November 14, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Strange Large Mammals Make News

Here are unexpected facts about 4 large mammals.

The unicorn:  A deer with an “extremely rare deformity” was reported by National Geographic.  Shot in Slovenia, the deer had deformed antlers that merged into a single, pointed “horn” on top of its head, that “looks like it just walked out of a fairy tale, but this deer with a single, unicorn-like antler is the real thing.”

Saber-tooth deer:  Readers may be taken aback by a photo of a fanged deer on Science Daily.  The species was thought extinct (the last one was seen 60 years ago), but a living one turned up in the forested slopes of Afghanistan.  Males of the Kashmir musk deer use the fangs during rutting season like other species use antlers for battle.  Poachers have driven the species to the point of extinction by hunting for their scent glands, which are considered more valuable than gold.

Hippoopo:  The “river horse” (hippopotamus) releases so much dung each day, it alters the ecology of rivers.  In Science Magazine, Elizabeth Pennisi relays how scientists are taking renewed interest in hippos, which are hard to study because of their aggressive behavior toward humans (they kill more people than do lions or elephants).  Of particular interest to one team is the realization that hippo poop moves massive amounts of carbon from land to waterways, nourishing a whole food web of insects, fish, and other animals.

Moose facts:  On Live Science, Alina Bradford provided interesting facts about moose (plural, moose).  The largest members of the deer family, moose are also the tallest mammals in North America; males can stand 6.5 feet tall, with a six-foot spread of antlers.  They are cud-chewers with four-chambered stomachs.  Their fur is hollow, providing excellent insulation in the seasonally-snowed habitats they prefer.  Their hooves act like snowshoes and, despite their ungainly appearance and bulk, they are strong swimmers, able to swim over 12 miles at a time.

Update 11/19/14: National Geographic answers the question, “How do moose get so big eating plants?”  All herbivores get more energy from their food, the answer goes, and they spend much of their time eating.  Moose in particular have an “absolutely phenomenal ability” to get the most out of what they eat, one biologist says.

The adaptation of animals to their environments is striking.  Creationists allow for a fair amount of variability within created kinds, believing that genetic adaptations are built in to the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of each kind.  Today’s mammals probably do not resemble the original created kinds, or even those before the Flood.  The sorting out of traits between species adapted to specialized environments does not represent an increase in genetic information required by the evolutionary theory.  It’s actually a loss of information as each species retains only the genes and gene networks needed for its habitat.  The variations among dog and cat kinds are good examples.  Both evolutionists and creationists believe they descended from common ancestors of their own kinds (e.g., domestic dogs, dingoes and coyotes from an original wolf-like animal), but creationists deny that the huge increase in genetic innovation required to turn a mouse into a cat is possible or supported by evidence.  Many variations went extinct in the severely-altered habitat after the Flood.   Nevertheless, each species is a marvel of engineering design and warrants praise to its Creator and protection.



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