is only slightly smaller but has a more
graceful, slender body; the head is smaller but the legs are longer than
those of common chimps. The most outstanding physical difference is the
bonobo's hairstyle, an attractive coiffure of long black hairs neatly parted
down the middle. To the experienced eye, the difference between the
chimpanzee and the bonobo is as great as the difference between a leopard and
a cheetah.
The bonobo is as rare in zoos (there are less than 80 in captivity worldwide)
as it is in the wild (estimates range from 5,000 to 20,000). In 1989, the
entire San Diego Zoo group of 11 animals was relocated to the Wild Animal
No effective conservation plan for the bonobo could be developed without
firsthand knowledge of the only country that is home to this critically
endangered ape. International conservation projects are as much a people
issue as an animal issue; therefore, the needs of the local Zairian people
must be taken into account. Political, cultural, and economic problems are
just as important to consider as the biological needs of the species we are
attempting to save. For these reasons, the San Diego Bonobo Workshop
continually emphasizes the need for an international cooperative effort with
the people and government of Zaire.
In light of the increasing awareness of the need to preserve the world's
biodiversity, it is quite surprising how little attention Zaire has received.
The extent and variety of the biological resources in Zaire's forest
ecosystems is matched by few other tropical countries. After Brazil, Zaire
has the second largest tropical forest in the world. Despite this fact, Zaire
is among the last of the countries in the tropical forest belt without a
comprehensive program to protect its tropical forest. Programs like the one
developed at the San Diego Bonobo Workshop will be instrumental in obtaining
funds from organizations like the World Bank to protect the bonobo and its
forest habitat.
                             THE GORILLA SUBSPECIES                             
Three subspecies of gorillas are currently recognized. Almost all zoo
gorillas are western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) native to west African
nations such as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Nigeria, and
Rio Muni. The total population of western lowland gorillas is estimated to be
between 30,000 to 50,000 individuals, and they are classified as threatened
by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources). Studying these gorillas in the wild is extremely difficult,
because their preferred habitat is dense jungle.
A very few eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri) native to
eastern Zaire, live in zoos. Mbongo and Ngagi, the two "mountain gorillas"
who lived at the San Diego Zoo in the 1930s and 1940s, would now be
classified as eastern lowland gorillas. These gorillas are considered the
largest subspecies on average, and generally have blacker hair than western
lowland gorillas. They number approximately 3,000 to 4,000 and are classified
as endangered.
No mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) exist in captivity, but these
are the most-studied gorillas in the wild. They live in the mountainous
border regions of Rwanda, Uganda, and Zaire. Only about 600 individuals
exist, in two separate populations, and they are classified as endangered.
Mountain gorillas are distinguished physically by their large size and extra-
long, silky black hair. A number of skeletal differences exist between the
three subspecies as well.
It would be interesting to see if DNA sequence comparisons could help us
understand the phylogenetic (evolution of a genetically related group as
distinguished from the development of the individual organism) relationships
of the gorilla subspecies. This could help anthropologists understand the
mechanisms and rates of primate evolution. It could also be important if
gorilla populations ever become so critically depleted that interbreeding of
different subspecies were contemplated. At CRES, we are comparing DNA
sequences from gorillas of all three subspecies. Only a few gorillas have
been tested so far, but to date it appears that the relationships between the
subspecies generally follows the geographic location of populations.
Western lowland gorillas have a large range, and many DNA sequence
differences exist between different individuals of this subspecies. Western
lowland gorillas are separated by 600 miles from eastern lowland gorillas,
and substantial sequence differences exist between the two groups as well.
The eastern lowland and mountain gorilla populations are found relatively
close together, but they have been isolated from each other for an unknown
amount of time. They are presently separated by substantial geographic
barriers: portions of the Rift Valley and a variety of mountain ranges.
However, we find much less genetic difference between the eastern lowland
gorillas and the mountain gorillas than there is between certain western
lowland gorillas. The distinct physical differences between eastern lowland
and mountain gorillas probably reflect recent adaptations to their respective
habitats -- lowlands versus mountains -- and not a distant genetic
                        LION-TAILED MACAQUES: BACKGROUND                        
The macaques, a genus of some 13 to 20 species (there is disagreement among
taxonomists on the actual number), are found in North Africa and throughout
southern Asia from Afghanistan to Japan.  The most familiar form is the
rhesus monkey, which is often seen by tourists in the towns and cities of
India. Fossils dating to six million years indicate that the macaques
originated in northern Africa and once roamed over Europe as far north as
London. These earlier macaques were not very different in appearance from the
Barbary monkeys that survive today in Morocco, Algeria, and on Gibraltar.
However, once the Macaques reached Asia, at least by three million years ago,
they diversified into a variety of forms. Few are as distinctly different as
the lion-tails, with their black coats, silver facial ruffs, and strongly
arboreal habitats. Lion-tails are one of the two macaque species that are
listed as in danger of extinction, but we may realistically expect the
Tibetan, Formosan, and Sulawesian species to fall into that category before
the year 2000.
Their geographical range snakes along the slope's and highest crests of the
Western Ghat Mountains where, today, the forest is reduced to about one
percent of the total land cover. Like its captive counterpart, the wild
living lion-tail was ignored by primatologists until well into the 1970s.
Although opinions vary, most would agree that the wild population today
numbers between 2,000 and 5,000 individuals. Initial field reports indicate
that wild lion-tails prefer to spend about 99 percent of their time in the
trees. Like other macaques, their diet is dominated by wild fruits, but
includes a variety of flowers, leaves, buds, grasses, insects, and even a few
nestlings of birds and mammals. One of the more interesting forms of feeding
reported by Dr. Steven Green of Miami University involves a simple form of
tool use. In order to protect their hands while feeding on stinging
caterpillars, lion-tails have been seen to pluck large tree leaves and lay
them over the caterpillars before pouncing on them.
In the wild state, lion-tail groups average about 20 individuals, usually
with more than a single adult male present. Males are larger than females by
about a third and are typically ranked relative to one another in a social
hierarchy. Males usually emigrate from their natal group to join another
during the early stages of adulthood. Being macaques, lion-tails are
intensely social and are highly aggressive toward unfamiliar individuals.
Preliminary work on our captive population indicates that much of the
behavior between group members is dependent upon one's relationship to a
small number of female-headed lineages. It is possible to have up to four
living generations within each matriline and four or five matrilines within a
group. Dominance relationships among and within matrilines play a crucial
role in the everyday life of females and their offspring, as they do for
adult males. One's social position determines access to essential resources
such as food, perches, and social partners.
                       LION-TAILED MACAQUES: FUTURE PLANS                       
This highly endangered primate has been exhibited at the San Diego Zoo since
1923. In 1979, the existing population of three males and three females was
relocated to the Primate Research Pad for concentrated study of their
reproductive biology. Within the next decade their reproductive cycles were
characterized, as were their sexual and social behavior, parturition and
infant rearing, and various other aspects of the captive experience. Nearly a
dozen scientific papers from these studies have been published in peer-
reviewed journals or as book chapters.
BY 1989 the Zoo's captive population had grown to 38 individuals. This same
year the program undertook a significant change in direction. Seven
individuals, including five born at the Primate Research Pad, were released
into a state-of-the-art exhibit in Sun Bear Forest. Although these
individuals are no longer under study, it was knowledge gained over the
previous decade that contributed to the design of an exhibit facility which,
by anyone's criteria, is an outstanding success.
A second troop of 11 individuals was simultaneously relocated to the newly
constructed 3/4-acre breeding kraal at the Wild Animal Park. It is this
population which will be a major research focus during the next five years.
This troop has been exempted from Species Survival Plan management, a program
of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, providing
freedom to pursue several interesting lines of inquiry. One of these has to
do with the impact of traditional management regimes on certain life history
parameters. The second investigation will pursue experiments designed to
prepare the troop for reintroduction to suitable habitat in India in five to
seven years.
The lion-tailed macaque is by nature a highly social mammal. Group members
are organized in a social hierarchy that appears to remain stable over many
years. Individual troops are highly xenophobic. This trait, combined with
natural aggressiveness, results in potentially fatal conflict when new
individuals are introduced. In the wild state, males will leave their natal
troop at sexual maturity and join a new one. Females remain in their natal
troops throughout their lives.
Transfer by males is accompanied by a substantial amount of aggression, but
is presumably a necessary event to preclude inbreeding. These natural
attributes of wild troops would seemingly have profound implications for the
transfer of individuals, especially of females, between zoological
institutions to satisfy genetic and reproductive objectives.
It is relevant to ask if the ongoing disturbance of the social order through
frequent inter-institutional transfers might negatively impact on such
parameters as infant mortality, female fecundity, and perhaps even the
neonatal sex ratio. Our kraal group has been together for the past 24 years,
the only social disturbances having been the replacement of breeding males.
We have learned how to integrate new males into groups with a minimum of
social upheaval. We therefore have a unique opportunity to compare findings
from our relatively undisturbed population with those from more traditionally
managed populations in other zoos over the next several years.
Preparation of this same troop for reintroduction to the wild has two
components. The first entails a number of experimental procedures designed to
"teach" natural foraging, avoidance of predators (including humans), and
appropriate social cohesiveness. In addition, the troop must be routinely
evaluated for any pathogens that would pose a hazard to the existing wild
The second component is evaluation of potential release sites in the wild.
The area selected for a test-case reintroduction must not only be protected
from human activity, but must contain adequate food and shelter to insure the
long-term survival of the troop. CRES anticipates working closely with Indian
colleagues on this aspect.
Lion-tailed macaque neonates (newborns) are born with black fur, and their
faces, hands, and feet are pink and hairless. Their characteristic silver
manes do not begin to grow in until the babies are several weeks old, and
their faces gradually acquire the black pigmentation of adults.
When the lion-tailed macaque breeding and management program began at the
CRES primate facility more than ten years ago, little was known about the
gestation, labor, and delivery of infants in this species. There was
extensive documentation of parturition in some other macaques, but no
comparable data were available on the much rarer lion-tailed macaque. How
long is the normal gestation length? At what time are births most likely to
occur? How long does labor last? What factors indicate that there may be a
delivery problem requiring veterinary intervention? Answers to these and
other important questions were needed in order to ensure the best captive
management procedures and to maximize the breeding success for this species.
The primary reason these data had not been collected previously is that most
new infants were usually discovered in the morning, after the keepers arrived
at work. We began collecting data on each lion-tailed macaque birth by
setting up 24-hour "birth watches" that began several days before the dam was
due to deliver. Conception dates were determined partially through hormone
data from daily urine samples, and also by keeping careful track of
menstruation, sex-skin swellings, and mating episodes. Parturition-date
predictions were based on the 168-day gestation length documented for the
rhesus macaque. However, because this is an average length, we began our
observations about ten days before the due date in order not to miss the
early deliveries.
The birth watch involved round-the-clock observations at 15-minute intervals
during successive, 4-hour shifts. Observations were recorded by keepers,
technicians, and trained volunteers. As soon as any signs of straining or
birth fluids were noted, continuous notes were kept and each subsequent
contraction or birth-related event was timed and recorded. Behavioral
indications of impending labor included restlessness and manual exploration
of the vaginal area. Although these signs eventually proved reliable, we used
the first, clear contraction as the starting point for measuring the duration
of labor. (In human terms, this is equivalent to second-stage labor. The
usual criterion of first-stage labor, cervical dilatation, cannot be observed
in the wild primate unless restraint is used.) During actual labor, several
straining postures were noted; most common were variations of squatting
postures and arched-back stretches.
The first birth was to an experienced mother (this was her third delivery)
and was documented on videotape. After nearly 8 full hours of labor and 188
contractions, the dam gave birth to a healthy, female infant. These initial
observations led us to believe that a labor of this duration was not a basis
for concern; however, we soon learned that this was far beyond the average
labor length and number of contractions common for this species.
Over an 8-year period, we were able to collect data on 18 births from 8
different mothers in our colony. Our program has provided some valuable
information about species-typical birth patterns that we can now use to
direct management decisions. We found that the average length of labor to
expulsion of the fetus was about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and the shortest
labor was only 50 minutes total. The female that required eight hours to
deliver in the first case observed then delivered her subsequent infant in
only a little over an hour! Although our sample is still small, it would
appear that, on the average, first-time mothers have longer and more
difficult labors.
Our study determined that the average number of contractions to delivery for
lion-tails was 54. The female with the longest labor also had the largest
number of contractions (454). In her next delivery, the infant arrived after
only 14 contractions, the lowest number recorded during the entire birth
study. Based on the average number of contractions seen in 17 successful
deliveries, and one ending in stillbirth, contraction frequencies approaching
75 to 100 in number may serve as a warning that intervention will be
The average length of gestation for 14 pregnancies in our colony was 169.5
days, with a range of 163 to 176 days. This is very similar to what has been
reported for other macaques. Our observers quickly discovered that those who
watched during the 7 to 11 P.M. shifts were the most successful at being
present when births occurred: labor began between the hours of 7:15 P.M. and
3:15 A.M. in every case but one. The exception was one first-time mother that
began straining in the early afternoon. This female had a difficult labor,
and a dead fetus was later removed by cesarean section after 8 hours of
straining and 193 contractions. All the other births resulted in live
offspring and occurred between the hours of 8:05 P.M. and 6:28 A.M. Based on
previous primate birth records, daytime births are not the norm and may
indicate an increased risk to both fetus and dam.
Expulsion of the placenta always took place within about 20 minutes after
parturition, and usually it was immediately consumed by the mother. In a few
cases, first-time mothers carried the placenta around for several hours,
along with the infant, until it could be removed by keepers. Whenever
possible, a sample of the placenta is saved for analysis by Zoo pathologists,
who check it for abnormalities. After delivery, the mothers carefully lick
the birth fluids off their infants, and the neonates begin nursing within a
few hours. Each and every female in the study provided excellent maternal
care immediately following parturition.
The lion-tailed macaque breeding colonies are now located in the Sun Bear
Forest exhibit at the Zoo (one adult male and six females) and in a large,
off-exhibit kraal at the Wild Animal Park (one adult male, two juvenile
males, one infant male, and ten females). Together these represent the
largest captive group of lion-tailed macaques in the world -- about 20
percent of the total captive population. Eight years of patient monitoring,
birth watches, record keeping, and evaluation have brought us a long way in
the breeding and captive management of this macaque species.
ZOONOOZ, May, 1990 "Nighttime Is the Norm: Labor and Birth in the Lion-tailed
Macaque," by Helena Fitch-Snyder, Animal Behavior Specialist/CRES and Donald
Lindburg, Ph.D. Behaviorist/CRES.
                                 MORE ON IGUANAS                                 
The environment in which a lizard lives may determine how easily its scent
marks can be located by other lizards. Both desert iguanas (Dipsosaurus
dorsalis )and green iguanas (Iguana iguana) possess femoral glands on the
underside of the hind legs. They use pheromone secretions from these glands
to mark their territories. Desert iguanas live in extremely hot and arid
habitats, whereas green iguanas live in humid tropical forests. Because these
two species of lizards live under such different environmental conditions, it
is not surprising that the way their pheromone signals are transmitted
Desert iguanas have scent marks that are nonvolatile, which means that they
evaporate very slowly into the atmosphere. These marks are also extremely
resistant to chemical breakdown at high temperatures. The low volatility and
thermal stability of desert iguana scent marks ensures that they persist
under harsh desert conditions, a necessary quality if they are to be used
effectively for territory marking. Although these characteristics make scent
marks more durable in desert environments, they pose a problem for desert
iguanas attempting to detect them if the marks are not volatile;  they may be
difficult or impossible to locate using smell. Desert iguanas avoid this
problem by combining a unique type of visual signal with their scent marks.
One striking property of desert iguana scent marks is that they strongly
absorb ultraviolet light. Although these wavelengths are invisible to human
eyes, they appear dark to animals able to see ultraviolet light -- much as
ultraviolet-absorbing honey guides on flowers look black when UV-sensitive
camera film is used to view them. Recent studies have shown that desert
iguanas are able to see long-wave ultraviolet light, and they may use this
adaptation to detect scent marks from a distance. After scent marks are
localized using visual cues, desert iguanas can approach and investigate them
in more detail through tongue-flicking. Although it is not known to occur in
mammals, visual sensitivity to ultraviolet light has been shown in certain
insects, spiders, fish, frogs, and birds. The ability of desert iguanas to
detect ultraviolet light may help them solve some of the problems associated
with finding scent marks in a desert environment.
In contrast to those of desert iguanas, the scent marks of green iguanas
contain a variety of volatile chemical compounds, and they do not absorb
ultraviolet light. Behavioral studies indicate that green iguanas, unlike
desert iguanas, can detect these scent marks by smell alone. Because the
chemical components of green iguana scent marks remain active and transmit
well under the humid conditions of tropical forests, green iguanas do not
appear to need a visual cue in order to locate scent marks. Research on both
iguana species demonstrates how the environment in which animals live can
influence the nature of the communication signals they employ.