Friday, June 13, 2008

Critter News June 12, 2008

Hi guys, it's Loki! And you're watching Critter news for Thursday June 12, 2008.

National Geographic's Explorer is exploring felines. Dr. Leslie Lyons, no pun intended, heads the domestic cat genetic research program at
the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of California
. Lyons collected samples of feline DNA from volunteers from all over the world. While genetic mapping will have major applications in feline and human medicine, another goal of the study is to find out how and where Felis silvestris became Felis Cattus. The program also features researchers in the field tagging wild cats to observe how they might domesticate themselves and various ways different breeds are related.

Explorer: Science of Cats airs again the evening of June 14th on the National Geographic Channel.

America's oldest African elephant died suddenly on Monday morning. Petal was a longtime resident of the Philadelphia Zoo and was due to be moved to the International Conservation Center late this summer. Video footage revealed she stumbled and lay down early in the morning, unusual behavior for her as she usually slept standing up. All of her vital signs were normal as she slipped away. Officials at the zoo are still uncertain as to the cause of her death but she did live over a decade longer than she likely would have in the wild. Petal was 52.

Happy Birfday! Methuselah, star attraction of the largest single collection of reptiles in the world, turns 127 years old this weekend and Reptile Gardens is having a celebration. Reptile Gardens is located on 30 acres just south of Rapid City, South Dakota, and features 200 species of reptiles, including Maniac, the largest crocodile in the Western Hemisphere, the only display of rough-scaled pythons outside Australia, and a fully enclosed jungle in the sky dome. Methuselah the Giant Turtle will be giving out free birthday cake and coke for kids, but he will be celebrating with watermelon. He was born on the Galapagos Islands in 1881.

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology reports possible evidence of a land-dwelling vertebrate that created burrows in Antarctica 250 million years ago. While not warm, Antarctica was at the time presumably ice-free. The first burrows were found in the Beardmore Glacier region about 400 miles from the pole. No animal remains have been discovered but the nature of the shelters makes the Thrinaxodon of South Africa a good candidate according to Cris Sidor, one of the project's researchers. The Thrinaxodon has the skeleton of a reptile and laid eggs but there is much evidence that the creature was warm-blooded, sported whiskers and was covered in fur.

Additional burrows have been found in the Victoria Land region and point to a mole-sized reptile known as a procolophonid.

**********TRUE OR TAIL ANSWER BELOW*****************************

And now it's time for True or Tail? Close Relatives. Which animal is most closely related to the South American saber-toothed tiger Thylacosmilus?

The dog.
The lion.
The platypus.
The domesticated cat.
The kangaroo. or
The bear.

Answer: Kangaroos. Thylacosmilus, meaning "pouched blade", was a marsupial and carried young in a pouch. Fossils are often found in Argentina. It is believed they became extinct after Smilodon, a sabre-toothed tiger from North America, invaded when a land bridge was created between North and South America.