Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Canine Spotlight: Tanuki

I am pretty aware that there are many people out there who do not know what tanukis are. In truth, I have been hearing about them for nearly my entire life. There is fascinating lore behind them--so fascinating that I began to wonder if they were even real at all. I sometimes worry that I may find that one of my favorite animals will end up simply being mythical. Thankfully, the tanuki is real and living happily in Eastern Asia as well as Eastern Europe--the latter happening after an artificial introduction.

The tanuki is also referred to as a Japanese raccoon dog. Does that mean that it is a dog or a raccoon? First impressions are that they are raccoons, and popular media really assist in this; however, tanukis are actually canine. It seems that people really enjoy thinking of them more like raccoons than dogs, and to be honest, so do I.

The tanuki can have a body length as long as 28 inches with a tail as long as 7.1 inches. They have long torsos with short legs underneath. They also have disproportionately large testicles, and I know that seems like a weird thing to mention. Unfortunately, the tanuki's huge testicles are one of its most beloved features, and I cannot avoid it in this spotlight. Don't worry; it's more funny than horrifying.

Tanukis are omnivores. Their menu is wide and vast. They are not picky at all. In my research, I found a very long list of plants and animals that these guys go after. I'm not really sure they care what they eat, to be honest. Naturally, they go after things that are smaller than they are which are mostly plants and rodents, but they will also eat fish and some waterfowl.

If you are wondering if their huge... "package" assists in reproduction, I think it very well may. Tanukis breed from February to late April. After a gestation period of about 70 days, the female tanuki will likely give birth to 6 to 7 pups... if it was her first time. It seems that the more these animals mate, the more babies they tend to have. In exceptional cases, the female can give birth to a whopping litter of 16 pups! I'm sure the male is very proud of himself. Happily for the female, the male tends to take care of the kids. I mean... if you think about it, she obviously needs some rest after that.

Tanukis have been in fiction for longer than I could really figure out. In Japanese lore, the creature was known for being mischievous but also clumsy. It could shape-shift into other creatures as a way of disguise itself, and they could also possess people. The testicles surprisingly did not inspire any lore having to do with fertility or virility. Instead, the Japanese saw it as some sort of cute thing. The balls were often taken by people and used as drums. In some versions, the tanuki's chubby belly was used as an alternative to pounding on their balls.

Fiction: The first place I ever even heard the word Tanuki was in the 1988 video game "Super Mario Brothers 3." Mario could put on a number of costumes in this game giving him special powers. One of the rarer suits was the Tanuki Suit which gave him the ability to fly, float, and turn into a statue in which enemies would ignore. At the time, I had no clue as to why they called it a Tanuki Suite. It looked more like a raccoon to me, but then we children of the 80's had not yet reached the peak of our nerdiness.

In a video game that I once used to obsess over--"Animal Crossing"--your character is immediately enslaved by, or rather placed in debt by, a tanuki named Tom Nook. Yes, he pretty much opens the game by placing a massive debt over your head in which you have to spend months working off. The game came out with many other versions, and Tom Nook was in all of them. I have heard many stories of frustrations for this character who reasonably simulated the oppression of debt in video game form. Why do we keep putting up with him? Well, as it turns out, he also owns a shop with a lot of nice furniture. While we are struggling with our debt, we can decorate our houses completely oblivious that he is only making it worse for us. Also, he's super cute.

Tanukis were featured in an anime movie called Pom Poko in 1994. I have not seen this film, but it needs mentioning for being the most beloved tanuki motion picture of all time. They had the large testicles in the film, but I understand that they were referred to as "raccoon pouches." I intend to see this movie someday.

I am happy to say that I have been taking notes to have tanukis in an upcoming novel. I cannot give the title because--honestly--I haven't come up with one yet; however, I do know how I am going to present them. My tanukis will be heavily based on real raccoons in that they tend to favor fight over flight when threatened, They will have a strong country accent and wear straw hats. I have not yet decided if I am going to mention the large testicles, but I kind of want to.

Tanukis are fun and amusing. Their lore if far-reaching and malleable based on your own ideas. They are really here for us to enjoy, so... enjoy them! After all, this animal really survives on its lore, and I can't get enough of it.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Grr.

Japanese Tanuki Statue

Super Mario's Tanuki Suit

Tom Nook from "Animal Crossing"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Canine Spotlight: Maned Wolf

Legs! Really beautiful, long legs! That's the theme of this little beauty of a canine. When we think dogs, foxes, and wolves, we don't think long legs, but the maned wolf is a very pretty exception. Let's get to know them.

The maned wolf is 39 inches from head to tail and stands at 35 inches tall. It's tail is usually abut 18 inches long. Another thing that is quite large about this animal is its ears. They have big and long ears that are usually as large as 7 inches. I personally love big ears on animals. Many people mistake the maned wolf for a fox with long legs because of their coat. They do have similar markings to the common red fox. You may find it interesting that the maned wolf is neither a fox nor a wolf. It is barely even canine; however, it still upholds the canine classification.

Maned wolves are mainly found in southeastern Brazil. They live mainly in tall grasslands and hunt for small- to medium-sized prey there. Their long legs are perfect for this sort of environment. They are not just there to look pretty. Additionally, you may find it interesting that the maned wolf is the tallest of all wild dogs.

This canine does not only eat prey. It is omnivorous which means it also consumes plant life; however, when it does go after prey, it will do so alone and with as much violence as necessary. Generally, they will go straight for the neck and shake the prey viciously until it is quite exhausted or otherwise dead. Since maned wolves do not form into packs, they have no need to share.

Maned wolves of both sexes communicate by urinating. They look for mates from November to April and usually give birth to 2 to 6 black-furred pups after 65 days. It takes them a full year to get their long legs and red coat, and during this time, they entirely rely on their parents for food.

Although maned wolves were once thought to be like foxes and steal chickens from farmers, the truth is that they really don't want to have anything to do with us. They run away from sighted humans. The reason for this is likely because their species has been hunted for superstitious reasons for a very long time. It was mainly for their eyes which were believed to be good luck charms.

Easily the one thing that sets these dogs apart are their beautiful, long legs. They are like the elves of the canine world. In fiction, I see them as being very dainty and graceful creatures who consider themselves above their lower canine cousins. I do this a lot. I usually assign graceful aspects to an ego. I did something similar to the jerboas a while back. I don't think that the maned wolves are all that bad, however. They are more shy than openly aggressive. Think of them as the fairies of the grasslands.

The maned wolf is a marvel to look at. Their extra long legs give them a surreal appearance. It is almost as if they are from another world entirely. I enjoy seeing creatures like this most of all.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Yerf.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mollusk Spotlight: Sea Swallow

From fish to mollusk! That seems like a fair transition. The sea swallow is one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. It has a lot of nice names for it too such as blue angel, blue dragon, blue sea slug, and blue ocean slug. It  more commonly is referred to by its scientific name of glaucus atlanticus, which, in its own right, is very pretty sounding. Let's have a look at this little sea creature.

A sea swallow measures about 1.3 inches in length. It is mostly a vibrant blue with black and gray stripes across it's back. It's body is flat and tapering with six appendages which branch out into rayed, finger-like tendrils called cerata. For the purpose of feeding, the sea swallow has a tongue-like organ called a tadula which bears serrated teeth. They can be found in the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

The sea swallow swims by filling a gas pouch in its stomach allowing it to float on the surface of the water. It does this on its back and just sort of kicks around all lazy-like. Humans can do something similar to this, and I find it rather amusing to see the sea swallow swim by this method.

This creature generally feeds on small water animals like snails, but what makes it particularly famous is its ability to take on the dreaded Portuguese Man o' War jelly fish. This is fairly impressive considering the Portuguese Man o' War is known for killing anything it touches due to its extremely potent venom. Despite its size, the sea swallow will completely devour the massive jelly fish and store the creature's venom within its cerata--unbelievably for its own use!

Yes, the sea swallow can redirect the venom gained from the Portuguese Man o' War when it attacks other creatures. Its sting is just as bad too. No, you do not want to be stung by this creature. It will not only be extremely painful, but you will likely cease up.

There is absolutely no fiction out there of the sea swallow--at least none that is obvious. I think the clearest thing about this creature is its beauty. It is a gorgeous and somewhat mystifying creature. The way its colors and patterns are arranged on its body it really art. I can almost see a spaceship designed after its form. As far as personality, I see it as being a lazy swimmer with a personal vanity for its ability to kill. It really is quite capable at destroying things. He must know how pretty he is as well, and that certainly won't help him being any more modest. What do you think? Sea creatures are sometimes difficult to anthropomorphize.

Anyways, I want you to gaze a bit at these pictures I have. These guys are built to please the eye. I rarely see blue presented so vibrantly in an animal. Just goes to show you that some animals out there are also works of art.

Thanks for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Swish!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chordata Spotlight: Blobfish

Wow. I never thought I'd want to do a spotlight for a fish. Honestly, there aren't really many fish that interest me. One of the reasons is that I find them difficult to anthropomorphize in my mind as characters. Animals and fiction go hand in hand with me, and that is usually what drives me to pick an animal for these blogs. It has to be something that amuses me in ways that I can see them as characters. I think the blobfish fits such criteria. I must warn you, however, that there is almost no research material for this creature, so this shall be brief.

The blobfish is a deep-sea fish found off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania. They are also in the waters around New Zealand. They are very deep--as low as 3,900 feet underwater. They also swim very close to the floor which makes them difficult to catch with anything other than drag nets. The pressure at those depths are extreme--at most 120 times as great than at sea level. Needless to say, they don't meat any swimmers down there.

The blobfish is about 11 inches long or shorter. Their make-up is a bit odd. They are a gelatinous mass that has a density that is slightly less than water. This allows it to safely float just above the sea floor without having to use much energy. This is good because the blobfish is not a very powerful fish. It feeds mainly on deep water crustaceans that happen to walk in front of it. Pretty much anything that is eaten by a blobfish officially has bad luck because this fish makes very little effort to catch anything.

Now for the fun part. Images of the blobfish in its natural depth are rare; however, you may notice how normal they look. They just look like any ol' fish. The whole reason I wanted to write this spotlight was what happens when people catch this creature. Once taken out of its depth, the blobfish takes on the appearance of a cartoonish human face. It looks a lot like a grumpy and bald old man.

The anthropomorphic visage of the blobfish are not only comical, but they are also intensely ugly--ugly in a good way, mind you. They are actually fun to look at. In 2013, the blobfish was officially voted as the "World's Ugliest Animal." It was later made the mascot for--and I am not joking about this--the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. Yes, it's a real organization that utilizes stand-up comedy to save ugly animals that tend to lose out on the popularity vote. Indeed, the blobfish is feared to be in trouble due to so much deep-ocean trawling; however, nobody is 100% sure of this.

There is no fiction for the blobfish other than an occasional cameo whenever ugly animals come up in a topic. Knowing what I do of them, I see them as perpetually morose and bad-tempered people. No matter what happens, they are going to have a pessimistic viewpoint about it. When caught by fishermen, I can easily look at that face and imagine them saying, "Well, that figures!" It is as dark as it is amusing. I really like them.

Blobfish are living caricatures of grumpy, old men. I dare you to look at one and not find it amusing! They reek of pessimism, and there are not too many other animals that can pull that off with so much flare. For this reason, the blobfish makes it into the animal hall of fame.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Oh, hum!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bovine Spotlight: Yak

Bovines... cows... you know them. Most of them, I am afraid to say, are rather uninteresting. As it turns out, cows don't have the most interesting of lives. They are either milked or turned into hamburger. They also don't look all that great unless they are turned into cartoons to make them cute. But don't worry. It's not a total loss. We still have yaks!

Yaks are nearly the largest bovine in the world coming in at 7.2 feet tall with a body length of 11 feet. They are quite heavy. The adult males can weigh up to 2,205 pounds. The females are generally lighter by a third. They also have hair. They have lots and lots of hair. No, this isn't fur. This is long-bushy hair, and it is probably what makes the yak so interesting.

Yaks are located in a number of places in the world, but not in America. They can be found mainly in the Himalayas. Yaks are also found in Mongolia and Russia. They prefer more treeless areas. They are mostly commonly seen in alpine tundra where there is plenty of grass available. Yes, they love grass. It's such a bovine thing to like grass.

Yaks are herd animals which means they like to stay in groups. As one might wonder, yaks are big enough to defend themselves if they need to. They have large horns on their head which work wonderfully when backed up with some ramming speed. Wild yaks generally dislike dealing with humans, however. If you were to approach a herd, the yaks would likely put a lot of distance between you and them rather than try to fight you off.

These bovines are slow breeders. They only mate once a year and 8 months later, they produce one calf. The calf can walk in about ten minutes after birth. It has to be weaned for an entire year before it can become independent. That really is a lot of work. This animal is not really as prolific as other animals I have spotlighted. Sadly, it has taken its toll. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has given the Yak a rating of VU--meaning that they are vulnerable to becoming endangered. It is not as bad as it could be. They would need to drop past 4 other levels before actually suffering extinction.

Yaks can be domesticated. People for thousands of years have used yaks for their milk, meat, and as beasts of burden. Likely the weirdest thing I learned was that their dropping--when dried--can be used as a source of fuel. This fuel is heavily used to this day in Tibet.

I am happy to say that there is a Yak in fiction. In the 2016 Disney film "Zootopia," there was a minor Yak character named Yax. He was the owner of a nudist colony and seemed to be surrounded in flies at all times. Hilariously, he was voiced by Tommy Chong which fit the character like a glove. The flies were likely a reference to the fact that manly people believe Yaks smell really awful. It's all that hair. As an interesting, little tidbit, the Yak does not only fail to stink, their fur actually repels bad scents. Additionally, even their droppings have no determinable smell to it--which is great considering it is used as fuel. Still, Yax being stinky works well, despite it being incorrect.

I know that Yaks are shy--which denotes timidity--but I cannot help but see them as big and tough fellows who are hard to talk to. I can imagine seeing them in a tavern sitting at a table all by themselves. If I attempt to speak to them, I just get ignored. Antisocial behemoths. It rather drifts away from their true selves, but I am kind of going by their looks more than the study. That's probably how I'd do it.

Yaks are hairy wonders of the animal kingdom. They are one of the few bovines that are interesting--yes, there are others. Animals that look interesting tend to get more respect from me than the ugly ones. I mean look at cows. I look at them, and I just think about going to Burger King. But not yaks. Yaks are cool. I like yaks.

Thank you for reading this blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Moo.

Yax from "Zootopia"

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Feliformia Spotlight: Aardwolf

So is the aardwolf an aardvark or a wolf? The answer: neither! The aardwolf is apart of the suborder Felliformia which covers cats, civets, and hyenas. Yes, I've been hanging around this area for a while now. Please, allow me to introduce you to this very interesting animal.

By size, the aardwolf can be as large as 31 inches long with a bushy tail of 11 inches. They have yellowish fur with black striped which run vertical across its back. They have big, wide ears and a dark snout--the color of which goes up into their eyes. At first glance, they look like a hyena, and there is a very good reason for that. The aardwolf is, in fact, a hyena. They are located in East and Southern Africa.

Hyenas are carnivores, but the aardwolf is specifically an insectivore. It mainly feasts on termites. This is very likely why we find "aard" at the beginning of their name. As far as then being wolves, hyenas do generally resemble canines, even though it is entirely untrue. The aardwolf does not destroy the termite mounds. They only eat what they need and let the termites flourish for the next meal.

Aardwolves live in burrows and can own up to ten of them within their territory. Many of these burrows are stolen from actual aardvarks, springhares, and porcupines. They have a strong family unit which is of particular interest to me. I noticed that it looked a lot like a tight nit and caring family. There is a mother and father. The offspring are watched carefully by the father while the mother goes out hunting. When the children are ready to hunt themselves, the parents will go out with them and supervise. By the time the parents are ready to have more children, the offspring generally have become independent.

Socially, aardwolves are shy. They are not very aggressive and try and stay away from people. When being pursued by predators, the aardwolf will run away and double back on their tracks to confuse the predator. If they are cornered, they will raise up the fur on their mane to make themselves look bigger. They also have the option of spraying the predator with a foul smelling fluid from a gland near their anus. So, they are not entirely without defense, but they have no interest in killing the predator as much as they just want to break free of them.

I don't know of any Aardwolf in fiction. It would be wrong to fit them into the fictional mold we usually make for hyenas. The spotted hyenas were a polished military force, whereas the aardwolf is more like characters from "The Waltons." It's all about family living together out in the wilds. As people, they would love one another and remain as close to each other as possible. They would be wary about strange visitors into their community; however, if any trouble would arrive, they would do what they could to repel the forces. It has all the makings of a good "life on the prairie" story.

Have a look at these guys. They are very cute, and their personality really helps as well. They are sweet-natured creatures who just want to be left alone with their termites. Enjoy the pictures!

Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Yap!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Felidae Spotlight: The Domestic Cat

I've never much understood why we put up with cats as pets. They seem to take a bit more than they give. Half the time, they act like spoil brats--tearing up the carpets and furniture when they don't get their way--and the other half, they go out of their way to give us plenty of affection. I suppose self-maintenance is a plus as well. You don't have to bathe them, and I wouldn't recommend trying it either. Good way to lose an arm. Either way, cats fascinate us, and I am driven to write a spotlight about them.

Domestic cats come in an uncountable array of different shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. For this reason, I am not going to go into their looks as much as what they seem to mean to us. Yes, this will be an unusual spotlight, to be sure. The term "domestic cat" mainly refers to a class of felines that are common to civilized areas. They are smaller than the big beasts found in jungles and prairies. These cats can also be feral--living by their wits in the wild; however, they pose very little danger to us humans.

The personality of a cat can range from unbearably narcissistic to a sloth-like laziness with an indomitable indifference to the world around them. With either one, it is a very selfish attitude. Cats live for themselves. Their loyalty always comes at a price. Every bit of love they give is on the grounds that they will have their needs met on a timely basis. If needs fail to be met, punishment can be as benign as persistent meowing or as violent as a random scratch.

Cats are remarkably agile, and they know this well. They can climb trees with ease, but can sometimes find themselves afraid of heights and have to be helped down. They enjoy a good hunt preferring small prey like bugs, rodents, and birds. They are skilled at stealth combat--especially at night. Most cats see very easily in low light environments but can freeze up in total darkness. Many cats are known to play with their food before killing it. This usually means knocking it around until it is too tired to run anymore. It's mean, but cats are often quite mean.

You may find it interesting that feral cats almost never meow. That is their silly way of trying to communicate with us. Domestic cats will often meow to other cats--domestic or not. I doubt that there is really any intelligence behind the noise. I get the impression that they are simply trying to mimic us to better make it clear that we should be giving them better attention. Very selfish!

Domestic cats have extremely keen senses all around. The reason we often say that cats have nine lives is because they have a knack for getting out of danger in just the nick of time. They are hyper aware of their surroundings and can usually figure out what is going on even when they are not in the exact room where something is happening.

I am sure we have all noticed a cat licking itself. Cats are remarkable groomers. Their tongues have little hooked hairs on it that are especially useful for grooming fur. These "tongue-baths" are apart of the feline's personal hygiene. Recently, I put a bunch of gravy on my finger and let my cat lick it off. It was the strangest feeling ever! Those little hooks really catch anything they touch. It is like cats come with their own bristled brush.

Domestic and feral cats are all over the place in fiction. I only have time to name three. We all remember Tom from the "Tom and Jerry" short cartoons. The cat and mouse show has almost become its own genre. This series was very straight forward in its presentation of the trope. Tom--not always trying to eat the mouse--would often just try and be mean to poor Jerry for the fun of it. It was more of a rivalry thing. To this day, the series continued with new shorts and even a series of movies. With the exception of "Tom and Jerry: The Movie," the characters never talk.

The Loony Tunes character Sylvester is a good example of a domestic cat. He is often pitted against a prey that keeps besting him. Sometimes, it is Tweety Bird, and other times, it can be Speedy Gonzales. There are even a couple shorts where he is expected to chase down a giant mouse who is really a kangaroo. One of my favorite characters from his cartoons came in the form of his son--simply called Junior. His over-the-top expression of humiliation from his father's failures--such as having to place a bag over his head as to not be seen in public--was some of my favorite moments. He was also quite cute for a kitten.

There are a number of films--short or otherwise--about domestic cats that are well worth your time. Disney's "The Aristocats" is a great example. Warner Brothers also did their own cat movie called "Cats Don't Dance." My personal favorite is Don Bluth's Banjo the Woodpile Cat. But likely the most carefully crafted domestic cat movie would have to be the German movie "Felidae" which paid special care to the creatures and their peculiar habits. The movie is so close to reality and depicts the felines in even sexual situations that is is often never found in America. I highly recommend it--if you can find a copy--but I warn you that it is not suitable for children.

Much of my own personal love of cats were found through observing my own pet "Cupcake" and from watching videos of them on You Tube--something nearly everyone can enjoy on the internet. There was this one video in particular that captured my interest in only a few minutes. I felt like I was watching a soap opera in another language, but they were real cats meowing at each other. There was even surprises when an unexpected cat came onto the scene which led to startling revelations! Left to their own devices, I see domestic cats as living out a soap opera, and it would be fun to see them doing this as people.

As I said before, there are many kinds of domestic cats. They are fun pets to have, but you have to decide beforehand if you are willing to put up with their selfishness. If you can, be prepared for a lot of love at the cost of a lot more petting.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Meow!

Cat Playing With Prey

Cupcake, My Cat

Sylvester Cat and Junior