Monday, August 21, 2017

The Pink Fairy Armadillo

    First described by R. Harlan in 1825, the Pink Fairy is the smallest species of armadillo. They have small eyes, silky white fur, a flexible dorsal shell, and a spatula-shaped tail which protrudes from a vertical plate at the blunt rear of its shell. 

This desert-adapted animal is endemic to central Argentina and can be found inhabiting sandy plains, dunes, and scrubby grasslands. Their diet is mainly composed of insects, worms, snails, and various plant parts.


Pink Fairies caught in the wild have a poor survival rate in the best of conditions, and they die almost immediately in the hands of amateurs.                         

            Hope this little guy makes it. 

Their rosy shell acts like a radiator. By pumping blood in and out of it, the armadillo can raise or lower its core temperature.

The conservation status for pink fairy armadillos is still uncertain, with the decline in population attributed to farming activities and predators including domestic dogs and cats. 

Thank you to..
Source: HotNews/Youtube 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Fabulous Fisher Cat...

 ...who lives in trees and doesn't like fish.

            The fisher is found only in North America. Historically, it ranged the northern forests of Canada and the United States as well as forests in the Appalachian, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Coast Mountains.
    The fisher is the largest species of marten. Some males can weigh as much as 20 pounds. It is a large arboreal weasel, and an omnivore, feeding on a wide variety of small animals and occasionally on fruits and mushrooms. It prefers the snowshoe hare, and is one of the few animals able to prey successfully on porcupines.

But how did the none fish eating Fisher get his name? One theory is that the animal gets its name from the trade name for its fur. The French fur-trappers sold the fur of this animal as European polecat fur. (A European polecat is a wild ferret, not a skunk. How skunks became known as polecats in this
country is something for which I so far have found no answer.) The French word for a polecat pelt is fichet or ficheux.
The females are pregnant for almost a year, giving birth in the spring to a littler of three or four kits. 

Fishers have five toes on each foot, with unsheathed, retractable claws.Their feet are disproportionately large for their legs, making it easier for them to move

on top of snow packs, and allows them to maneuver well in trees. The fisher is one of relatively few mammalian species with the ability to descend trees head-first.

Because of their highly prized fur, the Fisher was trapped and hunted almost
to extinction in the 1700's. Conservation and protection measures have allowed the species to rebound, but their current range is still greatly reduced from its historic limits.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Shut the Box...Did your historical hero play this game?

   As far as anyone seems to know, Shut-the-Box originated in France, perhaps in Normandy, and possibly existed as early as the 1100's. 

   Shut the Box, also called, Canoga, Klackers, Batten Down the Hatches, kingoball, Trictrac and Jackpot, is a game of dice for one or more players, commonly played in a group of two to four for stakes.Variations exist where the box has up to 10 or 12 tiles.

Lore tells fables of ancient Norman sailors playing the game in the moonlight as their ship bobbed and swayed across the sea. 
                   "Pay up mate, you lost again!"
    The game involves a wooden box (hence the name Shut-the-Box) characterized by an arena to which dice are thrown and wooden sliders or shutters representing the numbers 1 thru 9. These sliders are closed, or shut, to arrive at the total shown on the dice. Play ends when the either the numbers have all been closed, or when the sum of the dice cannot be achieved by closing any combination of the available numbers. 

Even the upper-class enjoyed a game or two. Trictrac players, in a painting attributed to LĂ©onard Defrance

There is a Chinese version of the game called, " Boc-Tin". It is unclear whether or not Boc-Tin and Shut-the-Box originated from singular or separate ideas.

   Obviously a gambling device, the game is used today for fun as well, and is touted by educators to be a useful game for teaching elementary mathematics to children. Of course, mathematicians have also shown interest for the game. As Shut-the-Box presents an interesting, yet reportedly solvable, model for probability and best-strategy analysis.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A castle on the Kansas Overland Trail

For me, the great state of Kansas conjures visions of wheat fields and sunflowers, and Old West tales of Dodge City. 

And of course The Wizard of Oz and scary tornadoes. 

But they also lay claim to the first landmark chosen by the US Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark.
Who would expect to find such monumental structures in the middle of the flat-lands?

 The chalk formations reach a height of up to 70 ft and include buttes and arches. The carbonate deposits were laid down during the Cretaceous Period in what was then the Western Interior Seaway, which split the continent of North America into two landmasses. 
    Castle Rock was a landmark on the Butterfield Overland Despatch route (Overland Trail). The chalk was deposited in the area by an ancient inland sea,and the formation was formed by the weathering of the chalk by wind and water. 

   Sadly, weathering of the rock formation is increasing due to visitors climbing on the rocks. In 2001, following a thunderstorm, the tallest spire fell.
          Will Mother Nature have her revenge?
                          (not at Monument Rock)

  About 80 million years ago, when the central interior of the U.S. was covered by a seaway several hundred
feet deep, the water contained single-celled animals that drifted to the sea floor for eons, creating a mucky ooze. This material was perfect for trapping and preserving the remains of animals that lived in that ocean, such as fish, turtles, sharks, swimming
reptiles, swimming birds, as well as invertebrate animals such as giant clams. 

Probably the best-known fossil from these beds is the famous "fish-within-a-fish" on display at the Sternberg Museum in Hays. 

Should you visit this wondrous place 
(which is on private property)
please respect the land and formations.

       Monument Rocks (Chalk Pyramids) is located 4 miles east of US-83, 25 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. Camping and fossil hunting are not allowed.