Thursday, October 22, 2015

Biology Stuff: Huge Horses, Pint-Sized Ponies, and my newest biological specimens!

Fun fact about Julie!  I have several indoor terrariums, most of which house little creepy crawlies like lizards or exotic insects.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Insects are creepy and why am I posting this?  Oh, dear reader.  Insects aren't creepy.  They are our misunderstood exoskeletal friends and in their own weird ways, they are lovely.

Don't believe me?

Now that I've defended bugs to you, I should admit that I was tired of them and turned my empty terrarium into an aquarium.  Say hello to my new friends:

(The same fish in the two pictures above, a black moor.)

(A betta, which was called a "Siamese fighting fish" when I was a kid.  Andrew named this little guy Fish Washington, after George Washington.  It's not a very good pun.)

The banjo catfish pictured above was an "accidental shipment" that Petco didn't know what to do with.  I got it for free as an "adoptable."  Banjo catfish can pinch so it's generally not a good idea to do what I'm doing in this picture.

Needless to say, immediately upon getting fish, I was gifted an insect and needed to buy another terrarium.

Don't see her?  Look closer:

How do I know it's a her?  She LAID AN EGG SAC!

I've identified this mantis as a Carolina mantis, notable for being flightless.  The egg sac, laid in October, will rest over winter and hatch sometime in April (hopefully).

If you don't like bugs and need some eyebleach, here's some less creepy pursuits.  One of my planters keeps getting destroyed by the feral cats of my neighborhood, so I made a little fake plant diorama that should be able to withstand any amount of urine.  Let's see you kill that, cats!

My other (living) outdoor plants are doing well:

Nearly all of my plants are in bloom or producing fruit right now, which is not very surprising when you consider that we live in California and that, short of spraying your plants with toxic chemicals, they will probably grow just fine.

Even with toxic chemicals, many develop superpowers and go on to become slutty Batman villains.

Of course, my first love will always be animals, because of their closeness to humans and their incredible diversity and the fact that they are furry and I can hug them, and you can't necessarily hug an insect or a plant, even if it has turned into a slutty Batman villain.

Recently someone brought up a horse named Brooklyn Supreme for example.  Brooklyn Supreme has been billed as the "World's Largest Horse."


The biggest horse on record is Sampson, a Shire horse 21.2 hands high by the time he was four years old, when he was re-named Mammoth. His peak weight was estimated at 3,360 lb. He was born in 1846, before Brooklyn was ever born.  Brooklyn "only" stood 19.2 hands high.

A "hand" is 4 inches, and based on this diagram, it is based on some sort of Satanic cult gang sign.

The record-holder for biggest living horse as of 2007 was a Shire horse named Tina who was 20 hands high. Tina died in 2008 and was subsequently beaten by Big Jake, who is 20 hands plus two and three-quarter inches and still alive, holding the current record. Big Jake weighs only 2,600 pounds compared to Sampson, but Guinness no longer records "biggest" by weight, but by height, to prevent negligent owners from trying to get records by abusing their animals.

I think this influenced that decision.

If you're looking for pictures of Sampson, you're out of luck, because cell phones didn't have cameras in the mid-1800s.

The horse pictured above is thought to Sampson but it is unconfirmed.

This has been floating around the web as Sampson, but c'mon, guys.  This is probably just some other huge horse.  This photo was obviously taken in the 1970s.  What's more,  notice that they're on a slope as well to make him appear bigger.  FOR SHAME.

Fortunately, in this day and age, photos are cheap and easy, and so we have plenty of pictures of Big Jake:

But wait!  What's that weird looking pig-dog running around Big Jake's feet?  Why, it's Thumbelina, the world's smallest horse!

Thumbelina is a miniature horse with pituitary dwarfism, making her tiny and also repulsively adorable.

If you think genetic mutations are adorable, then you'll love Wendy the whippet!

Wendy is a whippet with myostatin deficiency. Myostatin regulates muscle growth; without it, you get ripped like Wendy here. Unfortunately, this kind of uncontrolled muscle growth leads to a lot of health problems.  You need myostatin to break down your muscles and keep them in check; even if you're working out and drinking a lot of protein shakes, your body still needs myostatin.  This disorder is so common in whippets that it even has a name: bully whippet syndrome.

Yet another reason you should adopt instead of purchasing a dog, because many "purebreds" are inbred to a degree that genetic disorders like pituitary dwarfism and myostatin deficiency are frequent.  Worse, some of these disorders look cute, or appear benign, but end up leading to chronic conditions later down the line.

On to our next biological curiosity: this hamster, which is perfectly normal but appears to be melting.

If you have a hamster and would like to flatten it, enjoy this Japanese tutorial on the art of hamster flattening:

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