Way-Out Wednesday

Halloween Sketchbook and Way-Out Wednesday: My Favorite Vulture, the new TV show!

Just kidding.

Black Vulture, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Black Vulture, © 2015 Liz Vitale

In actuality, I rescued a black vulture this past week;it seemed to be injured and was hanging around my mom’s place. I fed it dog food for a few days and then got in contact with AWARE, and Uncle Steve and I transported it to the facility.

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Way-Out Wednesday: Wacky Plants Sketchbook–Bleeding Tooth Fungus!

Bleeding Tooth Fungus,© 2015 Liz Vitale

Bleeding Tooth Fungus,© 2015 Liz Vitale

This horrid-looking thing is known by many names: Strawberries and Cream, the Bleeding Hydnellum, the Bleeding Tooth Fungus, the Red-juice Tooth, and the Devil’s Tooth. Young specimens “bleed” a red fluid, but can also be light pink, yellow, orange or beige in color. The juice itself contains a pigment called atromentin, which has been discovered as having anticoagulant properties similar to heparin.

Way Out Wednesday: Elephant Nose Fish!

Elephant nose fish, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Elephant nose fish, © 2015 Liz Vitale

The elephant nose fish is an interesting fish that originates from the Niger River and its tributaries in Western Africa. It has an unusual shape including an angular body, a long narrow tail and an appendage that appears to be its nose; however this is actually an extension of the fish’s mouth. The elephant nose fish uses its trunk-like extension to forage for food, communicate, move through the water and for self defense. The extension of its mouth is really it’s “chin”, and it functions like an eye; in complete darkness,sweeping its head from side to side and moving the appendage through the sand or mud below, the fish can even distinguish the material of objects at a distance or discriminate dead organisms from living ones. It uses a weak electric field, which it generates with specialized cells called electrocytes, which are evolved from muscle cells, to find food and to navigate in dark or turbid waters. Although the elephant nose fish was once thought to have poor eyesight, it is now known to have good low light vision.

Way-Out Wednesday: Weird Shark #2– The Helicoprion!

Helicoprion, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Helicoprion, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Okay, I admit, this is a prehistoric shark, and now it isn’t even a shark anymore. Ichthyologists(fish-studying folk) now classify it as one of the group of fish that looked quite shark-like–the ratfish. After further study by experts, Helicoprion officially now belongs to the lineage one branch over from sharks, near the evolutionary split where the ancestors of living sharks and ratfish parted ways.

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Way-Out Wednesday,Wacked Plants Edition: The Doll’s Eye!

Dolls Eye Plant, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Dolls Eye Plant, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Also called the white baneberry, the doll’s eye is a species of flowering plant in the genus actaea, of the family ranunculaceae, native to eastern North America. Its most striking feature is its fruit–white spherical berries with black dots on the tip, hence the common name “doll’s eyes”. The berries ripen over the summer, turning into a fruit that stays on the plant usually until the first frost.

Although there are historical accounts of use in medicinal teas, both the berries and the entire plant are considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The berries are harmless to birds, who eat the white berries to a limited extent; this includes the ruffed grouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and American robin. These birds help to distribute the seeds to a new areas.

Way-Out Wednesday: Maned Wolf !

Maned Wolf ,Copyright 2015 Liz Vitale

Maned Wolf ,Copyright 2015 Liz Vitale

I am not exaggerating this canine’s legs at all. They really are that long. This is the maned wolf,the largest wild canine of South America. Its coloring resembles that of the fox, but it is not a fox, nor is it a wolf, and it is not closely related to other canines. It is the only species in its genus Chrysocyon, which means golden dog”.

The average adult weighs 50 lbs and stands 35 inches tall at the shoulder.It has a length of 39 inches with the tail adding another 18. The maned wolf is the tallest of the wild canids. Its long legs most likely are an adaptation to the tall grasslands of its native habitat of open forest, savanna, and marshland in central and southeastern Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, and northern Argentina.

These gentle and very timid creatures are solitary by nature except during the breeding season. The maned wolf is omnivorous, eating various fruits, vegetables and meat. It often preys on small birds, rodents and frogs, and favors fruits such as bananas, apples and avocados.

Much like our native true wolves, the maned wolf is misunderstood and widely persecuted. For years it was hunted and killed by farmers who were convinced that maned wolves were killing poultry and livestock. The maned wolf’s small teeth and jaws make it hard for it to kill large prey,but it is usually blamed because of its large size.

The maned wolf is listed as near threatened in its native range,due to loss of habitat by encroaching human populations, the introduction of certain diseases, and the belief that its organs have medicinal healing powers.

Way-Out Wednesday: Weird Shark #1–The Saw Shark

Saw shark ,Copyright 2015 Liz Vitale

Saw shark ,Copyright 2015 Liz Vitale

Sawsharks resemble sawfish, with a long, toothy,chainsaw-shaped snout to find and slash their prey. The teeth on the saw alternate in size. Sawsharks have long nasal barbels(mustache-like appendages)extending from underneath the middle of the saw, that are very sensitive. The barbels, in addition to the sensory organ sharks have called the Ampullae of Lorenzini,  are used to sense prey buried in the sand. Sawsharks then use the saw to uncover and disable the prey with slashing chops, and then they can take the food remnants into their small mouths. Saw sharks can reach 5 feet in length and up to 18 pounds in weight. Females are slightly larger than males. There are an estimated four to seven species worldwide.

Most sawsharks occur in waters from South Africa to Australia and Japan, at depths of 130 ft and below; in 1960, the Bahamas sawshark was discovered in the deeper waters  of the northwestern Caribbean.