ANIMAL GROUPS: THE REALLY BIG ONES, PART TWO

The  look at some unusual animal group names continues with a couple of unusually shaped North American mammals and one very strange fish.  Let’s start with our First National Mmmal, the bison.

BISON  – Bison are the largest mammals in North America.  Male bison can) weigh up to one ton, and stand 6 feet tall, while females  weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet

In prehistoric times, millions of bison roamed North America – from Alaska to  Mexico to Nevada  and the Appalachian Mountains that range from Quebec to Georgia. When Columbus landed on the North American Continent  there were about 30 million bison.

But, due to loss of habitat and devastating hunting,  by the late 1800s there were barely a few hundred bison left in the United States. Without the combined efforts of Teddy Roosevelt conservationists, our Native American Tribes and the Interior Department, the majestic bison would be extinct today.   Yellowstone National Park is the only site in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.  Today, bison number about 350,000.

 

The huge hump on top of a bison’s shoulder is made of muscle. This hump  as well as powerful neck muscles  give the bison the ability to clear high drifts of snow by swinging their heads side to side.

Despite their hulking size, bison are very  agile and fast.  In fact they can reach speeds around 40 miles per hour.  In addition,  bison are quite unpredictable – though you never should do this, sometimes bison can be approached closely without a qualm.  Unfortunately at other times, with no provocation,   they can stampede wildly.

Their group name? OBSTINACY OR GANG

BELUGA – While bison are huge and unapproachable, beluga, one the smallest species of whale, loves to interact with humans, and if you are lucky, will sing with you!  Seriously!  I got the chance to be with these gentle creatures during my visit to Churchill, Manitoba Canada (see here). Lying on a float, with my head submerged, I sang as loud and in as high as a register as I could manage and was rewarded with belugas answering my notes with their peculiar repertoire of high pitched whistles, squeaks, clicks and chirps.  No wonder they are called “sea canaries.”

Other fun beluga facts:

  • They are the only whale that can swim backwards
  • They have teeth instead of baleen like other whales. However they do not chew their food
  • Beluga  have flexible necks so that their heads can move up and down and to each side.
  • Beluga can change the shape of its bulbous forehead, called a “melon”, by blowing air around its sinuses.
  • They are extremely intelligent and very social
  • There are  about 60,000 Churchill beluga

Bottom Two Photos from internet

Despite the uniqueness of this whale, its group name is mundane – POD

This last grouping isn’t necessarily enormous, but it is one of the most mesmerizing.  I have not seen them in person, but came upon a video while researching collective nouns.

STRIPED EEL CATFISH – Unlike freshwater catfish that most of us are familiar with, this catfish not only has an unusual shape but some unique ways of protecting itself form predators.  The fins of this catfish are fused together, giving it an eel-like physique. The spine on these fused fins are highly poisonous, even fatal to humans.

You might supposed that their poisonous spines would give them adequate protection against predators, but the striped eel catfish, particularly the juveniles have another trick up their fins.  The juveniles travel in schools in groups of up to 100 and forage in the choral reefs, tide pools and opens coasts of the Indo-Pacific.  While they do create dense balls similar to other fish such as sardines and herring, their choreography is quite different – and I think, mesmerizing:

all photos below from internet:

Their group names include:   Catch,  Fun, Haul, Run

 

More fun with animals coming up in future posts!

 

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