Three modern families: the bowhead whales, the rorquals and the grey whales.
The bowhead or Greenland whale - it is that same leviathan of the fairy tales, and the legends written by authors of long ago, starting with Aristotle, who supposed that 'it' wasn't a mammal, but just a fish, albeit one that fed its young with milk, and had not gills, but lungs. Only in 1693 an Englishman John Ray proved that whale is no fish, but a mammal.
That stylized image of the whale that we usually see in illustrations of fairy tales, is copied more or less precisely from the bowhead whale. It, like all the other balaenid whales, lacks 'stripes'-the folds on the throat and the belly, and the anterior fin is also absent. The head is huge, one-third of the entire body length, on top it bulges like a dome, inside the mouth, on each side, about 320-325 narrow, dark grey baleen plates, the biggest of which reach 3.5 meters in length. The length of the whale itself is 18-22 meters, the weight up to 100 tonnes. The homeland is the Arctic, the zone of freely floating polar ice. Following it, the bowhead whales swim during the summer to the north, into the high Arctic latitudes, and during the winter - to the south, and reach Kamchatka and the northern Kuril islands.
Nowadays the bowhead whale is protected by the IUCN (just as the southern right whale, the humpback whale and the blue whale are); only the natives of Chukotka and Alaska are permitted to hunt it. Very few members of this whale species have survived.
For many centuries people have hunted the baleen whales. From the shores and bays of northern European countries they were hunted only three hundred years ago. The whaling vessels (from England alone 200-300 of them left the harbours each year) went to hunt further and further away from the coasts, into the cold Arctic. This whale was easier to harpoon than the others were, because it is not a fast swimmer or a deep diver, and it does not sink once it is dead. It does not need to be blown up with compressors to prevent the sinking, something that was very important for the old-school whalers, since the dismemberment of the corpse was done not on the vessels, which were too small for that, but right in the sea next to the vessel's side. The quite edible meat of this whale was sold, just as the fat and the baleen, from which fans, corsets, crinolines were made. A tonne of the baleen cost 2-3 thousand pounds sterling! And even nowadays all the produce harvested from the bowhead whale costs about 8 thousand dollars.
The right whales are the closest relatives of the bowhead, but their heads are smaller, only a quarter of the entire length, and the baleen aren't so big - up to 2.6 meters; externally they aren't concave, but straight, or even pressed-in; the tip of the lower jaw lacks the white spot common for the bowhead whale, but there's a horny outgrowth, like a giant wart, of a strange form and origin.
The right whales live in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, more to the south than the bowhead whale, but just as rare as the bowhead whales are. Even in the XI century the Basques hunted them at the shores of Spain, where the whales spent the winters. The globally known word 'harpoon' was taken from the Basque language.
Some scientists believe that all the right whales (except for the pygmy right whale) are a single species, the others - that they are three different species: the North Atlantic right whale (Northern Atlantic Ocean), the North Pacific right whale (the north of the Pacific Ocean) and the Southern right whale (the temperate waters of the southern hemisphere). All of these whales avoid the hot tropics. When they breach the surface, they can be easily recognized by their twin fountains, both halves of which go for three-four meters in length from the whale's blowhole at a 45-degree angle.
That fountain is the breath of the whale condensed into steam: the air, bursting under pressure from the lungs, immediately quickly spreads out, and as it does that, it cools down. Therefore it is seen as a 'fountain' of steam.
The pygmy right whale is the smallest of all the baleen whales, 6 meters in length. It is black, but strangely, with a white tongue and maw! The baleen is quite light as well, with ivory coloration, and there is a small fin on the back. The ribs of this unusual whale are more numerous than in any other whale - 34 pairs. Only two vertebrae located directly before the tail are ribless! The pygmy right whales were met near South Africa, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
The grey whale is a strange whale! In some features it resembles the right whales, in others - the rorquals, but it is not closely related to either. On its throat there are two-four short stripes, but instead of the anterior fin there are several small bumps. The neck vertebrae have not fused together as in the case of the rorquals. It is the only large whale - its' length is up to 15 meters - that feeds and reproduces in the shallows close to the shores. It, on occasion, has fun by jumping out of water and splashing there, where the depth is only four meters! It often, according to rumours, rests near the shores as well. Then it lies down calmly, even if it had run aground where the depth is only a meter. It waits for the tide and leaves with it for the deeper sea. In the shallows the grey whale escapes from the fierce killer whales as well - it closely hugs the shore. And it was also seen, probably from fear, how the grey whales went belly-up as soon as the killer whales only approached it.
Even in the historical times the grey whales lived in the North Atlantic, now they dwell only in the Pacific Ocean. There are two of their main herds: one winters and breeds at the shores of California and Mexico, the other - at the shores of South Korea. During the summer both swim, hugging the coast, to the north. The Korean grey whales - to the Ohotskoye Sea, the Californian ones - to British Columbia, many go further on, to the Bering Sea, but they do not stay even there, but go through the Bering Strait into the Chukotskoye Sea. Many of them, while migrating, swim only three-five kilometres off shore. In the north, consuming many bottom dwelling amphipod crustaceans, isopod crustaceans, polychaete worms and even the seaweeds, the grey whales gain weight, and returning to the winter grounds in the south, almost don't eat there at all.
At the beginning of the twentieth century is looked like as if the grey whales were exterminated completely. Later, small pods of them began to appear once in various places. Only before WWII, when only 250 grey whales were left, hunting them was forbidden. Nowadays roughly about six thousand grey whales winter at the shores of California and Mexico, while on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, their numbers are far smaller.
Can we pass by and not be amazing by that exceptional phenomena that the grey whale feeds (unwillingly, of course) the longest of all the parasites known to science-a forty-meter-long roundworm! It is a record for the worms. The longest of the non-parasite worms is nemertina lineus, an inhabitant of Atlantic coasts of Europe, is up to 30 meters long.
The rorqual family has six species. Five of them - the blue whale, the fin whale, the sei whale, the Bryde's whale and the minke whale - are like copies of one another in a decreasing size order, when viewed by a layperson. The blue whale is the biggest creature that has ever lived on Earth. Its' average length is about 24 meters, but 33-meter-long blue whales were seen. It weighs up to 160 tonnes! One such whale balances out 40 elephants, 180 bulls, a squad of soldiers with their full equipment or 2300 peaceful people without any equipment. The tongue of the blue whale weighs - as a large elephant! - and a newborn blue whale calf - 2 tonnes!
The fin whale is smaller than the blue whale - 18-20 meters, maximum - 27; it weighs 50-60 tonnes, maximum - 100. The sei whale is smaller yet - 15-18 meters, maximum - 21, with the weight of 12-16 tonnes. The Bryde's whale - 13 meters. The minke whale - 7-9 meters with the weight of 5-10 tonnes.
The rorquals below, on their throats and bellies, have 50-118 horizontal stripes. Only the humpback whale does not have more than 40.
These whales swim through all of the oceans, especially the blue whale, which can be found in high latitudes of Arctic and Antarctic, except for Bryde's, which doesn't leave the longitudes of the subtropics and dwells all year around near South Africa, West Indies and the north-west of Indian ocean. The blue whales were encountered in the past even in the Baltic Sea, and the minke whales were twice seen in the Black sea during the 19th century! (These miniature whales are distinguished by the white bands on the flippers.)
Blue whales nowadays are protected by the law, but very few of them are left: 2-5 thousands, as estimated in 1963. The fin whales, in that same year, were numbered 32 thousand. The humpback whales were barely more than 10 thousand.
The humpback whale is very peculiar, perhaps even homely: bigheaded, rather clumsy-looking, with wart-like outgrowths on the lips, the flippers are too long, up to the one-third of the whale's overall size (five-six meters in length, while the whale itself is 15-18 meters long). It is attracted by the shallows, bays and river mouths, which the humpback whales sometimes visit. They entered in the past, when they were numerous, the Baltic Sea and the Finland bay. In spring, the humpback whales of the southern pods migrate from the coasts of Australia, South Africa and South America to Antarctic. And from the northern subtropics of the Pacific and Atlantic - into the Bering, Chukotskoye and Barents seas.
The humpback whale only looks clumsy, it is dexterous and quick, often leaps from the water, making real dead-men's-curve above water, belly up, back below and with a loud splash it falls with its forty tonne weight into the ocean, finishing its astonishing move underwater.
The humpback whale males do all of these tricks with a special effort during autumn and winter, when they are courting the females. Then comes the ritual of a more in-contact courting. The male follows the female, with both blowing fountains. It reaches the female, the animals fall to their sides, belly to belly, and slap each other with their flippers, and so loudly that, people say, their playful slaps are heard over miles. Then they switch to their other sides, and then stood into a strange tete-a-tete poise: soldier-like, heads down and tails up, positioning them above water. Everything is still a game. It is concluded by real embraces in a vertical position, but with heads now up and above water.
Such vertical embraces are used by many other whales to conceive their calves. But not by dolphins, who did this quickly, on the go, but also only after a precluding ritual courtship.
THE WORLD OF BATS
The necessary explorations of each new space where a bat ends in for the first time create in its' brain a 'mosaic', sufficiently complete, though apparently in pieces, picture of its' surroundings, but not a visual picture - an audial one! And in the future, getting around in the explored space, this surprising, winged mammal relies firstly on its' excellent memory, apparently trusting it more than it is permitted by the changing conditions of our inconstant world.
Tamed bats were handfed, holding the hands at a particular height. Gotten used to this, the animals excellently remembered the position of the feeding hands and when a person would suddenly lower a hand with food, once hungry, the bats would seek the place in space where they remembered the food used to be, and flew, clearly confused about where did the mealworms, formerly located here, gone to.
Gotten used to living in a cage with an open door, the bats every time returned from the night flights finding the entrance without mistakes. However, should the cage be slightly moved or turned around with the entrance facing another side, so the bats could not find it at first though it was nearby, and fluttered at the old spot, where the memory guided them, as if they did not believe in the reality of the echolocation signals.
The fruit bats fly smoothly and not as flutteringly as the smaller bats do. Wide-winged bats, for example - the mouse-eared bats, so to say, fly with dignity. Their flight is easy, slow, 15-16 km/h. Narrow-winged noctule bats quickly cover 50 km per hour.
Having reached a sufficient speed, bats can even glide for a little while, and the fruit bats can slide on the wing with wide-open wings for a long time.
Starting from a branch or some other object, some bats simply fall down, and then, spreading their wings, fly. Others, while still upside down, flap their wings, forcing their body upwards, quickly released their grasp and fly. Not always do the bats sleep upside down. Many, for example, in caves, lie on horizontal bulges and ridges. From them the bats fly as if they were on ground, if they were forced to land on it: by jumping into the air.
On the ground, many bats, (but not the horseshoe bats!), defying expectations, move quickly enough, and some are actually fast. In that case, they press onto the pads of the hand joint of the wing and the soles of the hind legs. They climb vertical surfaces also well, grabbing with claws of their thumbs, which jab forwards from the wing's webbing, and the claws of their hind feet. And water, if they fall into it, does not scare the bats: flapping their wings and seemingly jumping on water, they were quickly get out from it onto the shore.
Bats, as everyone knows, during the day hide in various cracks, hollows, attics, bell towers, caves, cellars, and at night, they hunt insects. Still, the noctule bats and some other fly to hunt maybugs and other beetles early, in twilight, right after sunset. At night, they take a break, rest in tree hollows, and before dawn, they again hunt above the treetops.
For some comfortable places of rest, usually in caves and grottos, simply overwhelming multi-tudes of bats of various species gather together. In Carlsbad caves of New Mexico, USA, 9 mil-lion of these mammals gather together! In twilight, they hover at the cave's exit for 20 minutes, in a pillar seven m in diameter, which from afar (up to 2 miles) resembles smoke from a fire.
Usually, when the females are pregnant or nursing the young, the males sleep separately from them, in male companies, in other remote places. However, for some, (the Mediterranean horse-shoe bat), this rule is not followed. These animals live in families, and moreover, in some species the females feed the young without discretion!
Many bats migrate, just as birds do, to spend winter in the south, south-west, where the frosts are not intense. Some relatively nearby, for about 100-150 km, others over 300 - the pond bat. The greater mouse-eared bat from Ukraine 'immigrate' in autumn into Hungary. And USA and Canadian bats from the hairy-tailed bat genus winter on the azure shores of Florida and the Bermuda islands to which they flown a thousand miles over a stormy, autumn ocean! Still, not all hairy-tailed bats move so far: some, especially the males, prefer to winter in hibernation at their home-land or slightly more to the south.
The common noctule bat in the southern regions of the former USSR winters in hollows of thick trees, in the attics, in niches and behind window frames of abandoned and semi-abandoned houses. But from the Baltic states they fly to Slovakia and the Czech republic, to Germany, from Voronezh - to Crimea, Caucasus, and even further, to Bulgaria. And one tiny dwarf horseshoe bat, few cm in length and weighing three to five grams, ringed at Dnepropetrovsk, after 70 days, in autumn, appeared in southern Bulgaria, having flown 1150 km!
Bats that winter in caves hang wrapped in their wings, under the ceiling and from the ledges, up-side down, while the others lie horizontally on the walls. Some are firmly pressed to each other, in tight conditions, others, the lesser horseshoe bat for example - on their own. However, all feel cold to the touch. The body temperature sometimes sinks to zero. And in labs, it was lowered even to minus four or five degrees and the bat did not die after that! What other mammal is capable of this? They breathe in hibernation only 5-6 times, and the heartbeat is just 15-16 times a minute. During the active summer, the rhythm of breathing and heartbeat is completely different - correspondingly 96 and 420 times a minute.
Not everyone sleeps: transparent shadows flicker here and there in a cave. Some others even fly outside, from one cave to another. What do they seek in the middle of winter? We do not really know. Thought it is possible that those bats wake up, who in autumn failed to get married for one reason or another.
Fertilization will occur only after several months, in spring, (for the winter, the sperm is kept in the sexual organs of the female). The pregnancy, which, however, lasts for different times due to the air temperature, for the mouse-eared bats lasts 54 days, the long-eared bats - 56-100 days, the noctule bats - 73 days. The young, blind and naked, are born in June - the beginning of July. In about two months, they look just like the adults, and until then the mothers carry them. During the day, when they are asleep, they cover the youngsters with wings for warmth.
The newborn bat does not release the mother's nipple from its mouth, holds to its fur with milk teeth. That is for the vesper bats. Newborn horseshoe bats do not have teeth, and, supposedly, they cannot hold onto their mum. However, here is a different scenario: below on the belly, in the groin, is a special pair of anal, or false, nipples. They give not milk, but a place for the pup, which holds onto them with its' mouth, and correspondingly hangs on its mum not upside down as she does, but the right way up.
Later the winged mothers, flying at night to hunt, leave their offspring in remote locations, and the latter already can by themselves, hanging on with their hind legs, to hang upside down. When at the sunrise the parents return, the youngsters squeak, each, apparently, in an individual manner because the mothers recognize the voices of their children and fly to them, if it isn't the custom, as noticed in some species, to feed together their own and not their own children.
And later the teenage bat flies on its own wings into night raids. Usually the mother signals to it with ultrasounds and the youngster follows. If it loses the acoustic landmark, then it cries and the mother returns. And they youngster followed, trying to no longer lose her.
The bats in moderate climates breed only once a year, but the tropical species - two or three times. It happens that the mother still feeds one pup with milk, and the other, or two more, are already in its' womb.
Bats do not have many enemies: at night, they are attacked by owls and in twilight by the other birds of prey. In the tropics some snakes manage to hunt sleeping bats in tree hollows, some big bats eat the smaller ones, and one tropical falcon, (in Africa and Indonesia), evolved to feed almost exclusively on bats!
In our latitudes the bats suffer more not from the carnivores, but from parasites: fleas, ticks, wingless flies from the Nycterbiidae family, bugs, but not our bedbugs, though some scientists state that bats have those too, inherited from the former joint with humans' existence in caves. The rapidly advancing onto the remote mountains and forests civilization also kills many. Few spots remain, appropriate for hibernation and day rest of the bats, therefore in some places their numbers have steeply dropped.
By the number of species bats are inferior only to rodents. Many of them are impossible to describe. Let us be restricted to a select few: interesting or typical.
Firstly - our bats. Three families - horseshoe bats, vesper bats and free-tailed bats. The last are represented in our fauna (Caucasus and Central Asia) by one species - the European free-tailed bat. Its upper lips are puckered into an accordion shape of meaty folds, the ears hang over the snout, and the tail is long and mouse-like, jutting from the wings by more than one half. The free-tailed bats are encountered rarely, they are not very numerous. But in the tropics and subtropics they number several dozens of species. Living in grottos and the artificial towers of USA, they give to the enterprising people first-rate guano. (Over 100 thousand tonnes was brought out of Carlsbad caves in New Mexico.)
In our case the free-tailed bats hide in cracks of cliffs, they fly late at night, in full darkness, without sharp turns, straightforward, as swift as the swifts themselves do.
The horseshoe bats, on the other hand, are slow, but their flight is also straightforward. The tail is short, it does not protrude, and the snout is decorated with skin outgrowths that form a horseshoe in front and around the nostrils, and above it - a saddle (a skinny ridge), behind it - a lance, a protruding flap of skin. In the former USSR the horseshoe bats live only on the south of Ukraine, in Crimea, on Caucasus and in Central Asia. There are more than 50 species of them in the tropics and temporal climate belt of the Old World. They cannot crawl on horizontal surfaces as the other bats can and therefore they sleep in retreats with wide openings that can be flown into and not with narrow cracks and holes that must be crawled in.
The vesper bats - without horseshoes and other muzzle outgrowths - are our most common bats. They are many and they are different: mouse-eared bats, nyctalids, long-eared bats, eptesicuds, murines, miniopterids...
If the bat hunts at twilight, straight after sunset (in mixed and deciduous forests), and flies quickly, high, on the level of the topmost tree branches, itself being quite large, narrow-winged, reddish, catching junebugs, maybugs, and other large insects, then it is most likely a common noctule.
The common pipistrelle also does not wait for full darkness, goes to hunt early, straight after sunset, but flies in forest clearings, parks, village streets close to the ground, below the tree tops, quickly, turning often. It is small in size - the wingspan is around 20 cm. It spends the days in attics, near windows and in tree holes. Its relative, the tiny African banana bat, as a rule sleeps in young banana leaves folded at the hinges.
The mouse-eared bats (11 species - on the ex-USSR territories, 70 in the entire world) fly late, in full darkness, slowly, calmly, straightforward, without sharp dodges and turns. Only some fly quickly and chaotically. The wings are wide. The pond bat and Daubenton's bat hunt low above ponds, rivers and lakes. Natterer's bat also likes to feed near water or among the foliage; it flies slowly, smoothly, low to the ground. The tail drops to the ground, not pressed against the body as in case of the other mouse-eared bats.
Long-eared bats (with disproportionally huge ears: their length is about 4 cm and the length of head and body together - 5-7 cm) go out in full darkness. Their flight is slow, hovering. Hovering in one spot, they search a spot in the foliage or on a wall from the air, seeking insects, to grab them from a leaf or the wall and eat them. The long-eared bats sleep in tree holes, on attics, in ruins, putting their ears on their backs and hiding them under wings. They don't fly south in autumn, winter in their summer haunts, but in warmer places - in cellars, caves, warm attics, thick tree holes and in empty wells. They hide there late, in October-November, and emerge early, in March-April.
(You can read about our bats in more interesting details in the excellent book of Professor A.P. Kuziakin 'Bats'.)
And now let us go into exotic countries. There is a great variety of bats.
First - some general comments about sizes and colors.
The minimal length - 3.5 cm of body and head of the banana bat, one of the smallest mammals. It weighs 4 grams. Only some shrews are smaller and the tiniest of them all in the Mediterranean Sunkus etruscus - 2 grams! The maximal wingspan - 40-50 cm, and weight - 100 grams: the South American ghost bat and the Australian megawing, also a ghost bat. The Malayan naked free-tailed bats are almost as heavy. They are really naked, i.e. they have no fur of which only some hairs remain. Most other bats are covered in fur except for ears, nasal growths if they are present and almost the entire wing membrane. On the side of the body the free-tailed bats have pockets formed by skin folds, where during rest they hide their wings, putting them with their hind legs! The neck has another pair of such pockets for smelly glands.
'Their smell is just as shocking as their appearance is: it resembles the intense reek of a man unwashed for a long time. If the animal is held firmly in hand and its strange neck pockets with glands are opened with fingers, the stench becomes intolerable.' (Desmond Morris)
Bats usually do not boast of colorful costumes: brown, grey, some are lighter, some are almost black. But there are also red-brown, and orange-red, and crиme, and even white species! A suit most unsuited for midnight ventures it would appear.
Some South American ghost bats have white vertical stripes on head and back. The African Eptezikus has white wings but a brown body. And one African mouse-eared bat has wings black, as night and the body fur is yellow or orange - a first-rate contrast!
It happens that the females are brown, and the males are orange-red or both sexes have different color morphs - light and dark.
The insects are old and true food of majority of bats. And not just mosquitoes, as many people think, for many it mainly isn't mosquitoes, but beetles caught in flight, on the ground and among the leaves (dung beetles, tiger beetles, maybugs), crickets, moths, even caterpillars, spiders and...scorpions! The prey is caught by the wide mouth and if it is caught in a wrong way, they bend the tail webbing beneath the stomach. They will put their head there as if into a cup, drop the beetle for a second into this pocket and grabbing it into a better hold, eat the insect. They do it in flight and sitting down.
Most bats got a tail that is partially or fully covered by the skin webbing, in others, as in European free-tailed bats, the tail is half-way free or about so. Some do not have tails at all.
But the Rhinopoma has a tail! Long, thin, as long as the head and body combined, and fully protruding from the wings. Crawling into cracks and moving backwards, these bats use their tails to sense their way. Rhinopoma has big eyes, nostrils with flaps; the snout is just like a pig's. From behind, the body is hairless, and on the naked skin, in the waist, at the base of the tail and on the belly rich stores of fat are located - they are almost equal to half the weight of the entire bat.
Rhinopomas number four species (on Sumatra, in India, two other - from Egypt and Sudan eastwards, one - to Iran, the other - to Thailand). All prefer dry, open, treeless spaces. The Egyptian species use the pharaohs' pyramids as apartments and for millennia line their passes and burial chambers with guano.
In Near and South Asia, Africa and Madagascar live 10 species of nycterid bats. All of their muzzles are crossed with two strange, rather deep, horizontal channels, with nostrils located in the front deep ends. Apparently, those are amplifiers for ultrasounds. The nycterids, just like the horseshoe bats, cry not with their mouths but with their 'noses'. But they emit sounds of modular type rather like the vesper bats. It is those nycterid bats who eat scorpions in Africa!
Their tails are simply unimaginable! Their ends branch, split into a T-shape and formed a fork that no one else in the world has. Both ends support the wing membranes.
The ghost bats of the Old World are closely related to the nycterids. They number five species (Africa, South Asia, and Australia). They are tailless, and like many ghost bats of South America have fulfilled a natural and simple transition from pure insectivory to carnivory. A sufficient size and jaw strength allowed them to catch and eat small birds, lizards, frogs and their small kin - other bats. Four big ghost bats picked clean two pigeons that they were fed during their nine-day journey from Trinidad to New York. Their relative and neighbor, Phyllostomus, ate three bats in a night. Another Phyllostomus, when it was caged with a free-tailed bat, suddenly spread its almost 50 cm wide wingspan, fell onto the free-tail from the top as a demon, bit through head and neck and then devoured the free-tail whole.
Ghost bats also eat fruits (even tear and swallow flowers!) but most prefer to leave the vegetarian produce, so to say, for reserve, if there is a possibility to catch a small warm- or cold-blooded animal.
The small relatives of South American ghost bats, hovering at a flower like a hummingbird or a sunbird, lick nectar and pollen with a long thin tongue. In captivity they were fed with sugar or honey water, the animals drank it in flight from a flat cup. Often those flowers sit directly onto flowers, grab it with wings and legs and drink, or rather sip the sweet juice. Just like hummingbirds they eat insects too.
The unquestionable adaptation of the winged mammals and flowers to each other proves that their mutual services are being practiced in nature for a long time. The mammal 'hummingbirds' have narrow muzzles, long tongues with bristles on tips that catch drops of juice. And the flowers of plants that are pollinated by bats are strong, big, bell-shaped, with wide openings, open at night, which is when they have most nectar. Their smell is usually somewhat sour, stiff, but bats are attracted by it. These flowers grow on tips of long branches or right on trunks beneath the branches so that the chiropteran pollinators had an easier time getting to them.
Many leaf-nosed bats eat fruits, nuts and seeds.
They are called so for strange muzzle outgrowths, sometimes stretched upwards in shape of long stilettos, for example in case of Lonchorhynes: the stiletto is 2 cm and the whole body is just 4 cm long! The fruit-eaters are stenodermas, carollias, and artibeuses. The last ones go into world's records: plant food goes through their digestive tract in 15-20 minutes. That is almost a produc-tivity record! Of course, fruit seeds do not have time to be digested in such a short period, and so the role of bats as sowers is great.
When Columbus and his followers brought to Europe tales about winged demons of night that suck human blood, then Karl Linnaeus, following this impression rather his common sense, without sorting it out give the vampire name to the biggest and scariest (with a stiletto on the nose!) American bat, from then on called a great vampire. The word 'false', necessary for clarity and justice, is not even often added to this undeserved name. An unhappy mistake was made, for true vampires that suck blood (they do exist!) are not of the leaf-nosed family and are not as huge as the fruit-eaters and active carnivores the ghost bats are. Wingspan-wise they are three times as small and in weight they are four times lighter. Anyhow, the bloodsucker family has three different genuses and three species. All are American (from Mexico to Uruguay plus the Trinidad Island), all have bulldog snouts with upturned noses, all are tailless, have incisors with sharp edges, fangs with sharp (hair-thin!) tips to lightning-fast inflict delicate slices 1-5 mm deep, their stomachs are long, with thin walls, gut-like, much twisted, stretchable - very useful for a large liquid meal. Stomachs of same type are found among other bloodsuckers - leeches and mosquitoes.
And as in case of leeches the true vampires' saliva has a special anticoagulant and some other, probably an anaesthetic, substance!
The anaesthetic is needed so that humans, horses, cows, goats, pigs, dogs, checks and other domestic (as a rule) or wild (it is not excluded) warm-blooded (necessarily) animals would not wake up, did not feel the attack before time and did not chase the bloodsucker away.
And the vampire is greedy and gluttonous: it will not leave until it sucks so much blood that it can hardly move. A vampire in captivity licked empty a full bowl of blood in 20 minutes! Barely it gets back into air and it flies into some hole in the cliff side, a cave, more rarely - a hole in a tree or beneath a roof, and getting there, it hangs out, sleeps for several days alone or in a thousand of its relatives or other bats, until it digests its terrible food and hunger chases it out to hunt again. Then the vampire flows low, a meter of the ground, straightforward, and the echolocation of the mammal works poorly, a thousand times weaker than of its insectivorous cousins.
Attacking anyone, the vampire sits on a sleeping or slumbering animal quietly, carefully; it does not feel the landing. The soft pads on hind legs and wings serve exactly this purpose as the vampire lands. The lightning-fast bite is not felt either, the anaesthetic apparently works. But usually the vampire lands next to the victim and quickly crawls to it. Then it resembles a huge brown spider. People say that with fluttering of its wings the vampire deepens a victim's sleep and to prevent them from waking, it hovers in mid-air, licking blood. But zoologists did not see this, and therefore a full certainty that this happens is absent.
It was said that the vampire licks blood, also that it sucks blood, laps it up. How it really happens?
'The process most likely happens thusly that the animal, using its teeth, makes a deep wound in skin. It then licks up the abundant blood with tongue or, possibly, it sucks blood too.' (Martin Eisenstraut)
'The tongue is positioned on the wound thusly that the deep grove in the centre of the lower lip forms a channel through which the blood flows. The sides of the tongue are bent downwards, so that its lower side is embossed. The tongue slowly moves in and out forming an incomplete vacuum in the mouth and the blood fills it by flowing into the mouth.' (Ernest Walker)
The vampire-inflicted wounds are not dangerous by themselves. The follow-up bleeding is more dangerous: they last for eight hours after the bite and are often abundant. One child, it happened in Panama, was bitten by the vampire in a big toe. He did not wake up, but was strongly worried in his sleep. This woke-up the woman who was sleeping next to him, she looked and gasped! The child's legs literally swam in blood and the bed was saturated with blood completely. Humans do not die from blood loss after vampire attacks, but puppies in Native villages die almost completely. Adult dogs rarely suffer from vampires since their acute hearing allows them to de-tect the ultrasound whispers of the bloodsucker in time. Domestic livestock - mules, horses, cows, feeding vampires with their blood night after night, lose weight, become alarmed, run around on their pastures, eat poorly and die. Flies infest the bleeding wounds with their maggots, various bacteria do not dawdle either. Where vampires are plentiful, farming is under threat and in places it is absolutely impossible. For vampires do not just drain the animals, but also infest them with rabies and with a serious sickness called murrain.
Most common are the common vampires or Desmodus. They, let us call them thus, social ghouls: they settle in caves thousands or hundreds strong, hang there closely to each other, both males and females. Or they crawl quickly and adroitly over vertical and horizontal walls. Their settlements are given away by a strong smell of ammoniac that comes from puddles of half-digested blood. The females of this species give birth to a single pup after a three-four month pregnancy, and later on - another pup in the same year. The pups are not carried on breast or back, but are left hanging underground when the adults fly for fresh blood.
The hairy-legged vampire bat externally looks like the common vampire, but is usually smaller in size. This vampire also attacks donkeys, horses, cows, but prefers chicken blood to any other. It bites chicken in the legs, while the common vampire goes for the combs, or, hanging upside down from the chicken tail, bites into the cloacae.
The same tastes are for the white-winged vampire (the wingtips are white!). In captivity it just did not want to drink bull's blood, but chicken blood it drank. It attacked the guinea pig too. In the wild it attacks goats, besides chickens.
In the mouth of a white-winged vampire, inside the cheeks, are large inflated glands. When threatening, it opens the mouth, moves those glands forwards and maliciously hisses, spreading the infernal smell of sulphur (and fungi!). A veritable devil...
Some bats on occasion also catch fish, the macrodermas for example, but only noctilio and pizonix acquired a narrow and complete specialization in this direction.
Noctilio number two species: the smaller does not catch fish and we will not talk about it. The greater noctilio lives from Mexico to Northern Argentina, on Antilles and Trinidad. Its males have orange-reddish backs; the females are grey or brown. The hind legs are strong, long and the talons on them are sharp and twisted, just as an osprey's, only, of course, not as large.
In twilight, at night, (and sometimes in afternoon, closer to evening, in pelican company) those big bats fly low above the waters of lakes and seacoasts. Suddenly they dip paws into water, grab a small fish and immediately put it into their mouths. There they will either hide it in cheek pouches to eat it later in a cave or a tree hole, or will eat it in flight. They catch marine crustaceans too, terrestrial beetles, winged ants, but fish is their main food. In captivity, the noctilio devoured nightly up to 30-40 small fishes each.
The pizonix fishing bat is the relative of the mouse-eared bats. During the day it hides in cliff cracks on the shores of the Californian bay, in stone piles, in caves. Even in shells of dead sea turtles and among bird nests! It 'fishes' in the evenings, before the sun sets, and before sunset proper it returns into its strange home. Its hind legs are just as long with claws just as sharp, as the noctilio's are, and probably just as the later the pizonix echolocates fish underwater.
The second suborder of the chiropterans are the flying foxes (fruit bats or megabats), habit-wise similar to the bats, especially those that eat fruits. Most fruit bats have literally canine heads, with long muzzles, big eyes, sharp ears, quite proportional, not oversized, as in case of many bats. And their muzzles also lack indescribable outgrowths - radar amplifiers.
Only the tube-nosed megabats, whose nostrils form small tubes sticking onto sides, and also the rosette fruit bats, have echolocation, apparently.
The Latin name of the fruit bats, 'megachiroptera', meaning in English 'megabats' is not quite true. The smallest of fruit bats are not bigger than average bats, the biggest - the Javanese kalong - is no more than a meter and a half in wingspan and it weighs around one kg. Color-wise the fruit bats are mostly brown, some lighter, others darker, almost black. The subfamily of epauletted fruit bats almost all names have on their shoulders or necks (or both) full knots of hair yellow or white in color. Those signs of manliness apparently emit corresponding aromas, since there are glands under the 'epaulettes' and the 'collar'.
A zoogeographical riddle - the distribution of megabats through the countries of the world. They live only in the Old World - in moist, fruit tree rich tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Near East, south of the Arabian peninsula and Iran, India, South China, Indochina, Indonesia, on the Philippines, Micronesia, north and east of Australia. Is it far from Australia (and there are four species of fruit bats!) to Tasmania and New Zealand? But there are no megabats. Is it far from Western Africa to Eastern Brazil? Straight on - 2500 k. To an owner of powerful wings it is not that much, but there are not any megabats in America either. Even more, the flying foxes, having settled Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia, India, and in the west - Mascarene, Seychelles, Comoro islands, Madagascar and Pembu island, 49 km away from the African shores, don't live in Africa itself for some reason. The rosette megabats (some of the few megabats that live in caves and possess echolocation), devouring tons of fruits from Africa to Indonesia, do not ruin the plantations of Australia and Polynesia, fortunately for the local landowners: there are no rosette megabats and also no one knows why.
The harpy bats live only on the Philippines and Sulawesi. And such overly patriotic attraction to small countries and regions is not rare among the megabats.
The jungles and plantations of tropics with wild and domestic bananas, oranges, various mangos, guavas, papayas, pandanas, dates, mombinas, avocados, fruits of baobabs and mangroves - are a plentiful dinner for the fruit bats at any time of year. Hanging upside down on one leg, with the other they bring the fruit to the mouth and eat it. Many, (if not all), not even swallow the fruit flesh but chew it, suck the juice and spit it out together with seeds and pits. Some drink juice straight from the fruit. They eat flowers too and tube-noses may also eat flowers on occasion. The long-tongued fruit bats or Macroglossinae, landing onto the flowers of tropical begonias, baobabs, acacias, agaves and sticking into them a pointed muzzle, suck nectar as the already-mentioned bats.
They feed at nights and in twilight, during the day they sleep on big trees, in dense impenetrable bushes (Australian grey-headed and African epauletted fruit bats), in caves (rosette, some long-tongued and flying foxes, sometimes hammerheads too) or even in a bent leaf (the dwarf long-tongued bat). In thousands do the megabats hang on giant trees, fully covering their tops. And sometimes they gather in such multitudes that the branches, failing to endure such immense weight, loudly break away, and the megabats crying fly and land on new branches. The noise is such that where the flying foxes settle on trees of city parks even the city transport remains unheard.
The trees are chosen by their size, endurance and height, so that it would be better to fly up to them. If it is cool, the fruit bats wrap themselves into wings as if it was a blanket. If it is cold (less than +10 degrees), they will hide their muzzle under the wings too and breathe there air warmed by their own body, and will hide on hind leg there too and hang on the other one. When it is warm, the wings are held loosely to permit the breeze. If the sun is hot, they will completely open up and flap wings, imitating a fan. And if the heat is really intense (+40 and more degrees) then they lick their chest, stomach and wings. The moisture, evaporating, cools the flying foxes down.
The epauletted fruit bats prefer solitude: to rest they prefer small trees, sometimes shrubs, and sleep by themselves or in small groups. One of their member (an epauletted fruit bat family-wise but without epaulettes) does not look like any of its fox-headed kin, for his head is 'a wild caricature of a horse head, drawn in profile'! Big-nosed, big-lipped, massive - the owner of this 'surrealist' construction is called the hammerhead. Its homeland - Equatorial Africa, from Uganda through Congo, Northern Angola, Cameroon to Gambia (and the island of Fernando-Po). When it grabs a fruit with its lipped muzzle, the hammerhead sucks juice out and then dumps the rest.
'Lang and Chapin in 'Bats of Belgian Congo' (1917) write 'No other beast has everything subjugated to throat organs'. The adult males have a pair of nasal sacks that open on the sides of a throat that can be willingly inflated and also a huge, increased throat and vocal cords. The throat is 'almost equal in length half of the backbone', occupies a great part of the chest cavity and pushes heart and lung backwards and sideways. The cry produced by all this, a continuous quacking or croaking, is truly wonderful and apparently attracts the females. The group choruses reminded Lang and Chapin of 'a pond full of vocal forest frogs, increased many times in size and transported to a tree tip' (Ernest Walker).
Hammer-headed males, in whose chests the heart gave way to a singing instrument, spend the nights croaking on trees in short intervals. Captured by loud admissions, spread by echo through the jungles, their girlfriends fly to them, spreading in the night their almost meter-long wings.
Since the hammerheads do not have an established mating season, the chorals of croaking serenades connect to the ears of the winged ladies during any time of year.
Madagascar has no monkeys, no artiodactyls (except for the brush-eared pig, now-extinct hippos and feral cattle), no rhinos, elephants, carnivores (except for several species of viverrids), lagomorphs, real rats and mice, several reptiles (such as the agamas and the monitor lizards), many African birds.
Instead, there are local, found nowhere else, endemics, as they are called. Firstly, (aside from the chameleons, who number 35 species here!), it is the lemurs: two fifths of all the mammals of Madagascar. The others, almost three fifths, are the tenrecs. Golden bats - one species, represents a particular family, also only found on Madagascar. In total: five endemic mammal families - three of the prosimians, one of the tenrecs and one of the golden bats. Four endemic families of birds, two subfamilies of frogs, one of pythons and two genus of iguanas, which, as people known, live only in South America, except for one more genus on the islands of Fiji.
The similarity with the fauna of far, remote continents is demonstrated not only by these huge lizards, the iguanas, but also by frogs, typical for the Indo-Malaysian region, rodents that are related to the American species, the tenrecs - 'cousins' to the solenodons of the Antilles, and, finally, by the lemurs themselves, which, aside from Africa, can be found only in very remote south Asian countries.
How such a zoological cocktail could have gathered on Madagascar?
The most possible explanation: once upon a time, all of these now-distant islands and continents were united by land. This supposed giant continent, 150 MYA consisted of Africa with Madagascar, South America, Australia, South Asia, and, possibly, Antarctic, and was called Gondwana or Gondwanaland. It fell apart, forming modern continents and islands. Australia, and possibly Antarctic, swam away in the southeasterly direction first. The sea began to advance to that part of Gondwanaland, which is currently submerged by the Indian Ocean. But a still-significant part of the continent united Africa with Asia through the islands of Madagascar, Commores, Amirant, Maldives, Laccadives, and so on. It is often called Lemuria, since, possibly, this continent was the center of the lemurs' development. And even nowadays the greatest number of their species has remained on Madagascar, this 'beating hear' of the deceased Gondwanaland. Madagascar was connected with Africa very long ago, and, apparently, one more time during the Ice Age, through a chain of intermediate islands (the Commores, etc). Then, probably, did the now-extinct hippos and forest pigs arrive on it.
All of Madagascar's prosimians are from the infraorder of Strepsirrhini. Three families: the Lemuridae (16 species, out of which 6 are dwarf lemurs), Indriidae (4 species), Daubentoniidae (1 species).
All of the lemurid lemurs have long, luxurious, monotonous tails. Only the ring-tailed lemur's tail is covered in horizontal, black and white rings. It has five related species, all of which live on trees, while the ring-tailed lemur - on the ground, and actually avoids the forests and trees, preferring to them the mountainous regions of South Madagascar. Its lifestyle is mostly diurnal, just as, though, in case of its relatives, except for the ruffed lemur, which, apparently, is also the only one of their number that makes nests.
The ring-tailed lemur's tail is the main information organ: like a black-white striped flag, raised up, it agitates the lemur's cohorts. When the lemur aims its 'flag' at them, they mew, purr in satisfaction. But usually the beginning of the 'discussion' is forerun by the aromatization of the tail. Bending it under itself and pushing it beneath the belly with all four paws, the ring-tailed lemur presses the tail's tip to the inner sides of its right and left shoulders. It rubs the tail against the glands marked with horny spikes. After perfuming the tail, it first raises it over the head, and, waving it, as if spreading through the wind the tail's new smell, it squeaks, purrs, piteously mews.
Then quite mysterious manipulations, whose meaning has not been quite understood, follow.
Standing on its hind legs, the ring-tailed lemur brings its tail forwards and adhering to it both of its forelimbs, anoints its tail anew. Picks up from the ground leaves, bits of bark, and, sticking them to those same glands, rubs them with sharp movements. Then it rubs against branches with the glands of its shoulders, armpits and anal glands that are present in a ring-tailed lemur as well.
Apparently, it so marks the borders of its territory. But the rubbing of the tail is harder to explain. If it's 'cosmetics', lubrication of fur, then why only the fur of the tail?
On the ground the ring-tailed lemur walks, with its luxurious tail bent elegantly over its back. It accurately eats wild bananas and figs so not to dirty the fur. Taking them in its paws, it peels us-ing its teeth, and then, tipping the head so that the juice dripped straight into its mouth and not dirtied the fur, it eats the cleaned fruit. It loves to warm itself, lying in the sun, sitting on a rock and spreading far to the side all for paws and the tails. The jumps of the animal are elegant and excellent: it easily jumps for three meters upwards as a rubber ball does.
All of the lemurs mark one way or another the borders of their territories. Some do it as the bushbabies and the tree shrews do, others do it differently. The black lemur, for example. On its palms and wrists there are many sweat glands, and it diligently rubs tree branches with its paws.
Each pack of the black lemurs has its own feeding territories. If their neighbours invade them, all of the proper owners immediately rush to defend their borders. Noise, yells, squabbles are common in such border conflicts. But nighttime resting places, always on one, specifically determined spot, is common for many of such groups, belligerent to each other during the day. Each pack comes there via its own path, shaking the woods with their wild cries along the way, and on the sunrise they leave the same way. A white-moustached female of high rank is leading in the front, everybody else follows her. The tempo of the column's movement either speeds up or down; those, who fell behind, and there are always such, cry in anger, demanding for the others to wait for them. Usually, it is the young ones who are falling behind. And everyone is tender and caring for the youngsters. Whether they are their own or not - they pet them, lick them, befriend them.
Because of the females' white moustaches a zoological mess-up occurred. The males of these lemurs are brownish-black, and the females are red with white moustaches, or rather sideburns. Initially it was thought that both genders are animals of different species.
The black, or macaque, lemurs hop with eight-meter jumps from tree to tree and through foliage, as if they were birds! When birds of prey are chasing them instead, the black lemurs escape as moths, escaping from the bats' sonar, do: fall downwards from the tall trees, like lightning they rush through the lower branches and the undergrowth, then - on the ground through the shrubbery to a remote tree, and from then on - through the tree tops.
Nine tenths of Madagascar's woodlands are destroyed by forest industry. This threatens many species of lemurs with death. The dwarf furry-legged lemur has already died out, most likely. The same fate soon awaits the ruffed lemur too, most likely.
And it is an interesting lemur. It got deep sideburns and a dense collar on its neck. And fur, surprisingly heavy for an inhabitant of the tropics, so dense, that rainstorms cannot penetrate it. Its colouration is very beautiful: same races have a mottled, black and white fur, others - reddish-black. It lives in dense jungles on the north of the island.
The ruffed lemur is the only nocturnal mammal of the Lemuridae. And the only one that makes nests. The female, before it gives birth to her young, pulls out its fur from the sides and lines the next. It carries the offspring like a belt across the stomach, later on the back. It stays with its mother for a long time. But just at two months of age it jumps and plays with its father already.
Like the ring-tailed lemur, the ruffed lemur purrs and mews when its spiritual peace is not disturbed. But, disturbed or alarmed, it emits such terrifying and deafening cries, that even a distant listener is scared. When the ruffed lemurs decide to cry out in a zoo, nervous visitors can get into embarrassing situations. In wild mountain woods, the choral cries of the ruffed lemurs, amplified by the echo many times, sound especially terribly.
Due to these heart wrenching cries and for the manner to warm in the morning sun with outspread forelimbs and muzzle aimed at the sun (in a praying poise) the natives earlier believed that this prosimian is a sacred sun-worshipper. They feared and did not bother the ruffed lemurs. And the latter got used not to be scared of people. Nowadays civilization and education have freed many from the old superstitions and the ruffed lemurs lost their centuries-old 'protection'. So strangely, and in different ways, benefit or extinction of animals depends on the mankind's ancient belief in the supernatural.
So far the discussion was about Madagascar's prosimians from the subfamily of Lemuridae. In the latter, aside from the lemur and hapolemur genus, there also are one or two species of 'quick' lemurs from the lepilemur genus. These lemurs are interesting that they jump from tree to tree standing up, vertically. Pushing away from the branches only with straightened-out rear legs and balancing with the spread-out arms and tail (in a similar way, I shall foreshadow, the indri jump too). These lemurs engage in such acrobatics during the night, so to see these circus tricks is impossible. But recently a big study of lemurs was undertaken on Madagascar and saw it all through a telescope in infrared light.
The newborn youngster of the lepilemur is so weak that for the first days it cannot hold onto its mother, and the latter carries it in the mouth.
In the family of the Lemuridae, but in the subfamily of the dwarfs, six more species exist, and among them is the tiniest of the primates - the mouse lemur.
It is the size of a large mouse. Grey above, whitish below, a white stripe is on its muzzle, going along the bridge of its nose. This is a nocturnal animal that feeds on insects and some fruits. During the day it sleeps in tree holes, lining them with leaves. Often it builds between two branches a nest made from twigs, similar to those made by birds, and lines them with fur.
Also, the mouse lemur stores fat, and during the hot dry season of the year, from July to September, it hibernates, waking up neither at night nor during the day.
The newborn offspring (two-three in each litter) are so tiny - one thousand times smaller than human babies are. The mother carries the newborns grabbing the fur on their sides with its teeth, and they never hang off the mother, neither below nor from the back.
The family of Indriidae is special. It has four species: the indri, the diadem sifaka, Verraux's sifaka, and the avagi.
The biggest is the indri, when it stands on its rear legs; it reaches 93 centimetres in height. But its tail is tiny. All of Madagascar's lemurs have long tails. They are long even in all of the other Indriidae lemurs (admittedly, almost without muscles and therefore they're supposedly useless). Black indris occur, as do almost white, but usually their coloration is like that of the Siamese cat: beige with dark brown. The muzzle is hairless, black. The throat sack is connected to the vocal cords. Apparently, it is the resonator; indri's voice is powerful, 'with pitiful tones and harmonic modulations'. Its cries contain human cries of pain and terror and something canine, which is why it is called the 'forest dog'. And its name of 'indri' is a result of misunderstanding: from Madagascar 'indri izu' ('oh, wow'). The exclamation, completely unrelated to the case, was taken to be the local name of the animal.
Indri's nickname of 'amboanala' (the 'forest dog') is explained by an old legend this way also: in the old times the indris were supposedly trained to bird hunt. It has many legends on Madagascar: that it is the direct brother of people, and that it is dangerous to hunt. Firstly because the indri dexterously grabs the spear thrown at it in midflight and immediately throws it back at the hunter. Secondly, it is a sun-worshipper. At the sunrise, during the morning, the indri and the sifaka turning towards the east, raising their hands to the sky, warm in the sunrays. The poise in the eyes of humans is worshipful, hence the superstitious fear before the false priests of the sun.
The sifaka has an elongated and hairless muzzle, just as the indri has, but the tail is long and the ears are small, hidden in the fur. The coloration is varied, with yellow, red, white tones. The so-called patagium is developed in sifaka the best than in all other Indriidae: it is the elongated skin at the sides of the arms down to the armpits and the chest. It is the forerunner of the parachute that in its final form we can see in the flying squirrels and other gliding animals.
The avagi is generally similar to the sifaka, but it is smaller, its muzzle is rounded and furry, as if the avagi, the only one in its family, is unshaven. It is brownish-grey with a red tail. It is nocturnal, the other Indriidae are diurnal.
All four are vegetarians. All jump through the trees, like the lepilemurs, vertically, pushing away and grabbing after the jump with only their hind legs, with such force that the sifakas, for in-stance, often fly ten meters. They climb by calmly using their paws. On the ground they jump on their rear legs, stretching their arms before them. The jumps are magnificent - four meters long!
In the northeast and in some places of northwest, in the remaining dense forests and bamboo jungles of Madagascar, lives the aye-aye. Among Madagascar's natives, it is also called the 'hay-hay', both names deriving from the animal's own cry.
Here it awakened at the sunset. It left the tree hole and firstly, as it is the lemurs' custom, it combs itself. It carefully cleans its black fur, and its ears, and eyes, and nose. Its fingers are surprisingly long, and the index finger is especially thin, as it withered away, it looks like it has only some very, very long bones. And it is with the third finger that the aye-aye cleans itself.
Once it is finished with that, it climbs trees. It finds an old tree, eaten by the beetles' larvae, and beings to knock with the third finger at the bark, like a woodpecker with its beak. It knocks, and leaning its big, sensitive ears to the trunk, it listens: won't an empty space beneath the bark be found somewhere; won't a stupid, fat larva give itself up by fleeing in panic?
As soon as that happens, the aye-aye immediately begins to use its amazing teeth. They are just like a squirrel's: the canines are absent, and there are only two incisors in each jaw. And the incisors are just like a rodent's: rootless, growing throughout its life. The enamel is only in front, absent behind, and therefore the teeth sharpen themselves. Because of them it was believed earlier that the aye-aye is closer related to rodents than to primates. A special order for it alone was established. But the famous English biologist Richard Owen, having studied the aye-aye's milk teeth, established that in every way they are the primates' teeth. They change greatly with age. And they change because while the aye-aye is not a rodent, but it needs its teeth to chew.
Anyhow, after establishing the exact dislocation of the branching passageways of the bark beetles, the aye-aye chews the bark. Chewing a hole through it, it sticks the long third finger into the opening and extracts the larva.
The aye-aye eats sugar cane; chews the hardy shell of coconuts, mangrove fruits. And if given an egg, it will chew an accurate hole in it, and then with the same irreplaceable finger, without breaking the shell, it will exactly the yellow and white content of the egg and eat it.
And do you know how the aye-aye drinks? With the finger. Very, very quickly it dips the finger into the water: it dips and it sucks, dips and sucks.
The artful, squirrel-like, spherical nests (half a meter in the circumference) of the aye-aye are woven from the leaves of the very famous palm 'the travellers' tree' and enforced by dry sticks.
The aye-aye is quiet. Rarely its voice is heard, resembling that of metal pieces rubbing against each other. But when scared it cries 'Rron-tzit!', and not 'aye-aye' as it was thought before.
It isn't very scared of people often, instead of fleeing, it scratches and bites. For centuries human superstitions protected it. To kill an aye-aye, according to the old belief, was to sign a death warrant for yourself that will come true no later than in half a year. If a person falls asleep in the forest and an aye-aye will see them, then it'll make a pillow from branches. If, once awakened, that person will find the pillow under his or her head - they'll be rich. If under feet - he or she will soon die.
But plenty has changed on Madagascar, and more importantly, the woods where the aye-aye have lived, are being cut down. The animals are very rare and are dying out. However, the au-thorities of Madagascar decided to save them. A small island off the north-eastern coast of Madagascar was given to them for living space.
'Before 1966 nine aye-ayes were moved there. It is, of course, only the first undertakings that must ensure the saving of the species' (Doctor Kurt Kollar).
AMERICAN OR FLAT-NOSED MONKEYS
In the early Tertiary period, during the Eocene, monkeys lived in Europe and North America. Then the climate there was more appropriate for them. Now the monkeys inhabit only Central and South America, Africa and South Asia.
Monkeys that are divided by oceans now have many things in common. All have rounded ears, of the human type. The face is naked or slightly hairy. The skull is relatively large, even in comparison with the lemurs. For example, a dwarf galago and a marmoset are equally small, but the brain of the former is three times smaller!
And those famous lines of 'life', 'heart' and 'mind,' the bumps of 'Jupiter', 'Mercury', 'Apollo', the valleys of 'Mars' and the other 'mystical' signs on the palms of hands, by the design of which the chiromancers foretell fate, riches and etc.! If they are correct, then then every monkey is fat-ed to have the same successes and failures in life. For their hairless palms and soles are lined with the same individual design of lines and furrows just as the humans' do. So individual and non-repeating that the legal expertise can take fingerprints from monkeys as well as from humans.
More than that, even the naked grasping and sensing 'soles' of the bottom half of tails are just as furrowed.
Talking of grasping tails, we have reached those morphological points that separate the monkeys of Old and New World. For tails that have evolved into a fifth limb are found only among the American monkeys. But not among all: only in 4 genera and approximately 14 species - howler, spider and woolly monkeys. The capuchin monkeys also can, reaching out with their tail, to pull towards themselves or to drag after, various objects, (for example, a food bowl!). But the capuchin tails do not have naked 'soles' at the end.
Among the Old World monkeys only the young guenons and the adult mangabeys can hang, while grasping a branch with their tail.
Many zoologists call the American monkeys flat-nosed, and the Old World monkeys - narrow-nosed. In case of the former, the nostrils are divided by a wide ridge and jut slightly to the sides. In the latter, the ridge is narrow; the nostrils are close to each other and are directed forwards. However, this division is not significantly clear, for there are species with an intermediary nose shape: for example, the owl monkey - a monkey that is flat-nosed in the zoological terms, yet its' nose is quite narrow, while the gibbons' noses are sufficiently flat.
The American monkeys never have big buttocks that so disfigure the rear ends of baboons, guenons, macaques and gibbons. They also do not have cheek pouches that are well developed in baboons, guenons, macaques, and are underdeveloped in Colobinae monkeys.
The American monkeys are mainly vegetarian, but eat insects and small vertebrates. The howler monkeys eat exclusively leaves. In addition, in this they resemble the Colobinae monkeys of the Old World, and among the lemurs - the indri.
The thumbs on hands, but not on feet, of the American monkeys, (except for some species, such as the saki and the uakari) cannot open as widely as those of the Old World monkeys, which can oppose the other fingers and form firmly grasping 'pincers'.
The flat-nosed monkeys, except for the marmosets, are toothier. They have 36 teeth, the narrow-nosed monkeys - 32. The former are pregnant for six months, and the latter - from six to eight, and the apes - for 230-290 days.
The superfamily of the flat-nosed monkeys has two families: the Cebidae (with six subfamilies):
Night monkeys and titi - 9 species
Saki and uakari - 7 species
Howler monkeys - 6 species
Capuchin and squirrel monkeys - 6 species
Spider and woolly monkeys - 8 species
The cotton-top tamarin - 1 specie
And the marmosets (and their cousins) - 33 species.
The night monkey or the douroucoulie is the only monkey in the world that lives like an owl: at night, it terrorizes sleeping birds, frogs, lizards, spiders, insets. It eats fruit as well and sucks nectar. Its' night vision is excellent and its night attacks are so perfect, that it even grabs in acrobatic jumps the insects that fly past it.
The night monkeys hunt in pairs, male and female, and during the day, they sleep together. At night and especially at dawn the jungles of the Amazon and the Orinoco jungles are shaken by the multi-vocal night monkey concerts. They have dog barking and cat mewing and even jaguar roars and sometimes - a quiet, melodical chirping and chipping. Scientists have counted more than fifty sounds of various volume and character in these monkeys' voice, whose acoustical power is clearly disproportional to the strength and size of this mammal: the night monkey weighs 500-1000 g, the length without the tail - 24-37 cm.
The reason is in the resonators - the widened trachea and the air sac under the owl monkey's chin. In addition, the monkey folds its lips into a loudspeaker when it cries.
The relatives of the night monkey, the titi monkeys cry just as loudly in the mornings.
The titi monkeys number four, eight, or even ten species in the opinion of different scientists. How many there are in reality can be established with difficulty, as the South American rainforests still have been poorly explored, and the inner-specie changeability of many monkeys is too great. The nails of the titi monkeys are elongated like as claws just as in case of the marmosets, but all the other features and the way of life, (just diurnal) - just like the night monkey's.
The titi monkeys have an interesting manner of waiting for prey: they sit across a branch, bunching their arms and legs together, and dropping the long tail down. Out of this supposedly uncomfortable position, they attack in a lightning strike, grabbing prey that is passing or flying by.
The saki monkeys live in primary rainforests of the South American interior. Many places where they live get long floods by the waters of the great rivers of the Amazon basin. In addition, monkeys do not like the damp. Therefore, the jungle canopy restricts a greater part of their living space. Therefore, life taught them to jump so far and skillfully that not every monkey can. However, if they need to descend to the ground, and they descend always tail first, carefully and without any unnecessary rush, then the saki monkeys walk on their hind legs, balancing with their forepaws that they raise upwards.
In zoos, it was noted that the saki monkeys like to rub their fur with pieces of lemon. In addition, they drink like this: they put their arms into water and then lick them.
The uakari belong to the same subfamily as the sakis do. These are the shortest-tailed American monkeys. Only the big uakari, and they number 4 species, the tail is longer than one-third of its' body length. The others have it from 9 to 15 cm in length. The uakari are also the most 'ape-like' of all the American monkeys. With their sad, lost facial expression of the naked, apoplexically red face and naked forehead they resemble a hypochondriac, old before their time and without any hope left.
Yet the attitude of the uakaris is lively and cheerful. Appearance, as it often happens, is misleading here as well. They are completely not apathetic, often get furious and then they energetically and powerfully shake the branch on which they are sitting, and when they are threatening, they loudly smack their lips.
Even the thunderous lion roar is not as loud as the cry of the howler monkey - a monkey that may be the biggest in the Americas, but still fairly small. Its body length without the tail - 1 m, and weight - in base case 8 kg. Usually the 'singing' starts by an old male, then a second one. Then the entire pack begins to emit such cries that even if you plug your ears you are threatened with deafness. The nearest pack immediately replies to the neighbours, and the wild concert sometimes lasts for hours. You can hear a lion's roar, and a tiger's snarls, and the 'a-hu, a-hu' cries, and up to eight of less loud vocal 'phrases'. The howler monkeys usually cry in mornings and evenings and also during the day and even at night, since they often do not sleep at night either.
In the depth of the rainforest, the cries of the howler monkeys are heard at more than 2 km away, and in more open places - at more than 5!
Of course, they have powerful vocal chords, but this is not enough, they also need a loudspeaker and a resonator. The loudspeaker is the dexterous lips of monkeys that the howler monkeys shape into a funnel. Here is your megaphone. In addition, the resonator is the inflated, hollow...bone beneath the tongue: a most unusual model among all the resonators invented by nature in millions of years.
The different species of howler monkeys live from South Mexico to Paraguay. The color of their fur is very different, but usually it is one of three colours: black, yellowish-brown and bright orange. The dexterous tail is so strong that a howler monkey, grabbing a branch with it, can jump to the next one without arms or legs.
They do not like to jump, but run among and climb trees, but so quickly that a person chasing them on the ground will tire and fall behind.
One young howler monkey that lived with the human who had raised it, liked carrots a lot. It was amusing to watch what it did, when it was showed various botanic books with illustrations. Many unappetizing, in its' opinions, vegetables and fruits were ignored, but as soon as it saw a carrot, it immediately tried to pull it out of the book with its hand. This, naturally, was impossible, so it used its mouth next. It licked the picture and found in it, apparently, some satisfaction.
'Among the American monkeys the capuchins externally and behavioristically resemble the gue-nons of the Old World. They have no special adaptations, as, for example, the huge eyes of the night monkeys, the dense fur of the sakis, the tamarins' claws, the excessively long limbs of the spider monkeys and the naked grasping 'sole' at the tail tip or the mighty sound amplifying adaptations of the howler monkeys. The capuchin monkeys are largely completely average monkeys in the basic meaning of this word' (Dietrich Heinemann).
The capuchins are the most 'intelligent' among the American monkeys that in this meaning are far behind the Old World monkeys. The capuchin monkeys live, they number four species, from Honduras to Northern Argentina.
Not even all the apes can, as the capuchin monkeys do, to crack nuts with a rock in their hand. The capuchin monkeys have an inborn habit to hit everything with hard objects. If they do not have hard nuts at hand, they hit, with rocks, the cage bars, the glass walls of their enclosures.
The capuchin monkeys, just like the scaly anteaters and many birds, rub their fur with ants, and like the hedgehog, they lick the fur as well. They are attracted to smelly substances. They industriously rub in onions, oranges, lemons, and even body lotion, if they can get it.
Some species of capuchin monkeys have fur on their heads that slightly resembles the hoods of the capuchin monks, it forms hair 'styles' in shape of crests, bonnets, horns and ridges. The 'stylish' capuchin monkeys are usually brown, without any bright spots. Those without 'styles' have a white border around the muzzle or on the shoulders, the throat and on the upper arms, as the white-headed capuchin monkey does. Still, the different subspecies, races, ages, have different coloration, which often complicates the taxonomy a lot.
The capuchin monkeys avoid long journeys: a pack's territory is restricted to just a few hundred meters and are strongly 'perfumed' by scent marks. Arriving at a spot rich in fruits or insects the pack members often wander off everywhere, and very far away. However, they do not lose sound contact with each other, constantly emitting signals and calls that are understood only by them. The midday is a time to rest and then they gather together again. The elders nap but the youngsters usually party and prance around, so that the grownups often have to restore peace with loud cries.
Among the New World monkeys, the squirrel monkeys are the capuchin monkeys' closest relatives.
They are brightly colored. The common squirrel monkey has a white design on its muzzle, some-what similar to that warning depiction of the skull that we often see on power line poles and other places, where a warning of deadly danger is necessary. Therefore, this monkey is called some-times 'the death's head'.
The dense riverside forests are the best places for the squirrel monkeys to live in. Just as the capuchin monkeys, they rarely walk on the ground. Also just as the capuchin monkeys, they rub themselves with smelly saps and before eating some fruit they squeeze it, pressing between leaves or hitting it with their tails. The squirrel monkeys are very inventive when it comes to various inventions, amusements, games. They are fast and very curious.
'Happy, uncontrollable, chatting gnomes suddenly burst into the tents, opened all boxes and parcels, overturned every object, rushed into the kitchen, pulled the freshly-baked bread from the still hot oven. Although five men tried to chase them away from brooms and other non-dangerous weapons, they stole everything edible. They were not afraid. They ignored people, of course, only because they still didn't know those bipeds' (Iven Sanderson).
Thus, the squirrel monkeys robbed an explorer's camp. Those monkeys do not go alone, always in dozens, hundreds. Sanderson once counted in Guiana 500 squirrel monkeys that in an unending line crossed, one after another, a narrow clearing in the forest.
The squirrel monkey's call is almost flute-like. But when an entire pack fights, especially during evenings for the central parts of trees where they sleep, (no one wants to stay at the edge!), then they raise such a noise that from a distance it sounds as if a rising tide pummels the shore.
The male squirrel monkeys have a strange, and from our P.O.V., indecent manner to threaten an opponent: they raise their legs and show what people, even on pictures, hide behind a fig leaf.
The squirrel monkeys resemble the capuchin monkeys a lot. They too anoint themselves with urine, but prefer to 'anoint' not arms, but the body, and especially the tail tip, which is always wet for this reason. Just as in case of the capuchin monkeys, the zoo psychologists are interested in them. Only it is hard to hold them in captivity, (the capuchin monkeys handle it easily).
The squirrel monkeys' brain is even bigger than the capuchin monkeys' is. These are the 'brainiest' of all the primates and perhaps of all the mammals, including humans. Their brain weighs 1/17 of the monkey's weight, the human brain - only 1/35!
'The monkeys made a live bridge... one dropped the tail from the branch downwards and grabbed the head of another, and in this manner the next 5 monkeys formed a hanging chain. Then they swung this chain forwards and backwards, until the lowest monkey, swung as if on swings, over the forest clearing to another tree, and did not grab it. The other monkeys, including two females with infants on their necks, crossed the bridge. Then the first monkey in the bridge re-leased the branch, the live chain moved over the clearing to the new tree. There, separating, the monkeys followed their old course. They needed, for all of this less time than from to describe all of this' (Karl Loveless).
For a long time, since the time of Aristotle, people tell such tall tales, supposedly, about monkey bridges.
Most likely, if this is even possible, the spider monkeys build the live bridges.
Spider monkeys! Often black, although they can also be grey, brown, and the Central American spider monkey is red, the arms and legs are long and thin, the body is skinny, disproportionate with the long 'spidery' limbs and especially the tail, that is proportionally longer than of any other monkey in general. It is so strong and dexterous that easily holds, and with momentum, even swing a half-a-stone monkey from one branch to another.
The spider monkeys' tail is literally a fifth limb. It stretches the tail, and not an arm, through the bars begging and getting treats.
Grabbing the door handle, they open the door. Asking to be let back in, they hit the doorbell button with the tail. These are the domestic specimens.
And the wild ones? The wild spider monkeys, seeing a human, a jaguar or another enemy from a tree, rip with their tail (and their arms), heavier branches and throw them down. Such 'bombs' weigh sometimes 5 kg!
Four species of spider monkey from the Ateles genus live from South Mexico to Paraguay. Two more genera and four species of the spider monkeys' relatives, the so-called woolly monkeys live in the Amazon basin. They are largely similar to the spider monkeys, but are not as agile jumpers and their dexterous tail is not as good with many tricks. They have thick, dense fur with a rich undercoat. The spider monkeys' fur is rough, without an undercoat.
In 1904, the director of a museum in Belen, (Brazil), got a strange-looking little black monkey as a gift. When it died, its hide was sent to the British museum. Thus was a new species of monkeys discovered - the cotton-top tamarin. However, since the hide was sent to London without a skull, the British scientists first put the cotton-top tamarin into one family with the marmosets. Only in 1911 and 1914, two more of such monkeys were brought on a ship from the Amazon highlands into the harbor city of Belen. There they were studied by Miranda Ribeiro who proved, that if to study the taxonomic connections of the cotton-top tamarins just by hides, (and claws on their fingers!), then they are truly close relatives of the marmosets. But having examined the skull and the teeth, Miranda Ribeiro found in them many traits, common to the monkeys of the Cebidae family. The cotton-top tamarin is an intermediate form, a link between the two.
Earlier, before the discovery of the cotton-top tamarin, the zoologists adhered to the opinion that the marmosets are the most ancient monkeys not just of America, but also of the entire world. Now, with the cotton-top tamarin was found, the question got answered differently: the marmosets are only a side specialized branch of flat-nosed monkeys, and a branch that is young rather than ancient at that.
It is specialized, that is adapted to life in the very heart of the great rainforest - the Amazon jungle. In the foliage of giant trees, covered with lianas, overgrown with orchids, in dampness, in gloom, among a multitude of ants, spiders, fruits and nuts that ripen all year around, they have found for themselves food and shelter. The marmosets almost never descend to the ground.
They are tiny - the size of a rat, a squirrel, rarely bigger. The dwarf among the monkeys, the pygmy marmoset weighs only 85 g! It is barely bigger than the mouse lemur is. Many of them have a most amusing appearance: some have long 'grey' moustaches like Kaiser Wilhelm had, others have hairdos as did Babette who went to war, many have manes on neck and shoulders, and the ears have a luxurious fringe from long white hairs. Essentially, it is a jabot, just not on the neck, but on the ears. The coloration is bright and multicolored. The fur is soft and silky. And all have only 32 teeth. Just as the Old World monkeys do.
Those, who have lower canines equal to, or slightly bigger than the incisors, are usually called the marmosets. The tamarins, on the other hand, have lower canines much longer than the incisors.
The monkeys are playful, beautiful, and if it can be said, extravagant. Even the merciless conquistadors loved these monkeys. The silky monkeys were brought to Europe a long time ago. The la-dies of high society, especially during the epoch of Madame Pompadour and the last Louises, exchanged the pet weasels, the fashion of which vanished with the Renaissance, for the marmoset monkeys, and kept them at home, as in modern times toy dogs and Siamese cats are kept.