HOW TO GROW BULBS


Planting bulbs, corms and tubers is an easy way to ensure colourful displays in your garden, particularly in spring before the rest of the garden has woken from its winter dormancy. Bulbs can be planted in containers or borders, and look particularly effective when naturalised in grass.

There are bulbs, corms and tubers to suit all sites and soils. So if you are wondering how deep to plant daffodil bulbs, how to plant up begonia tubers or when to plant tulips, then take a look at the planting depth charts below and discover how easy growing bulbs can be!

What soil do bulbs prefer?

Different species will require different growing conditions and - as a rule - most will need a well drained soil that won’t sit waterlogged in winter which may cause them to rot.

Which way up should bulbs be planted?

Always plant bulbs with the pointed growing tip facing upwards. If it isn’t clear which is the top then try planting bulbs on their side. Some tuberous plants such as Begonias will be flatter than bulbs and don’t have an obvious growing point. Position them just below the compost surface with the indented side facing upwards.

Growing bulbs in containers

Planting bulbs in containers allows you to move your display into prime position while they are in full bloom. After flowering the containers can be moved out of view while the bulbs die back and become dormant. Use a good quality general purpose compost and mix in a handful of fine grit to improve drainage. Alternatively you can choose specially prepared bulb compost.

Water bulbs in containers regularly as they begin to grow, and continue throughout their flowering period. Once the foliage begins to die back you can gradually reduce watering as they enter their dormant period.

If squirrels and mice become a problem then protect your containers of bulbs by covering the top of the pot with a piece of chicken wire. Once the shoots appear you can remove it to allow the foliage and flowers space to grow.

How to plant bulbs in grass

Naturalising bulbs in grass can make an impressive display. They are best grown in informal areas of grass that can be left unmown while the bulb foliage dies back.

For a really natural look, gently scatter them across the planting area and plant each one where it lands. Use a sturdy trowel or bulb planter to dig a hole to the recommended bulb planting depth and drop the bulb into the hole, making sure that it is facing the right way up. Cover the bulb with soil and gently firm the earth around the bulbs to fill any pockets of air. Avoid treading the ground afterwards as this may damage the bulb growing tips as the soil settles.

If you are planting large numbers of bulbs then it may be simpler to lift an entire piece of turf with a spade and arranging the bulbs beneath it before relaying the turf.

Planting depths for bulbs and tubers

Bulb planting depths vary depending on their size and species; but as a rule of thumb, most bulbs can be planted at a depth of approximately 3 times their own height.

Some tubers, such as Begonias, are best started off indoors or in a frost free greenhouse before transplanting outdoors.

LEFTOVER TURKEY RECIPE - Turkey and Broccoli Bake



Written by guest author - Kathleen Hubert

The Christmas holidays are right around the corner and for many families; this holiday season is a special time to gather for fun, fellowship and of course, food. Especially around the Christmas holidays, there is something so warm and inviting about sharing a nice, big turkey dinner together, complete with all the fixings. After the big meal, there are usually lots of leftovers, especially turkey.

However, leftover turkey does not have to be a dread or boring, there are many simple ways to make leftover turkey into a casual, healthy meal that can be enjoyed with your family while relaxing and watching T.V. for instance.

Below is an easy, healthy recipe that uses leftover turkey. This recipe can be easily modified to suite just about any taste and the ingredients are easy to find and very budget-friendly. Also, using unsalted butter and low-sodium broth for this dish will make it a low-sodium option for those who need to watch their salt intake. With only 320 calories per serving and a whopping 28 grams of protein, this dish is nutritious as well as delicious!

How to make Turkey-Broccoli bake

1-bag frozen broccoli (can use fresh --chopped if desired)
3-4 cups turkey cut into small pieces or shredded (warm slightly on the stove-top or microwave)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons of olive oil (salted butter is ok, if desired)
1 small onion (diced)
1 1/2 cups turkey broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons heavy cream, milk or half &half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sliced almonds

*optional: 1 small can of mushrooms, cauliflower instead of, or in addition to broccoli and shredded cheddar cheese instead of, or in addition to the Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

Cook the broccoli in the microwave or stove top for about five minutes, or until the broccoli is tender (not fully cooked) and lay on the bottom of a buttered 9 inch x 13 inch baking dish. Add the turkey on top of the broccoli.

How to prepare the sauce

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add onions (and mushrooms if you are using them). Saute onions over medium heat until they are golden brown. Add flour and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low or simmer and simmer for three to five minutes. Add wine and cook an additional one minute. Add milk or cream and half of the Parmesan cheese and simmer an additional minute.

Remove from heat and pour over the broccoli and turkey. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake at 350-degrees for 20-30 minutes.

This recipe is sure to please the entire family. The high protein content and delicious flavor will leave you and your family happy and satisfied. Additionally, this dish is a both simple and healthy way to prepare leftover turkey. Your family may even request this leftover Christmas turkey instead of moaning about "leftover turkey again".

HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM ROSEMARY



Rosemary is one of those plants that not only smells good, it tastes good and looks good too. When I say taste, I mean as a flavoursome herb so don’t start chomping on a random stem and expect it to fill you with culinary delights – because it won’t!

Be that as it may, rosemary plants are fantastically popular and are often found in gardens as a specimen shrub or informal hedging. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means "dew of the sea" and while rosemary is most closely associated with Mediterranean cooking you don't need perfect sunshine, or a sea mist to successfully grow rosemary.

How to propagate Rosemary from cuttings

The best time to take cuttings from Rosemary is when the new shoots begin to emerge. Mid to late June is normally the best time. Select a healthy looking plant with lots of new growth on it. If you can, take your cuttings early in the day. Using a sterilised sharp blade or secateurs, snip off non-flowering sections of new growth 10cm - 15cm long. To reduce moisture loss, remove most of the lower leaves so you have a clean length of stem and place them in a plastic bag. Seal it and keep it in a shaded spot to prevent wilting until you are ready to root the cuttings.

Using porous terracotta pots fill with a good quality cutting compost such as John Innes ‘Seed and Cutting’. However, I would recommend improving the drainage by mixing in horticultural grit or perlite at a ratio of 2:1 compost to drainage improver.

Once again, using a sharp sterilised knife, take 7.5cm (3in) cuttings from young shoots either just below a leaf joint or torn off at the stem. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting in order to help reduce water loss.

At this point you can dip the stem ends in hormone rooting powder to speed up the rooting process, but this isn't really necessary. The rosemary cuttings can now be inserted around the edge of the pot – if the pot is big enough – leaving a 1 ½ inch gap between each cutting. Alternatively – if your pots are on the small side – plant the cuttings individually.

Water the cuttings from below and allow the compost to settle around their stems. Place pots in a cold frame in a sheltered, shaded area, indoors in a propagator or simply cover with a plastic bag to retain the moisture. Just make sure that the sides of the bag are not touching any of the plant material.

After a few weeks, gently invert pots and check for signs of root development. Mist over foliage and ensure the compost stays on the moist side. Once new growth begins to appear all covers can be removed. Allow the soil to dry out between watering but don’t allow the compost to stay dry for extended periods and do not allow the compost to become waterlogged.

Once the rosemary cuttings have a good root system, gently tease the cuttings apart and pot up individually into a loam-based compost, such as John Innes No. 2.

Keep plants watered and pot them on again as they get larger and the roots fill their container. They should be big enough to plant out in the following spring.

HOW TO PROPAGATE BOX HEDGING PLANTS
How to Take Hardwood Cuttings

HOW TO OVERWINTER STRAWBERRIES



Strawberries are not only one of the most popular fruits to eat, they are also one of the easiest to grow. However, with so many different varieties available - and availability often being sporadic -  once you have managed to get hold of your perfectly flavoured strawberry (mine is the 'Cambridge Favourite') you are going to want to keep it.

The problem with strawberries is that while they grow best in the ground, they can be suseptable to pest damage which is why growing them in containers is becoming evermore popular. Unfortunately this give rise to a further problem. Growing strawberry plants in containers makes the strawberry plants rootball more exposed to cold damage during the winter and in extreme temperatures can kill off the plant.

Whether grown in pots or outdoor beds, suitable winter care of strawberries is essential. Strawberry plants need to be protected from both cold temperatures and wind in order for them to reproduce each year. Therefore, you’ll need to know how to care for your outdoor bed or strawberry plant pot in winter.

One of the most common questions pertaining to strawberry plants is “can you keep strawberries in a strawberry pot over winter?” The answer is no, not unless you plan on keeping them indoors, well away from any freezing temperatures. For instance, you can move pots to an unheated garage for winterizing potted strawberry plants until the return of spring; however, more often than not they are put in the ground instead.

While normally these plants are quite hardy, especially those planted in the ground, keeping them in strawberry pots (or jars) outdoors over winter is not recommended.

Most strawberry jars are made of clay or terracotta. These are not suitable for winter weather as they absorb moisture easily which leads to freezing and makes them more prone to cracking and breaking. This is detrimental to the plants.

Plastic pots, on the other hand, withstand the elements better, especially when sunken into the ground. For this reason, strawberry plants are usually removed from their clay containers, after the first initial frost, and re-potted into plastic ones that are at least six inches deep.

These are then placed in the ground about 5 ½ inches, leaving the rim sticking up from the soil rather than flush with it. Cover the plants with about three to four inches of straw mulch. Remove the mulch once the plants show signs

Mulch is all you need for winterizing strawberries in beds. The timing for this depends on your location but usually takes place after the first frost in your area. Generally, straw mulch is preferable, though hay or grass can also be used. However, these types of mulch usually contain weed seeds.

You’ll need to apply anywhere from three to four inches of mulch over the plants, with raised beds receiving somewhat more for additional protection. Once the plants begin growth in early spring, the mulch can be cleared away.

What is a Pineberry

WHEN DO YOU HARVEST CORN?




It is going to be difficult to know when sweetcorn is ready to pick, especially if you have never grown them before. Why? Because the entire cob is hidden by layer after layer of thick, fibrous husk. The trouble is that you need to get the timing right – pick too early and you have just wasted an ear, pick too late and the corn has lost all of its delicious, sweet flavour.

All things considered, you can expect your corn to be ready for harvest at the end of the summer, but to pick it at its optimum quality will require a bit more information and experience. The ripening of the cob will of course depend on the weather, however you can expect it to be ready for harvesting any time from 17 to 25 days after the time the first silks have appeared - but you are going to have to keep a close eye on it. A good indicator for this time would be when the silks have turned very dark brown to black. Of course sweetcorn will mature more quickly in hot weather and slower in cool weather.

Sweetcorn are ready to harvest when the kernels are in the 'milk' stage, and there is a simple test that you can do to check this. When the fluid inside each kernel is still liquid and the skin of the kernel is still tender then the cob is ready for picking so puncture a kernel with your thumbnail to make sure. If a clear liquid appears, then the corn is immature. If the liquid is milky, then the corn is ready, and if no liquid appears then the corn is over-ripe.

Once the cobs have been picked they can turn very quickly as the sugar within the kernels will rapidly turn to starch. Even when stored properly they can be past their best within a couple of days, however there are steps you can take to make the most of this short harvesting period.

Try to harvest sweetcorn in the morning before you get a build up of field heat but if this is unavoidable submerge the cobs in cold water for a minute or so to let them cool down. Then – as soon as you can – they need to be refrigerated with a mind to being eaten over the next couple of days. There is an old wives tale saying that the pot should be boiling when the corn is picked and although that is a slight exaggeration it does convey the importance of speed when it comes to picking and eating corn at its best.

WHEN TO HARVEST BEETROOT

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RAT AND A MOUSE?



Ok, before we start I need to clear something up. The names 'Rat' and 'mouse' are only common names and as such are used to describe many different rodents from unrelated family groups. Therefore they are NOT scientific classifications. In fact the words 'rat and mouse' are just common names to group together rodents which look alike to the casual eye.

For example, the name 'Rat' is used to describe medium-sized rodents with long thin tails, and to confuse matters more, there are many species of rodent that are called rats:

Kangaroo rats
Cotton rats
Norway rats - otherwise known as the Brown rat
Black rats
African pouched rats
Naked mole rats
Wood rats
Pack rats - not to be confused with Rat packs which have no relation to actual rats whether they can sing or not!
Polynesian rats, and many others besides.

The name 'Mouse' is used to describe tiny, sparrow-sized rodents with long thin tails. As with rats, there are many species of rodents called mice which may or may not be closely related to each other:

House mice
Field mice
Deer mice
Smoky mice
Spiny mice
Dormice - a popular dish with the Romans when roasted in clay

So, which rats and mice are you talking about? Generally, people are referring to the domestic or pest rats and mice, which means Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), black rats (Rattus rattus), and house mice (Mus musculus).

So, just what is the difference between a rat and a mouse?

Norway rats and house mice may belong to different species, but if you go back far enough in time they do descend from a common ancestor. How long ago is currently under debate, with estimates ranging from 8 to 41 million years ago.

Be that as it may, the descendants of that common ancestor diverged into different species, among which are Norway rats and house mice.

Norway rats and house mice now have many genetic, reproductive, developmental, morphological and anatomical differences. The list below is not exhaustive, but for those with a casual interest it should get you started:

Genetic differences

Norway rats have 22 chromosome pairs, house mice have 20. Norway rats have 2.75 million base pairs while mice have 2.6 million (humans have 2.9). About 90% of rat genes have counterparts in the mouse and human genomes.

Growth differences

In general, Norway rats develop more slowly than house mice. For example, Norway rat gestation is slightly longer (21-24 days) than house mouse gestation (19-20 days). Norway rats lactate for about 3 weeks, house mice for 2 weeks. Both species are born naked and blind, but Norway rats open their eyes at 6 days, they are fully furred at 15 days. House mice open their eyes at 3 days, have fur at 10 days (etc.).

Anatomical differences

Norway rats have 6 pairs of nipples, house mice have 5 pairs.

Morphological differences

Norway rats are larger, heavier and longer than house mice (Norway rat: 350-650 grams, 9-11 inch bodies and 7-9 inch tails; house mice: 30-90 grams, 3-4 inch bodies and 3-4 inch tails).

Correlated with this larger size, Norway rat body parts are larger than those of the house mouse -- rats have larger ears, feet etc. The heads of Norway rats are heavy, blunt and chunky, house mouse heads are small and sharply triangular with pointed muzzles. Note, however, that Norway rats have smaller ears relative to their heads than house mice.

Sign differences

Due to their larger body size, rat faeces are larger than mouse faeces

WHAT DO BLUE WHALES EAT?




The blue whale The blue whale - Balaenoptera musculus is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales called Mysticetiis arguably the most impressive creature to live or have ever lived on this planet! At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons  or more in weight, it is in fact the largest animal ever known to have existed!

Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath.

There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies.

So, just what does a Blue Whale eat?

Blue whales feed almost exclusively on krill, though they also take small numbers of copepods. Copepods - meaning 'oar-feet' - are a group of small oceanic crustaceans, but they are also found in nearly every freshwater habitat. The species eaten by blue whales are planktonic (drifting in sea waters), although there are some benthic species (living on the ocean floor).

The species of copepod zooplankton eaten by blue whales will vary from ocean to ocean. In the North Atlantic, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, Thysanoessa raschii, Thysanoessa inermis and Thysanoessa longicaudata are the usual food, while in the North Pacific, Euphausia pacifica, Thysanoessa inermis, Thysanoessa longipes, Thysanoessa spinifera, Nyctiphanes symplex and Nematoscelis megalops are takenn. Then, in the Antarctic, blue whales eat Euphausia superba, Euphausia crystallorophias and Euphausia valentin.

Blue Whales and Krill

An adult blue whale can eat up to 40 million krill in a day. The whales always feed in the areas with the highest concentration of krill, sometimes eating up to 3,600 kilograms (7,900 lb) of krill in a single day. This daily requirement of an adult blue whale is in the region of 1.5 million kilocalories.

Because krill move through the ocean levels, blue whales typically feed at depths of more than 100 metres (330 ft) during the day and only surface-feed at night. Dive times are typically 10 minutes when feeding, though dives of up to 20 minutes are common. The longest recorded dive is 36 minutes.

The blue whale feeds by lunging forward at groups of krill, taking the animals and a large quantity of water into its mouth. The water is then squeezed out through the baleen plates by pressure from the ventral pouch and tongue. Once the mouth is clear of water, the remaining krill, unable to pass through the plates, are swallowed. The blue whale also incidentally consumes small fish, crustaceans and squid caught up with krill.

The Future for Blue Whales

Blue whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, for over a century now they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until they were protected by the international community in 1966.

A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, located in at least five groups. More recent research into the Pygmy subspecies suggests this may be an underestimate. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the North-East Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere.

WHAT IS A BULB?



The term 'Bulb' covers a multitude of plant species, ranging from the highly ornamental Lily family down to the lowly - but rather tasty - onion. The bulb organ exists as an underground energy store, and is often found on plants that have evolved to survive environments that are low in nutrents and/or suffer periods of drought.

But just what exactly is a bulb? 

Put simply, a bulb is a short stem with fleshy leaves or leaf bases. These specialist leaves often have the function of acting as food storage organs during periods of dormancy.

A bulb's leaf bases, known as scales, generally do not support leaves, but contain food reserves to enable the plant to survive adverse conditions. At the center of the bulb is a vegetative growing point or an unexpanded flowering shoot. The base is formed by a stem, and plant growth occurs from this basal plate. Roots emerge from the underside of the base, and new stems and leaves from the upper side. Tunicate bulbs have dry, membranous outer scales that protect the continuous lamina of fleshy scales. Species in the genera Allium, Hippeastrum, Narcissus, and Tulipa all have tunicate bulbs. Non-tunicate bulbs, such as Lilium and Fritillaria species, lack the protective tunic and have looser scales.

Other types of storage organs (such as corms, rhizomes, and tubers) are sometimes erroneously referred to as bulbs. The technical term for plants that form underground storage organs, including bulbs as well as tubers and corms, is geophyte. Some epiphytic orchids (family Orchidaceae) form above-ground storage organs called pseudobulbs, that superficially resemble bulbs.

Nearly all plants that form true bulbs are monocotyledons, and include:

Onion, garlic, and other alliums, family Alliaceae.

Lily, tulip, and many other members of the lily family Liliaceae.

Amaryllis, Hippeastrum, Narcissus, and several other members of the amaryllis family Amaryllidaceae.

Two groups of Iris species, family Iridaceae: subgenus Xiphium (the "Dutch" irises) and subgenus Hermodactyloides (the miniature "rock garden" irises).

Oxalis, in the family Oxalidaceae, is the only dicotyledon genus that produces true bulbs.

Bulbous plant species move through a cycle of vegetative and reproductive growth stages. The bulb grows to flowering size during the vegetative stage and the plant flowers during the reproductive stage. Certain environmental conditions are needed to trigger the transition from one stage to the next, such as the shift from a cold winter to spring.

DINOSAUR: The Pterodactyl



Apologies for the mis-representative title as Pterodactyls are clearly not true dinosaurs. Also, I have used the term Pterodactyl when I should have more accurately used the word 'Pterosaur'. However, most people will understand where I am coming from and as I am not a paleontologist I don't feel need to let the specific science get in the way of the intertesting facts! You know what I mean, and lets be honest - everyone knows what a pterodactyl is!

History of the Pterodactyl

The first pterosaur fossil was described by the Italian naturalist Cosimo Collini in 1784. Collini misinterpreted his specimen as a seagoing creature that used its long front limbs as paddles. However, it was Georges Cuvier who first suggested that pterosaurs were flying creatures in 1801, and coined the name 'Ptero-dactyle' 1809 for the specimen recovered in Germany.

As touched on earlier, due to the standardization of scientific names, the official name for this genus became Pterodactylus, though the name 'pterodactyl' continues to be popularly and incorrectly applied to all members of Pterosauria. Paleontologists now avoid using 'pterodactyl' and prefer the term 'pterosaur'. The term 'pterodactyl' is now used specifically for members of the genus Pterodactylus or more broadly for members of the suborder Pterodactyloidea. I hope that this makes it a little more clearer.

So, just what is a Pterodactyl/Pterosaur?

Because pterosaur anatomy has been so heavily modified for flight, and immediate "missing link" predecessors have not so far been described, the ancestry of pterosaurs is not well understood - but this is what we know:

Pterosaurs existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (220 to 65.5 million years ago), and are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the legs to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments known as pycnofibres, which covered their bodies and parts of their wings. Pterosaurs spanned a wide range of adult sizes, from the very small Nemicolopterus to the largest known flying creatures of all time, including Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.

It was once thought that competition with early bird species may have resulted in the extinction of many of the pterosaurs. By the end of the Cretaceous, only large species of pterosaurs are known. The smaller species seem to have become extinct, their niche filled by birds. However, pterosaur decline (if actually present) seems unrelated to bird diversity. At the end of the Cretaceous period, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event which wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs and most avian dinosaurs as well, and many other animals, seemed to also take the pterosaurs. Alternatively, most pterosaurs may have been specialised for an ocean-going lifestyle. Consequently, when the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event severely affected marine life that most pterosaurs fed on, they went extinct.

How did Pterodactyls fly?

The problem is that the mechanics of pterosaur flight are not completely understood or modeled at this time. In fact, Katsufumi Sato - a Japanese scientist - published calculations using modern birds and decided that it is impossible for a pterosaur to stay aloft!

However, in the book Posture, Locomotion, and Paleoecology of Pterosaurs, it is theorized that they were able to fly due to the oxygen-rich, dense atmosphere of the Late Cretaceous period. However, one must note both Katsufumi and the authors of Posture, Locomotion, and Paleoecology of Pterosaurs based their research on the now outdated theories of pterosaurs being seabird-like, and the size limit doesn't apply to terrestrial pterosaurs like azhdarchids and tapejarids. Furthermore, Darren Naish concluded that atmospheric differences between the present and the Mesozoic weren't needed for the giant size of pterosaurs.

However, Mark Witton and Mike Habib, of the University of Portsmouth and Johns Hopkins University, respectively, argue that pterosaurs used a vaulting mechanism to obtain flight. Once in air, pterosaurs could reach speeds up to 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph) and travel thousands of kilometres.

LIVING DINOSAUR SHARK - The Frilled Shark




The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) is one of only two still living species of shark in the family Chlamydoselachidae. While rarely seen, it has a wide but patchy distribution in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More specifically, this extremely rare species is found over the outer continental shelf and upper continental slope, generally near the bottom though there is evidence of substantial upward movements.

It has been caught as deep as 1,570 m, whereas in Suruga Bay, Japan it is more commonly found at depths of 50–200 m.

Exhibiting several primitive features, the frilled shark has often been called a 'living fossil'. It reaches a length of 2 m (6.6 ft) and has a dark brown, eel-like body with the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins placed far back. Its common name comes from the frilly or fringed appearance of the gill slits, of which there are six pairs with the first pair meeting across the throat.

Seldom observed, the frilled shark is speculated to capture its prey by bending its body and lunging forward like a snake. The long, extremely flexible jaws enable it to swallow large prey whole, while the many rows of small, needle-like teeth prevent escape. It feeds mainly on cephalopods - octopus and soft-bodied squid etc, while also consuming bony fishes and other sharks.


This species is aplacental viviparous meaning that the embryos emerge from their egg capsules inside the mother's uterus, and are sustained to term primarily by yolk. The gestation period may be as long as three and a half years, the longest of any vertebrate. Between 2 and 15 young are born at a time; there is no distinct breeding season.

Frilled sharks are occasionally captured as bycatch by commercial fisheries but have little economic value. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed it as Near Threatened, since given its very low reproductive rate even incidental catches may deplete its population. This shark, or a supposed giant relative, has been suggested as a source for reports of sea serpents.

GIANT OCEANIC MANTA RAY - Manta birostris

CHEETAH




The cheetah is one of the worlds most beautiful creatures, and as such has been regarded as a coveted prize for royalty for millennia. Ancient Egyptians often kept cheetahs as pets, and also tamed and trained them for hunting. This tradition was passed on to the ancient Persians and brought to India, where the practice was continued by Indian princes into the twentieth century.

It is a native to most of Africa and parts of the Middle East, and is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx. However, what makes this big cat species truly special is that it can run faster than any other land animal. In short bursts it can reach a top speed of between 70 to 75 mph. The Cheetah also has the ability to accelerate from 60 mph in just shy of three seconds!

What do cheetahs eat?
 
The cheetah  is a carnivore, eating mostly mammals under 40 kg (88 lb). In the wild, cheetahs would usually prey on the Thomson's gazelle, the Grant's gazelle, the springbok and the impala.

However, the young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and zebras are also taken, and adults too, when the cats hunt in groups. On occasion they will also prey on Guinea fowl and hares.

While the other big cats mainly hunt by night, the cheetah is a diurnal hunter. This means that cheetahs usually hunt either early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light.

How cheetahs catch their prey

The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 10–30 metres, then chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50%.

Running at speeds between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) puts a great deal of strain on the cheetah's body. When sprinting, the cheetah's body temperature becomes so high that it would be deadly to continue; this is why the cheetah is often seen resting after it has caught its prey. If it is a hard chase, it sometimes needs to rest for half an hour or more.

The cheetah kills its prey by tripping it during the chase, then biting it on the underside of the throat to suffocate it; the cheetah is not strong enough to break the necks of the four-legged prey it mainly hunts. The bite may also puncture a vital artery in the neck. Then the cheetah proceeds to devour its catch as quickly as possible before the kill is taken by stronger predators.

On the open Savannas of Iran and parts of Africa, cheetahs are superb examples of specialization - the evolutionary adaptation to very specific environmental conditions. In this case, the specialization is for speed.

Going after impalas,  gazelles and small wildebeests, the cheetah is a blur, and the chase is short-lived, typically lasting about 30 seconds. Cheetah mothers spend a lot of time teaching their cubs to chase, sometimes dragging live animals back to the den so the cubs can practice the chase-and-catch process.

When a cheetah overtakes its prey, it knocks it down and takes it out with a bite to the neck. It then eats as quickly as possible. If a lion comes along, the cheetah will abandon its catch - it can't fight off a lion, and chances are, the cheetah will lose its life along with its prey if it doesn't get out of there fast enough.

Conservation

The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Once widely shot for its valuable fur, it is now at risk from loss of habitat and prey. Once numerous in India, the cheetah became extinct there in the 1950's. Less than 30,000 remain in Africa.

Cheetah cubs have a high mortality rate due to predation by other carnivores, such as the lion and hyena, and perhaps genetic factors. It has been suggested that the low genetic diversity of cheetahs is a cause of poor sperm, birth defects, cramped teeth, curled tails, and bent limbs. Some biologists even believe that they are too inbred to flourish as a species.

It is thought that the species went through a prolonged period of inbreeding following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age. However, even though they lost most of their genetic diversity thousands of years ago, their decline appears only in the last century or so, suggesting factors other than genetics are mainly responsible.

Breeding

There is no particular breeding season and cheetah cubs can be born at any time of year. After mating the male will leave the female, who rears the young when they are born some three months later.

The cubs are born in a concealed den and are blind and helpless for about 11 days. Once their eyes are opened the mother carries them to different dens every few days. Later, the cubs follow her of their own accord. This regular moving ensures a clean den and reduces the risk of predators - such as lions - sniffing them out.

The young cubs are weaned at about three months of age, after which they follow their mother to each kill and share her catch. They leave her after 13 to 20 months but reason together as a litter for a few more months. The females are the first to disperse, each taking up residence in a new area. The males stay together, but move away from their birth place. the cubs are finally mature at 20 to 24 months old.

Habits

Surprisingly,  male and female cheetahs have completely different lifestyles. The female can spend up to 20 months looking after each litter of cubs, but she will mainly lead an otherwise solitary lifestyle.

She is not aggressive to other cheetahs, preferring to retreat rather than attack. Neither is she territorial although her range may overlap with other females.

By contrast, males are rarely solitary, living and hunting in an all male group of four or five animals. This group will often comprise of brothers from the same litter, which will generally stay together for life.

Fiercely territorial, each male group scent marks its boundary with urine. Should other males encroach on the territory of an established group, fierce fights will occur, sometimes resulting in the death of an intruder.

Scent is used by females to tell a male when she is receptive, although once the male has picked up her scent the pair will communicate using a series of calls.



WHAT DO GORILLAS EAT?



By anyones estimate gorillas are huge primates, and - of course, as a species there are the worlds largest. But how do they get that big? Is it something they eat or are other factors involved?

Mountain Gorilla lifestyle

During daylight hours gorillas have set periods for certain activities. These comprise mostly of rest periods, travel or feeding periods. With regards to mountain gorillas, they mostly eat foliage such as leaves, stems, pith, and shoots of terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. As a rule, high protein foods which are low in fiber and tannins are preferred. They will also occasionally eat fruit, but this only makes up a very small part of their diet.

Bamboo is also a favored food item and mountain gorillas will spend much time digging to unearth the tender shoots. Little competition exists between mountain gorilla family groups for resources as they rely on food that is readily available and easily accessed.

They have small home ranges that vary between 3 and 15 km², and are unlikely to move any further than 500 metres on in average day. Despite eating relatively few plant species in each habitat, mountain gorillas do have a flexible diet and can occupy a wide variety of habitats in their range to incorporate this.

Lowland Gorilla lifestyle

Lowland gorillas have a more diverse diet compared to mountain gorillas which varies as the seasons progress. Like the mountain gorilla, leaves and pith are staples of their diet. However, unlike the mountain gorilla, fruit forms a much greater part of their diet - when it's available. In fact, fruits can be as much as 25% of their diet. The trouble is that fruit is relatively scarce, so lowland gorillas have to travel farther each day and therefore have larger home ranges - 2.7 to 6.5 km² and day ranges of up to 2300 m. Eastern lowland gorillas will also eat insects, but preferably ants.

Western lowland gorillas do not have much access to high quality terrestrial herbs, although some areas in their range are rich in aquatic herbs.

These gorillas depend on fruits more than the others and they are more dispersed across their range. As such, western lowland gorilla travel the farthest of all the gorilla species and have the largest home ranges. They travel up to 1100 metres per day on average and have home ranges 7–14 km².

Termites and ants also make a staple of the western lowland gorilla’s diet.

What do Gorillas drink?

A strange question granted, but Gorillas rarely drink water. Why? Because they manage to get most of their water by consuming succulent vegetation. that is comprised of almost half water as well as morning dew", although both mountain and lowland gorillas have been observed drinking.

What eats gorillas?

Now that we know what gorillas eat, are there any predators - outside of man - that would eat a gorilla? One possible predator of gorillas is the leopard. Evidence of gorilla remains have been found in leopard scat but it is possible that this may be the result of scavenging. Research has shown that when a group of gorillas is attacked by humans, leopards, or other gorillas, the silver back will protect them even at the cost of his own life. In fact there is one report that a silver back gorilla and a leopard were both found dead from mutually inflicted wounds.

BABY ELEPHANTS



There is little doubt that baby elephants are some of the cutest of all baby animals. But as with all gods creatures, they do not stay as babies for very long.

Be that as it may, baby elephants should still be celebrated. So while the attached short movie clips and photos go some way to do them justice, to truly appreciate baby elephants you need to first understand the Elephant family dynamics that bring them them to the world.

Elephant Mating

The mating season is short and females are only able to conceive for a few days each year. To begin with, the femaile elephant will detach herself from the herd when she comes into season. The scent of the female (cow) elephant in heat (or estrus) attracts the male and she also uses audible signals to attract the male. As the female elephant is both smaller and therefore faster than the male elephant, she can usually outrun the male. This means that she does not have to mate with every male that approaches her.

The male initiates the courtship and the female will ignore him for several minutes. He then stops and starts again. Elephants display a range of affectionate interactions, such as nuzzling, trunk intertwining, and placing their trunks in each other's mouths.

In a rarely observed display of his affection, he may drape his trunk outside of his tusks during the ritual. The interactions may last for 20–30 minutes and do not necessarily result in the male mounting the female, though he may demonstrate arousal during the ritual.

The female elephant is not passive in the ritual and uses the same techniques as the male.

African as well as Asiatic males will engage in same-sex bonding and mounting. The encounters are analogous to heterosexual bouts, one male often extending his trunk along the other's back and pushing forward with his tusks to signify his intention to mount. Unlike heterosexual relations, which are always of a fleeting nature, those between males result in a "companionship", consisting of an older individual and one or two younger, attendant males. Same-sex relations are common and frequent in both sexes, with Asiatic elephants in captivity devoting roughly 46% of sexual encounters to same-sex activity.

Elephant Family Groups

Female elephant social life revolves around breeding and raising of the calves. A female will usually be ready to breed around the age of thirteen, when she comes into estrus, a short phase of receptiveness lasting a couple of days, for the first time. Females announce their estrus with smell signals and special calls.

As a general rule, females elephants prefer bigger, stronger, and, most importantly, older males. Such a reproductive strategy tends to increase their offspring's chances of survival.

After a twenty-two-month pregnancy, the mother gives birth to a calf that weighs about 115 kg (250 lb) and stands over 75 cm (2.5 ft) tall. Elephants have a very long development. As is common with more intelligent species, they are born with fewer survival instincts than many other animals. Instead, they rely on their elders to teach them what they need to know. Today, however, the pressures humans have put on the wild elephant populations, from poaching to habitat destruction, mean that the elderly often die at a younger age, leaving fewer teachers for the young. The consequences of this for the next generation are not known.

A new calf is usually the center of attention for herd members. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks. The baby is born nearly blind and at first relies almost completely on its trunk to discover the world around it.

Elephants within a herd are usually related, and all members of the tightly-knit female group participate in the care and protection of the young. After the initial excitement, the mother will usually select several full-time baby-sitters, or "allomothers", from her group. An elephant is considered an allomother when she is not able to have her own calf. The more allomothers, the better the calf's chances of survival. A benefit of being an allomother is that she can gain experience or receive assistance when caring for her own calf. According to Cynthia Moss, a well known researcher, these allomothers will help in all aspects of raising the calf. They walk with the young as the herd travels, helping the calves along if they fall or get stuck in the mud. The more allomothers a calf has, the more free time its mother has to feed herself. Providing a calf with nutritious milk means the mother has to eat more nutritious food herself.