Friday, June 20, 2014

Animals have keener perception than humans, take heed!

Dr Abe V Rotor
Gray heron arrives with the monsoon season


Casting of cicada. Cicada emerges from the
soil soon after the first heavy rain in May


Remember Paul, the octopus that predicted the Spanish championship in world's football in 2010? While the story may be embellished, animals no doubt have well developed instincts that awe humans, the advances in spite of science and technology.

Birds migrate in anticipation of winter and return 1n spring. Snakes travel in the desert to drink in an uncharted oasis. Honeybees travel many miles to gather nectar and pollen w2ithout getting lost. Well, here are other outstanding feats.

1. The kingfisher (salaksak) is an emissary of death.
The kingfisher’s throaty voice is a call of death, so the old folks say. Well, when ponds and rivers dry up because of drought, this fish eater will scour for alternative food outside its niche, poaching around farms and homes.

2. Ants on the move signal the coming of a heavy rainfall, if not a typhoon. Likewise, cockroaches seek for shelter outside their hiding place.
The biological clock of these creatures responds to invisible signals, which comprise decreased atmospheric pressure, high relative humidity and air temperature. Their sensitive antennae and tactile hairs covering their body pick these up these changes of the environment. Thus we find ants in exodus, carrying their eggs and young nto sheltered places. Cockroaches become unusually active, flying about in frenzy, in search for a new place. There is a common message, that is, to escape to safer ground, an archetype information engrained in their genes passed on to them by their ancestors through evolution.

3. Cat grooming at the doorway tells of the coming of visitors.
Cats are fastidious clean creatures. Like birds at rest preening, cats lick their paws and fur clean especially after eating. But what has this to do with their alleged ability to forecast? Well, let’s look at it this way. It is customary in the province to cook something especially for our guests. And fond that we are with cats, we let them have their fill while we are cooking.

4. When house lizards (butiki) are noisy, there is a guest coming.

My father used to tell me when I was a child, that if house lizards make loud and crispy calls, it’s likely that a visitor is coming.

How do lizards know? Some people attribute this to the house lizard’s habit of “kissing” the ground at dusk. But this has nothing to do with predicting a guest’s arrival. But we know that when a person is anticipating a guest he is extraordinarily keen, and thus become aware of anything happening in his surroundings – including the mating calls of lizards.

House lizards take a drink on the ground and return to their dwellings on top of trees, on ceilings and roofs where water is scarce. By the way lizards are present where there are insects they feed on, such as areas around fluorescent lamps and streetlights.

5. Emergence of the June beetle ushers the start of rainy season.
Sometimes in comes out in May, hence also called May beetle.
This beetle, Leucopholis irrorata, resides under the soil for about a year as grub subsisting on roots of plants. It soon develops into pupa, and consequently adult towards the rainy season, remaining in its chamber until the first heavy rain comes. The beetle emerges and looks for food and mate. In a few days it dies, the female having laid dozens of eggs in the soil for the next generation.

What triggers metamorphosis is dictated by a biological clock pre-set by mature in the species. However, differential emergence among members of the population within the same species within a span of three months (April to June) is not fully understood.

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