Tag Archives: animal

A Puzzle About Bones

Just after New Year (Jan 2014) we went for a walk in Shadmoor Park and ended up on Ditch Plains Beach.  That is where I found two vertebrae still stuck together by ligaments.  They were larger than human vertebrae, measuring 3-4 inches in the largest diameter.  A quick phone call to my biologist friend, Marguerite W, confirmed that these were mammalian bones and not from a large fish, like a shark.  Fish vertebral bodies (called the centrum) would be biconcave, as shown here. These were not.  Then, I had a phone call with a friend, Annie Sessler. She is a well known artist out here who makes beautiful fish prints!  Her husband Jim, is a Montauk fisherman.   ‘Some kind of whale’ or marine mammal was their opinion. Now I was really intrigued!photo[6] photo[5]Then I got this rare book from the Cornell Vet School library called “Whales of the World” by Spencer Wilkie Tinker (1988).  It describes in detail all 77 species of living whales on this planet and also a bunch of extinct species based on fossil records.
It was a stroke of luck that we could identify the vertebrae (which were stuck together) as C7, T1.  That’s the last cervical and the first thoracic vertebrae.  The thoracic vertebrae have an articular joint surface for a rib on either side.  All mammals have 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  Giraffe’s have very long ones.  Some animals have very short ones.  And sometimes the cervical vertebrae are fused together!  However, C7 in our case was not fused to either of its neighboring vertebrae, T1 or C6. The “common dolphin”  has fused C1-7, according to “Whales of the World”.   Therefore we did not think that these were vertebrae from the common dolphin.  In the same book, there is a photograph on page 39 of a side view of a cervical spine of the common dolphin.  To my astonishment T1 looked just like the T1 vertebra that we found!  So, we were thinking of a close relative of the common dolphin.

The size of the vertebrae we found suggested an animal slightly larger than a human (approx 75-200 kg).   Using this as a guide, I then focused on 8 species listed in the whale book, that live in the North Western Atlantic, at our latitude 40 N .   I googled which of these species had recently been spotted in the waters around Long Island. The list was now really short:

  • bottlenose dolphin
  • common dolphin (unlikely because of the fused C spine)

In particular, there were lots of sightings and on-line reports about bottlenose dolphins around Long Island.

Apparently there has been an epidemic due to a type of measles virus and it has killed hundreds of bottlenose dolphins in our waters (in the Long Island sound and around Montauk).   This species has apparently been migrating northwards as witnessed by the larger numbers spotted since about  2007.
Here are some links which I found interesting:

800px-Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178

Having been introduced to this species by their bones, I noted that these are in fact very interesting animals!  Bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror!  They can use sponges as tools and transmit cultural knowledge across generations. Their considerable intelligence has driven interaction with humans.  I am now an official dolphin fan!

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Beach Art

I spent the summer on different beaches: the Pacific coast of Northern California, the Maggia river in Switzerland and our home beaches of East Hampton.  Everywhere there is art on display.  Not by famous artists but by common people that pick up stuff from the beach and put it together to make a “work of art”.  It is playful.  It also is testament to the beauty of nature.  Often not much is needed to beautify the scene.  Other times the objects are small (a pebble), or common (litter), or unnoticed (drift wood) and the artist wants to draw attention to their unique beauty.   Here are some specimens I found.

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA)  Art?  Why not?

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA) Art? Why not?

Christmas in East Hampton

This is a special Christmas and Holiday season 2012.  At least for us.  We are travelling for a family gathering and there is no need for a tree and all the usual sparkly decorations.   But on my walk this morning in the dog park (in Springs East Hampton) I spotted a little lonely evergreen which looked quite adorable in the morning mist, better than any tree that we could have purchased.

Christmas Tree "in the rough"

Christmas Tree “in the rough”

There were twigs with red rose hip and a rainy morning had left glittering rain drops as sparkling decorations.  Who needs  a Christmas tree with such natural splendor?

Red Rose Hip and Raindrop Sparkles

Red Rose Hip and Raindrop Sparkles

My daughter Yelyi agrees that raindrop sparkles are festive. Here is her picture taken through the car window.

Rain Drops

Rain Drops (Yelyi Nordone)

There are other reasons to be thankful. Mother nature with all her might taught us all a lesson just weeks ago, see my earlier post.  Families right here on Long Island are still struggling with major damage to their homes and cars.   Our beach is now back to “normal” but a small flag serves as a reminder.

Flag on our Beach

Flag on our Beach

Our beach (Maidstone Park Beach) has other treasures and keeps on surprising me.  There is a lone couple of Great Blue Herons that have stayed “home” this year. Occasionally these majestic birds do not migrate and take their chances.  According to Cornell University’s ornithology site, Long Island is apparently in the zone where  Great Blue Herons can stay all year round.  I have been observing them for the last few weeks. They hang out at the same place every day known for an abundance of shell fish.  One of them stays close to shore but usually scatters when I appear with my German Shepherd!  It is beautiful to watch them fly just a few feet above the waters of 3 Mile Harbor.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Our beach has other treasures such as stunning views of the sunset.

Winter Sunset over Maidstone Park

Winter Sunset over Maidstone Park

Who could ask for more.

JEWELRY FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

We recently saw an amazing documentary: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by Werner Herzog. This film describes artwork created some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago at a time when woolly mammoths reigned. The depictions of animals, such as horses, rhinoceros, and lions, are incredibly sophisticated and the artist even employs animation methods to give the impression of movement. I take this as evidence that animals have long been a favored subject of artists, even when we were still cave dwellers.

During the Renaissance, Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) was a master artist famous for his prints. Beautifully detailed pictures of animals (and plants) testify to his love of nature. Interestingly Albrecht’s father was a goldsmith.

Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, had a fabulous statue of his falcon made. It is completely covered in precious jewels. I saw this piece in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and have previously posted on this topic. So I take it that jewelry representing your favorite pet is an age-old thing!

I have a favorite pet too. My dog Kenda, a two year old german shepherd:

Kenda

I have studied her paws and her paw prints (such as her tracks in the snow):

Paw of German Shepherd

And here is an example of jewelry depicting her paw. This one is in Sterling silver with chocolate diamonds. It is a pendent about 3/4 inches in diameter and hangs on a silver chain:

Dog paw pendent with chocolate diamonds

This is a small silver plaque with paw prints etched on it. The idea came from my fantastic dog trainer, Gail Murphy. Kenda loves Gail more than anyone. You can have the name of your dog etched or hammered on to this plaque. This pendent was recommended by our local news e-media, the patch.com, as a Christmas gift.

Dog Paw Tracks

And here is an expensive dog tag with 40 little diamonds!

Diamond Dog Tag

For the equestrian horse enthusiasts, here is a horse shoe in Sterling silver with gold caps and diamond nails!  Personal variations are quite in order.  One customer ordered this item with blue sapphires to emulate the horse shoe symbol of the Baltimore Colts football team!

Horse Shoe Pendent

Horse Shoe Pendent

I would really love to hear from you, specially all of you with pets.