Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amazing Amphibians Exhibit at the Toledo Zoo

One final entry from my Zoo Road Trip to Michigan and back.

Ohio has an abundance of excellent zoos.

One of the hightlights of my trip was the wonderful Toledo Zoo, and the experience was made all the more memorable by
an e-friend of mine who works there and gave me a personal tour of the exhibit.

I'm supposed to meet my e-maginary friend here. I wondered. Which one is he?
Seems like a nice guy, though a bit wooden.

The Toledo zoo was one of the only two zoos on my trip that had a separate amphibian and reptile exhibit (the other was Detroit); most often they are lumped together, to the detriment of the amphibians.

The zoo itself is beautiful, with many old buildings being restored and new ones constructed with reclaimed materials (as my tour guide informed me). Buildings are also being repurposed; the carnivore house changed was changed into to a restaurant. They did a really nice job.

It was very nice of my friend to take time from the endless duties of his job to tour me around the exhibit, spending almost an hour (lucky for me, as that is my upper limit for acting normal around a stranger. Probably lucky for him as well. Did I fool you?).

Entrance to the "Amazing Amphibians" exhibit.

We met in the lobby of the "Amazing Amphibian" building, which was all of that and more. I would say "house" but they shared the building with the Bug exhibit and the employee cafe...hey, what does that mean? They don't have to go far for their roaches, or vice-versa?

The Amazing Amphibians exhibit was really top-notch. What more could you want? A star-studded line-up of Andrias, Cryptobranchus, Mudpuppius...as well as the staples, the tiger salamander and the marbled salamander.

They had a lit display in there that had all kinds of neat amphibian info.

Let's start with the jewels of the collection: A. japonicus, fresh from the nail salon.
Nearby, the Hellbender.

The snot otter (aka hellbender) in the above picture has a certain resemblance to my ferret Dipsy...can you see it?


This mild-mannered entry way display is also a secret door! Though not so secret anymore.

A brightly colored mud salamander (Pseudotriton montanus diastictus), kept behind the secret door.
Closely related salamanders can eat a salamander as big as itself!

Aneides aeneus: The first time I ever saw one of these face to face.

One big feather in the cap of the Toledo Zoo is the breeding success of the Northern Slimy Salamanders. He showed me those as well.

The Woodland Salamanders Exhibit

Where's Waldo?

Having someone show me around was like getting a tour behind the scenes of Santa's Toy Factory. It got even better when he opened the case of the Woodland Salamander exhibit (a big whoosh of refrigerated air emerging) and started pointng out all the salamanders in the display that were visible in the nooks and crannies of the rock wall. Here was a variety of sals, I'd never seen before in real life either.


My tour guide was very proud of the Kihansi Spray Toads, and rightfully so. At first I didn't know what they were, except that "if you go to the Toledo Zoo, don't miss the Kihansi Spray Toads!" in an email from another of my weird salamander-loving friends. Here's a very brief summary from Wikipedia: "The Kihansi Spray Toad, Nectophrynoides asperginis, is a dwarf toad, with adults reaching no more than three quarters of an inch long. It was discovered in 1996. It was found only in spray zone around the Kihansi and Mhalala waterfalls in the southern Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania. It is listed as a critical endangered species due to a restricted range, habitat loss and a declining population. The Toledo Zoo and the Bronx Zoo are two places where the Kihansi Spray Toad is on display"
(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kihansi_Spray_Toad ).

The habitat loss is due to a hydroelectric plant that was built into the falls, reducing the spray to such an extent that this microhabitat was no longer viable for the toads. Originally the Detroit zoo had great success breeding the toads and had given the Toledo zoo some of its extra spray frogs, and then Detroit's were wiped out by a disease, that the Toledo frogs escaped.
If I have any of the facts wrong, it's completely the fault of my short attention span, and not my friend's explanation.

There were many other kinds of frogs at the zoo--there were glass frogs, and more that I can't remember, except that I was amazed by the variety. My friend sure knew a lot about frogs. In his obvious enthusiasm, he told me lots and lots of stuff about them. Finally I got worried and had to say, "Listen, Buddy, I have to ask you somehting, and please don't be offended, but...(in a small and querulous voice)...do you like frogs better than salamanders?...(and suddenly emboldened)...weigh your words carefully. Remember, I'm a moderator on the salamander forum and I have the power to BAN YOU FOR LIFE!"
He paused for a short moment. "Uhhhh..Nnnnno,...I don't," he assured me. And then, "Salamanders Rule, Frogs drool," he added, for good measure.

Thus ended my tour. We exchanged some pleasantries, and also spent some time extolling the virtues of various seminal salamander textbooks. I think my friend was a bit relieved, I don't know if he could have stood to hear me say one more time, "It's so CUTE!"

I wandered through the public area of the exhibit some more.

Snips and snails and mudpuppies' tails: that's what amphibian exhibits are made of!

Caecilians...Are these things from Italy?

The Giant Waxy Monkey Treefrog (Phyllomedusa bicolor)

With the bulk of the budget going to spray toads, the zoo is forced to use flattened road kill as a "filler" exhibit (Suriname Toad, Pipa pipa).

The stuff of nightmares. Madagascar roaches. The bug room was right next to the Amphibian exhibit, which is where I went next.
More bugs than you could shake a stick at, which is what I would have been doing if they had been loose!

There was so much input I processed it slowly during the next few days.
That night in my motel, I was remembering the day as I half listened to the TV. You know I had herps on the brain when I misheard a commercial for the medical management of "Reptile Dysfunction."

There are Andrias (Japanese Giant Salamander) at the Detroit zoo, but the tank had sprung a leak and it was off exhibit (though they can be viewed on a remote camera). I heard a lot of praise of the amphibian center there, but you know what? The hellbender was hiding, and the mudpuppy was also off display. Though the house (Detroit) itself was awesome, the selection was rather slim.
The Toledo amphibian exhibit was way bigger and better, in the opinion of this total amateur. Sorry, National Amphibian Conservation Center, but you've been outdone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Henry Hudson's Half Moon

This year, 2009, is the 400th year anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of New York. He sailed up the Hudson River in his ship, the Half Moon.

This painting of the Half Moon is my tribute to the event, to my home state New York, where I was born and grew up. Sure, New York has a lot of problems, but it is a beautiful state and it is where I live.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

They Must Be Related.

I think they look so similar that I wanted to share it with the world.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Prince Dufus, or, those Wacky Egyptians

Everyone thinks of Egyptians as being beautiful people; we think of the peerless Nefertiti (1)

Queen Nefertiti

and her son-in-law, the wonderfully handsome King Tut (2).

King Tutankhamen

There is another bust in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin that I like to call "Prince Dufus." (3)

Prince Dufus

I saw it on a visit. It's not nearly as well advertised, or well known, as Nefertiti, or Tut.
Yet this mummy enthralled me. I bought a postcard of it and sent it to my sister.
"The Mummy of Prince Dufus," I called it. We got a lot of mileage out of laughing at this poor big-eared, cross-eyed ugly boy.
One day I was re-reading the back of the card and realized that it wasn't actually Prince Dufus, but Princess Dufus. Princess Dufus, the "Man-girl" (my special term for a girl that looks like a man).(4)

Well, poor homely Princess Dufus isn't an anomaly in the world of the Pharaohs. Here in this ad for Arkansas(5) is an obvious cousin. I've given up trying to sex these mummies, so let's just call the kid "Bunny," for those gigantic bunny ears. (Click on picture for larger view).

Cousin Bunny

One thing we can learn from this is that while money, in the time of ancient Egypt, might have been able to buy gold and wonderful inlaid sarcophagi, it sure couldn't buy beauty. Man, couldn't those mummy wrapper dudes have done a little to spruce poor Bunny up? Maybe make those ears a little smaller? I've heard plenty of tales of how undertakers have made someone look much better than they ever looked in real life. And I know that our undertaking science isn't more advanced than theirs; modern technicians are a pitiful shadow of the craftsmen of yore. Judging by the quality of sarcophagi today, they sure don't wrap 'em like they used to.

The existence of these strange-looking, large-eared Egyptians are confirmed by modern science.
Here is a reconstruction recently and scientifically made from a mummy:

They call this kid "Meresamun."(6)

Again, another big-eared, cross-eyed, ugly Man-girl.

Another thing we can learn from this is that it is obvious that the Prince of Wales springs from royalty and may indeed even have strong genes from the Egyptian Pharaoh line. He shares those royal ears.

Charles Phillip Arthur George Windsor, the Prince of Wales

As an aside, to drive my point home, look at the teeny tiny ears of the Deliverance Banjo Kid.

This line of mutants might as well be a separate species from the ruling class. Here he is all growed-up as well. Definitely from the "have-not" side of the tracks.

Now we come to a selection of appropriate pets for the royalty. I have to include this section because I am such an advocate of the benefits of having pets, no matter the species. Like attracts like, perhaps because we like to see ourselves reflected in those we love. These are pets worthy of kings, queens, and pharaohs. May I present,

the Bilby of Australia:

The Indian Hedgehog:

The long-eared Jerboa:

and finally, the Jackrabbit:

Perhaps this very jackrabbit is descended from Bunny's own darling. I'm sure our Li'l Bunya had a rabbit.

Continuing with the ear theme, when I was searching for pictures of jackrabbits for this blog entry, I accidentally typed in "long ear hair" (I meant to type in "long-eared hare," but I was tired, and maybe even feeling a bit contrary).

Mr. B. D. Tyagi

Meet Mr. B.D. Tyagi, of Bhopal, India, the 2001 Guiness record holder for the longest ear hair, at 10.2 cm. What is it with Indians and ear hair? Must be something in the water in Bhopal after the Union Carbide industrial poisoning disaster of 1984. Because his record was broken by another Indian, Radhakant Baijpa, of Uttar Pradesh, in 2003, with ear hair measuring at 13.2 cm.

He considers it to be good luck, and it must be: despite his hirsute auricles, he has a lovely wife.

Mr. Radhakant Baijpa and his lovely wife

He, in turn, was bested in 2007 by Anthony Victor, of Madurai, India, whose ear hair officially measures 18.1 cm.

Mr. Anthony Victor

Finally, one last Egyptian.(8)

Michael Jackson?

Wittier wits than I have been at work on this Egyptian bust that looks like Michael Jackson. "The uncanny likeness even extends as far as the almond-shaped eyes and strange crumbling nose."
"Oddly enough, Jackson's video to his 1993 hit 'Remember The Time' was set in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramses." (9)
So is it "Pharaoh Jackaoh" or a 3000-year-old Egyptian woman? Well, it's certainly another Man-girl. But then, Michael Jackson was a Man-girl too. Imagine, being prettier than both your sisters.

Now, Michael Jackson was NOT known for his large ears. Beyond this, I really don't know what connection I can make between the Royal House of England, the Pharaohs, Michael Jackson, and that guy from Deliverance, without opening myself up to litigation. So I will stop here.


(1) Bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Germany.

(2) King Tut, perhaps her son-in-law, perhaps her stepson. The treasures of King Tut were discovered in 1922 and frequently travel the world in exhibitions. He ruled from 1333 to 1324 BCE.

(3) Mummy of Ta-Scherit-en-Hor, dating from 300 BCE, on display at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Germany.

(4) My apologies to all the dear Man-girl friends I have in my life; I really love you guys, but hey, this is humor here.

(5) Ad for Arkansas tourism, in the Sept-Oct issue of Audubon magazine.

(6) A temple singer named "Meresamun" who died around 800 BCE.

(7) Billy Redden, in the movie Deliverance, and again, all growed-up.

(8) This bust lives in Chicago's Field Museum, and dates from around 1050 BCE. It has been on display there since 1988.

(9) From an online article by Tom Chivers,


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Cool Animal Pictures From My Zoo Tour

I saw more cool animals on my trip than I could shake a camera at. But here are some more highlights.

What a sucker this guy was!

Every zoo I went to had otters and they all came to greet their princess (i.e. ME), though some didn't stop eating.
Honestly, some otters just have NO manners!

Amazon Milk Frog (Trachycephalus resinifictrix)

I thought this frog was stunning.

This tiny, adorable cutie was saddled with this moniker: "the Screaming Hairy Armadillo."
What a burden for such a little baby!

I liked getting such a nice picture of this beautiful cat:

In addition to many unusual animals, I also enjoyed many of the standards-
lions and tigers and bears, bears bears: polar bears, grizzly bears, spectacled bears.

This is a grizzly.

Also rhinos, tigers, giraffes, elephants...

And others:

Know what? Moose are HUGE!!

This is the quintessential vampire bat, the "flying fox."

I could barely tear myself away from these creatures. I spent quite a bit of time with them gazing at them, just taking them in. Their wings were wrapped so tightly around them, they looked like they were shrink-wrapped!

One kept licking his nose, another kept opening and shutting his wings.
I just gawked at them. It doesn't help that I love Halloween best of all the holidays.

I love going to the zoo!