What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

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Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labor to him?  Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?  (Job 39:9-12)

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What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scoffers are known to poke fun at Scripture’s mention (in the King James Bible) of “unicorns”, accusing the Bible of being “unscientific”.(1),(2)  Such pseudo-science ridicule is readily refuted, however, even when it’s uncertain which beast is represented by the English word “unicorn”.

The scoffer’s ridicule of “unicorns” (in Scripture) relies upon this flawed syllogism:

ASSUMPTION A: If the Bible is perfectly true it would not treat mythical animals as if they really exist.

ASSUMPTION B: The Bible treats “unicorns”, which are mythical beasts, as if they really exist.

INFERRED CONCLUSION: Therefore the Bible can’t be perfectly true and credible.

With that sophism scoffers giddily dismiss the Bible’s perfection. Of course, the entire mockery rests upon a Straw-man Fallacy(3) because scoffers presuppose that the term “unicorn” is the core controversy—yet the real question is whether or not the underlying Hebrew noun (re’ēm) refers to a real-world animal.(4)

Assumption A contains the Uniformitarian Fallacy,(3) by assuming the Hebrew noun re’ēm must match some animal alive today. However, in light of the inescapable reality that some animal varieties are going extinct, there is no reason why re’ēm must refer to a beast existing today.

Assumption B contains the Bait-and-Switch Fallacy,(3) by assuming thhe mythological beast called a “unicorn”, that exists in fairy tales (and Hollywood cartoons), must equal the Hebrew noun re’ēm that is referred to 9 times within the Old Testament.

Yet reviewing the relevant Biblical contexts (see below) shows re’ēm was a horned beast, like a wild ox or maybe a rhino — neither of which you would try to domesticate!

Furthermore, skeptics sometimes add a corollary assumption to buttress their ridicule of Scripture’s “unicorns”—acting as if their challenge cannot be refuted unless and until Christians positively identify a real-world “unicorn” (i.e., what the Hebrew Bible calls re’ēm), presuming that any doubt about the re’ēm’s taxonomic identity invalidates the Bible’s trustworthiness.(4)

However, refuting the skeptic does not require that “unicorns” be identified with certainty; it is enough to show that plausible solutions exist, proving that “unicorns” need not refer to “mythical” beasts. In fact, more than one plausible candidate (for the “unicorn”) exists—or previously existed(2)—as shown below.

Could the “unicorn” be a rhinoceros, especially a one-horned variety?

Most modern readers don’t know that the word “unicorn” formerly referred to a one-horned Rhinoceros. Consider, however, this is the primary definition of “UNICORN” in the 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s Dictionary:

UNICORN, n. [L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.] 1. An animal with one horn; the Monoceros.  This name is often applied to the rhinoceros.(5)

The one-horned rhinoceros remains a plausible candidate for the horned beast that Moses (and other Hebrews) called re’ēm, of which there are living varieties:  Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus).(6)

Could the “unicorn” be a wild horned bovine, like aurochs or bison?

The presumed ancestor of domesticated bovines (including cattle, water buffalo, yak, zebu) is the now-extinct aurochs.(2) One of its kind is the inherently wild bison (a/k/a “buffalo”).(7) These wild beasts both have two horns (see Psalm 22:21; Deuteronomy 33:17), are built to be powerful (Numbers 23:22), and are biologically comparable to domesticated bovines (Psalm 29:6; Isaiah 34:7).  Harnessing such dangerous bovines, to plow a farm field’s furrows, would be a reckless undertaking, for any foolish farmer who might try it (see Job 39:9-10).

So, what does this prove? First, the skeptic’s Uniformitarian Fallacy guts his criticism of Job 39:9 (and other Scriptures that refer to re’ēm).  Second, the skeptic’s insistence that the English term “unicorn”, as used in the AD1611 King James Bible, equate to a spiral-cone-horned horse, is a bait-and-switch-facilitated strawman challenge, because there are plausible candidate, among real-world animals, that could fit the identity of the Scriptural re’ēm.  Consequently, the scoffer’s caricature of Biblical “unicorns” is not a genuine impeachment of the Bible’s verity.

Aurochs-looking-like-Bison

REFERENCES

(1)The King James Bible uses the English word “unicorn” in 9 Scripture passages: Numbers 23:22 & 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21 (v.22 in BH) & 29:16; Isaiah 34:7.

(2)Dr. Henry Morris, concluded that the “unicorn” (of Job 39:9) was a wild ox-like bovine, the aurochs, that became extinct: “The unicorn is supposedly a mythological animal; actually the creature referred to here is the extinct aurochs, or wild ox, a fierce animal that once inhabited this region. Many of the animals mentioned [in Job chapter 39], as well as other parts of the Old Testament, are of very uncertain identity, and various translators have tied them to a considerable diversity of modern animals. The probable reason for this uncertainty is that many of the animals, like the ‘unicorn’, are now extinct, because they could not long survive the drastically changed environments following the great Flood.” [Footnote to Job 39:9 in The New Defender’s Study Bible, page 822.]  Zoölogist George Cansdale concluded that re’ēm was the now-extinct aurochs. [George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), page 82.]  The aurochs is depicted repeatedly on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, now relocated to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

(3)Regarding logical fallacies, James J. S. Johnson, “Staying on Track Despite Deceptive Distractions”, Acts & Facts, 41(5):9-11 (May 2012) (re straw-man fallacy, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/staying-track-despite-deceptive-distractions/ );  “Bait and Switch: A Trick Used by Both Anglerfish and Evolutionists”,  Acts & Facts, 41(1):10-11 (January 2012) (re bait-and-switch fallacy), posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/bait-switch-trick-used-by-both-anglerfish  );  “Is the Present the ‘Key’ to the Past?” Acts & Facts, 43(6):19 (June 2014, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/8165 ).

(4)A related inquiry is why Bible scholars, seeking to translate re’ēm into Greek, Latin, and English, used words like “unicorn” in their translations.  The Septuagint (“LXX”), a Greek translation of the Old Testament, translated re’ēm as monokerôs.  Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translated re’ēm as rinocerotis in Deuteronomy 33:17 and rinoceros in Job 39:9, and unicornes in Isaiah 34:7!  This indicates that at least some translators though that re’ēm was one-horned,  perhaps the one-horned rhinoceros.

(5)Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education; 1995 facsimile of Noah Webster’s 1st edition of 1828), unpaginated.

(6)See Eric Dinerstein, The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (NY, NY: Columbia University Press, 2003).  Obviously the term “unicorn” is not a good fit for two-horned rhinos, such as the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), and Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).  But the Hebrew noun re’ēm, unlike the English word “unicorn”, does not require the beast to be one-horned, as is indicated by Deuteronomy 33:17 (which refers to unicorn “horns”, possibly denoting a two-horned rhino).  Some evolutionist paleontologists have expressed interesting (albeit forensically flawed) opinions about the ancestral rhino that they believe led to the “unicorns”.  [See Deng Tao, Wang ShiQi, & Hou SuKuan, “A Bizaree Tandem-horned Elasmothere Rhino from the Late Miocene of Northwestern China and the Origin of the True Elasmothere”, Chinese Science Bulletin, 58(15):1811-1817 (May 2013).]

(7)Another candidate is the one-horned Arabian oryx antelope, but its less-intimidating traits (compared to rhinos, bison, and aurochs) seem less likely to fit the Bible’s re’ēm.


rhino-1horned-closeup

Fake Weather Forecasting, by False Prophets

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Fake Weather Forecasting, by False Prophets

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

A team of climate “experts” have warned us that the ocean is rising, due to “global warming”, and will keep rising to almost 4 feet higher, almost as high as a hockey stick!

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change has predicted that the ocean will rise as much as 3.7 feet [higher] by the end of the century [i.e., A.D. 2100], with land erosion and invasive plant species contributing to sea-level rise.  Further, a 2013 assessment led by the Conservation Fund and Audubon Maryland-DC found [but we are not told how they found] that in time, almost all of Blackwater [National Wildlife Refuge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore] will become, as if foreshadowed by its name, part of the black-blue water of the sea [i.e., Chesapeake Bay].

[Quoting Danielle Prieur, “Blackwater’s Future May Not Be So Dark After Marsh is Complete”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 27(5):40 (July-August 2017), with emphasis added.]

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BLACKWATER N.W.R. (Maryland’s Eastern Shore, next to Chesapeake Bay)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia / Ataraxy22)

So watch out! Be alarmed!  Be afraid!  Of course, there’s no need to fearfully “watch out” or “be alarmed” if the prognostications of these self-professed “climate prophets” are wrong.   [For a little humor on this topic, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eisr2eW4pXg .]

In short, fake science leads to fake weather forecasting, constituting a secular version of false prophets.  But how do we recognize a false prophet when we see (or hear, or read) one?

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.  (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

In days of old the nation Israel was visited, from time to time, by men who claimed to be “prophets” – some true and some false.  There were two quick ways to identify a self-proclaimed “prophet” as a fake: (1) if he opposed the true God by promoting idolatry (either directly, by endorsing an idolatrous substitute for the true God – or indirectly, by denigrating God’s Word in a way that effectively promotes an imaginary “God” to replace the real God Who reveals His messages via Scripture); (2) if his “prophetic” predictions proved to be wrong.

So the first test for identifying a “prophet”, as either genuine or fake, pertains to how that person treats the God of Scripture.  However, just using the Lord’s name is not enough  —-   many iniquity-workers (who called themselves “prophets”) will suffer a bad eternity despite their track-record for using the Lord’s name a lot!

Not everyone that saith unto Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.   (Matthew 7:21-23)

Once a golden calf statue was used, soon after the Exodus, to infringe God’s holy name in a blasphemous promotion of Baal-worship idolatry, showing how mere usage of Biblical vocabulary words cannot convert idolatry to true worship.

Recall how Aaron sacrificed truth and dishonored the Lord when he led the rebellious Israelites to worship a golden calf6 that supposedly “evolved” while Moses was absent.7 Notice that Aaron labeled the “spontaneously-generated” golden calf “the LORD” and not “Baal” in order to excuse the idol’s inclusion into Israel’s religious practices. Yet a golden calf statue, whether called “Baal” or “the LORD,” is still a golden calf statue. A gold-ring-snouted pig is still a pig.

[Quoting JJSJ, “To Tell the Truth”, Acts & Facts, 38(2):24 (February 2009), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/tell-truth-danger-accommodating-darwinism-through-/ .]

In other words, just because the words “God” and “Jesus” are used is no guarantee that a religious message is Biblically true  —   its theological essence may display a message’s falsity.  Like humans, a message’s “outward appearance” may be deceiving, so it’s the “heart” that really matters (see 1st Samuel 16:7; 1st John 4:1-3).

The Holy Bible presents God as eternally triune, being revealed in human history by and through the Lord Jesus Christ (compare the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1, which identifies the Creator by a regular plural noun Whose action is described by a singular verb —  with Matthew 28:18-20; 1st John 5:7; 1st John 2:22-23; 2nd Peter 2:1; 2nd John 1:7-9).

Thus, any religious (or secular) “messenger”, who denies basic Trinitarian truth, is promoting idolatry, i.e., advertising a false “god” — doing what Deuteronomy 18:20 calls “speak[ing] in the name of other gods”.  Accordingly, any so-called “prophet” who announces a supposedly “divine” message in the name of a Unitarian “God” (e.g., the “God” of Arians, Moslems, “Enlightenment” Unitarians, Watchtower Society Jehovah’s Witnesses, anti-Messianic Jews, etc.) is automatically self-exposed as a false prophet.  (Actually, an extension of this “trying-the-spirits” test is to compare a “prophetic” message to the inerrant content that God has revealed in His holy written  Word  —  see Isaiah 8:20.)

But Global Warming hysteria-hype is especially relevant to the second test, for exposing false prophets; the second test involves watching to see if a short-term prediction occurs as prophesied.  A short-term prophecy is one that must be fulfilled – or must fail – within a short amount of time. An example follows.

When I was a high school senior, I had a classmate who (notwithstanding the cessationist import of Ephesians 2:20 & 1st Corinthians 13:8-10) claimed to have the “gift of prophecy”! That classmate, through church connections, knew a married couple, the husband of which was serving (away from home) in the U.S. military service.  Having learned (through a source many did not know that he had access to) that the military man was supposed to return home soon (on a particular weekend), on leave, this faker “prophesied” about how the military man would soon return home, confirming the hopes and expectations of the soldier’s wife (who did not know how this faker had learned of the scheduled leave).  But, to the faker’s discredit, the military decision-makers changed the schedule(!), so the leave was rescinded and the military man did not return home to visit his wife.  This produced more than a cancellation of military leave; it embarrassingly cancelled the faker’s claim of having “prophet” status.

In other words, the demonstrated failure of the short-term prophecy proved that the prognosticator was phony, not a true prophet of God.  After that occurred, in accordance with Deuteronomy 18:22, no one feared the predictions of that faker.

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But what about the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, as well as other Global Warming alarmists (who promote Al Gore’s convenient falsehoods), who predict that Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – along with the Chesapeake Bay (and ocean surface in general) – may rise higher, by almost 4 feet?   (As if 4 feet higher would be a global calamity.)

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Can the failure of this secular “prophecy” be used to discredit these climate-crisis prognosticators? (Remember all the fear about losing “the ozone layer”?  Ozone hype-hypochondriacs are strangely silent nowadays.)

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Blackwater N.W.R. marshy coasts

(photo credit: Wikipedia / Jcantroot)

In other words, will the Global Warming alarmists’ fake science be exposed and shamed, so that their fake weather-forecasting is likewise shamed, exposing this media-peddled brouhaha as just another “power-and-money-grab” fakery?

No. Because the predictions of the Global Warming bluffers are not short-term predictions that are verified or falsified within a short timeframe.

Rather, this flamboyant weather-forecasting is pegged to the far future  —  the next century (i.e., A.D. 2100), when all these “prophets” (and a lot of the rest of us) are already dead.   Fake science, used for fake weather-forecasting  —  what a scam!


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CONCRETE PROOF THAT OYSTERS ARE RESOURCEFUL HOMESTEADERS, FITTED TO FILL DIVERSE HABITATS

CONCRETE PROOF THAT OYSTERS ARE RESOURCEFUL HOMESTEADERS, FITTED TO FILL DIVERSE HABITATS

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.   (Genesis 1:21-22)

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Chesapeake Bay oysters   (photo credit: Emaze.com)

 Chesapeake Bay oysters are ecologically resourceful, especially when it comes to homesteading underwater – and we should not be surprised.

But why? God prioritized animals, all over the world, to “be fruitful”, to “multiply”, and to “fill the earth”.

God chose to fill the earth with different kinds of life. All over the world, we see His providence demonstrated in ecological systems. Different creatures live in a variety of habitats, interacting with one another and a mix of geophysical factors—like rain, rocks, soil, wind, and sunlight.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “God Fitted Habitats for Biodiversity”, ACTS & FACTS, 42(3):10-12 (March 2013).]

Because God loves variety, the earth itself has a diversity of habitats that can provide niches for animals to live in.

Accordingly, God “fitted” (i.e., designed and bioengineered) the internal programming of diverse animals to creatively adjust to miscellaneous habitats. In other words, diverse animals are “fitted to fill” different geophysical environments, which are themselves dominated by different types of plants, and the results are interactive and changing communities of lifeforms, adjusted to living in ecologically diverse “neighborhoods”.

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Chesapeake Bay oyster-bed   (photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

To illustrate, check out what is happening with Chesapeake Bay oysters, especially those which are “homesteading” on artificial “reef” platform-beds.

An unremarkable thing happened in a remarkable way during the recently ended oyster season in the Chesapeake Bay. Some Virginia watermen harvested bivalves from public oyster grounds in the Rappahannock River. There’s nothing unusual about that, of course, but these shellfish had settled as baby “spat” and grown to harvestable size on a thick bed of gravel-sized stones that had been put on the river bottom to provide an unconventional home for them.

Typically, shells of other oysters are the natural landing pads for recently hatched bivalve larvae, which need to attach to something hard as they begin sedentary lives of filtering algae from the water. But the Chesapeake is running short on [bivalve] shells; there aren’t enough to go around to sustain the traditional wild [oyster or clam] fishery — to say nothing of the growing aquaculture industry and an ambitious effort to restore the Bay’s depleted oyster [and clam] population.

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves.

But the shell squeeze is prompting some oyster growers and fishery managers to try alternative “substrate,” the hard [platform-like] material on which baby bivalves live and grow. Working with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, W. E. Kellum Seafood, one of the state’s oldest and largest oyster businesses, has in the last few years tested the suitability of crushed concrete from a demolished bridge and ground-down stones taken from a dam on the James River.

“This past season, the oysters we harvested were from 2-year-old granite we planted,” said Tommy Kellum, the company president. “That worked extremely well. We got a terrific spat set on it, and it grew well.”

In the right conditions, oysters will settle and grow on practically any hard surface, not just other oyster shells. Bivalves can be found clinging to wooden docks, concrete bridge piers and riprap, the big granite rocks lining the shore to prevent erosion.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017).]

Does that mean that artificial oysterbed planting is “better” than the “natural” habit these bivalves have, of attaching themselves to oyster shells produced by prior generations?

Happy-Oyster-Reefs-chart.NatureConservancy

Probably not, but (as Francis Schaeffer repeatedly reminded us) we live in a “fallen world”  — so we need to “make the best of what we have”, in order to be good stewards of God’s creation.  And that stewardship can apply to oyster-bed aquaculture resourcefulness.  (Just as careful ranchers can raise healthy cattle or sheep, careful aquaculture “farmers” can raise healthy bivalves.)

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves. Maryland watermen and their supporters have protested the use of crushed granite, fossil shell from Florida and clam shells from New Jersey in oyster restoration projects . . . [and their] protests landed on sympathetic ears at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which blocked the further use of such materials in the Tred Avon [River, a tributary of the Choptank River, which is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary on the Delmarva Peninsula]. The watermen argued that the rocks interfere with crabbing and fishing. Based on their experience, they say, oysters will not settle and grow nearly as well on substitute materials as they will on shells. Some also noted that the Florida fossil shell used in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank was full of water-fouling silt. “I think you should use the natural stuff that the good Lord put there,” said Ron Fithian, a Kent County commissioner and former waterman who is a member of Maryland’s Oyster Advisory Commission. “Nothing works better, and they shouldn’t substitute anything, especially stone. …You don’t get the concentration of spat on stones you do on oyster shell.”

Scientists and other proponents of the rock and concrete alternatives acknowledge that oyster shells are optimal, but they insist there’s just not enough fresh shell to go around — thanks to the decades-long slump in the oyster industry, which rebounded a bit several years ago. To make up for the shortage of fresh shells from harvested oysters, many watermen are pressing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit the [Maryland Department of Natural Resources] to dredge 5 million bushels of fossil shell from an inactive oyster reef near the mouth of the Patapsco River called Man O’War Shoal. The proposal is opposed, though, by conservationists, recreational fishermen and even some watermen, who fear dredging up the old shell will ruin the shoal’s value as habitat for striped bass and other species. . . . [Balancing an ecosystem is tricky, of course – it’s really hard to please everybody!] Watermen have also pushed for the state to resume the taxpayer-subsidized “shell repletion” program it ran from the early 1960s until 2006, planting shell on the bottom and “seeding” it with juvenile oysters transplanted from areas getting good natural spat set.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017), with emphases added.]

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Scattering oyster shells, for reuse by oyster larvae (photo credit: PBS)

Ironically, the concrete and gravel “reef” platform-beds are working out quite well, which proves the resourcefulness of the juvenile oysters that attach there.

“Just about anything that is hard would work,” . . . said [said Andrew Button, head of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s shellfish conservation and replenishment department]. “Everything, from shredded tires to ‘recycled bathroom fixtures’, has been tried, with some success, by someone at some point.” Watermen and others have expressed concern that concrete from roads and other demolished structures might be contaminated with oil and other hazardous substances, which could be picked up by oysters and other marine life.

But in one recent study, Morgan State University researchers found no cause for concern. The Maryland State Highway Administration, looking for alternatives to landfilling old pavement, contracted with Morgan a few years ago to evaluate the feasibility and safety of using it in building oyster reefs. Morgan scientists placed chunks of recycled concrete aggregate in tanks of Bay water at the university’s Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory in Calvert County. They compared oyster spat survival on both concrete and shells and found no difference. They also tested for chemicals that might leach into the water — and subjected it to even more rigorous analysis with a mass spectrometer. “There was less [pollution] in it than the EPA required of drinking water — orders of magnitude less,” said Kelton Clark, director of the Patuxent lab.

The researchers also set up demonstration reefs using the recycled highway concrete in two locations with different water salinity — one in the Patuxent River near the laboratory and the other in Fishing Bay on the Eastern Shore — to see if oysters on rubble would be any more vulnerable to predators.

Again, no difference. There was one test that the highway debris flunked, when compared to shells: the hand-tonging test. Clark said researchers invited a hand-tonger to try harvesting the oysters growing on the concrete. The fist-sized chunks of rubble proved too heavy to lift using the tongs.

But for building oyster habitat in sanctuaries not open to harvest, Clark said, it’s just as good as the scarce shell. “It may not be acceptable to you or me, but the Chesapeake Bay doesn’t care what we like,” Clark said. “There’s no scientific reason not to use this material.”

In another study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Maryland teamed up to see how alternative substrate performs in the Bay. In 2011, the Corps built seven reefs out of granite in the Cook Point sanctuary in the Choptank River, where the bottom consisted of sand, an area of flat shell and some large mounds of shells. The granite reefs placed nearby ranged in height from 1–3 feet off the bottom; some were covered with a layer of shells, while others were not. The artificial reefs were planted with oyster spat produced by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science hatchery at Horn Point. After three years, UM researchers analyzed the growth, survival and reproduction of the oyster populations in the area, and also checked for other organisms living on or around the reefs. They found more oysters on reefs made of both granite and shell than on those built of granite only, but both types had relatively healthy densities, averaging 91 oysters per square meter and 49 oysters per square meter, respectively. The granite-only reefs did have thicker populations of organisms such as anemones, which researchers suggested could be competing with oysters for space on the rocks.

Most of the artificial reefs built in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River as part of those sanctuary restoration projects are too new yet to evaluate their performance as hosts for oysters, but preliminary analysis of reefs finished three years ago in Harris Creek shows that those with a stone base have nearly three times the density of oysters, on average, as those with a base made up of clam shells. All were planted with spat on shell produced by the UM hatchery.

Scientists say the shape and size of the materials used can matter in determining how well oyster spat settle and survive on artificial reefs. The granite stones used to build reefs in Harris Creek, for instance, have more than three times as much surface area as do the reefs made of clam shells. That’s important, according to Jay Lazar, field operations coordinator for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay office, because it gives oyster spat more places to latch onto as they settle to the bottom. The spaces between rocks also offer more protection from predators.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):13 (June 2017).]

This successful conservation aquaculture practice did not “work out” by random accidents. Rather, a lot of careful thinking was necessarily involved, especially God’s creative thoughts (and deeds) that provided both humans and oysters with multi-generational life and abilities needed to live their respective life cycles – even down to the super-small level of biochemical details that include interactive nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, various RNAs, and the teleological functioning of gazillions of highly specialized protein molecules.

Who devised all of that to work?

The necessary details – of both human life and oyster life – required God to think through a lot of specifications, which themselves represent bioengineering programming to achieve God’s intended purposes (for humans and oysters).

Man-made items are constructed following directions called plans and specifications. Specifications are a unique kind of writing designed to convey intent. They are written instructions that set advance constraints on precisely what, how, and when particular materials will be used. Plans show geometric details of where materials are placed (though there is overlap between the two). Together, they must be detailed and selective enough to accurately and unambiguously communicate intended fabrication information to obtain all the product’s features.

Writing specifications and drawing plans can be difficult work. Designers are forced to initially build the project in their minds. They must visualize numerous details, and then clearly represent everything in that mental picture in words and drawings–a daunting task at any time, but especially for situations where no prototype even exists.

It is important to highlight two points about specifications. First, they are as close of a representation of the designer’s thoughts as possible–but they are not the thoughts themselves. Thoughts exist independently of the paper or programs which convey them. Second, when plans or specifications exist for something, they are–without exception–a sign of conscious design. Why? They reveal an intentional state that is characteristically restrictive. It selects in advance particular attributes for an intended purpose–which is the exact opposite of blind natural processes that yield random, ill-defined, piecemeal conglomerations of whatever is available.

So the secret to great architecture [or to building great human beings, or to building great Chesapeake Bay oysters!] is not in the drawings, but in the mind of the architect [i.e., the mind who creates the ideas about what should be built].

When evolutionary biologists determine the structure or sequence of DNA, they believe they uncover the secret of life.2 Disregarding the fact that information is immaterial, they fixate on the material of DNA. But they are incorrect. Functioning just like specifications, DNA is manipulated by specialized proteins that enable it to transfer, transcribe, store, and recall information for building a living thing–but it is not the information.

The real secret of life is the [purposeful] information.

[Quoting Randy J. Guliuzza, “Natural Selection is Not ‘Nature’s Design Process’”, ACTS & FACTS, 39(6):10-11 (June 2010).]

In other words, by promoting both conservation and aquaculture, human experts are showing resourcefulness, by facilitating juvenile oysters to display their own resourcefulness! And both kinds of resourcefulness interactively display God’s own resourceful imagination – because it was God Who gave resourceful thinking to humans, and it was God Who preprogrammed and bioengineered resourceful instincts into homesteading oysters.

Oyster-restoration-substrate.JoeReiger-workshop

(PowerPoint slide credit: Joe Reiger’s Oyster Restoration Workshop)

So, what is the bottom line on this? God fitted oysters to fill many underwater habitats, not just oysterbed reefs composed of preëxisting oyster shells.

><> JJSJ   profjjsj@aol.com

 

Black-tailed Jackrabbit: Big Ears are Good for Living in Hot Deserts!

Black-tailed Jackrabbit:  Big Ears are Good for Living in Hot Deserts!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.   (James 1:11)

The sun can provide a burning heat, especially in a hot desert — such as the 3 hot deserts located in America’s Southwest  —  the Sonoran Desert, the Mojave Desert, and the Chihuahuan Desert (the last of which Big Bend National Park is part of).  Yet the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, famous for its gargantuan ears, lives in all of those deserts quite nicely.   So what about those huge ears?  Do they help it to live in hot deserts?

Blacktailed-Jackrabbit-BigBendNP.FredWasmer.jpg

BLACK-TAILED  JACKRABBIT:   El Paso, Texas:  Big Bend Nat’l Park  

Yes!  The jumbo-sized ears of the jackrabbit are not primarily for hearing desert noises, although the rabbits’ ears are used to hear with, of course.  Rather, the most critical importance of having huge (and relatively thin) ears, for the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, is how it providentially equips him (or her) with a heat-shedding advantage  —  a very practical trait for such desert-dwelling lagomorphs.  In short, thanks to God’s bioengineering wisdom, the Black-tailed Jackrabbit controls its body temperature by radiating out excess heat over the relatively large surface areas of its ears!

 

“These large, floppy-eared rabbits inhabit not only the deserts of the [American] southwest, but also large reaches of midwestern prairie. At one time it was supposed that the large ears were used to enhance their hearing ability, but it has been found that their ears perform a far more important function. Laboratory investigations on heat-stressed jackrabbits have indicated that the blood leaving the ear is significantly cooler than the blood entering the ear. During heat stress, a jackrabbit can increase ear blood flow to very high levels through expanded blood vessels. The research indicates that the large, nearly bare ears serve as efficient heat radiators! Thus, even in mid-day heat, this animal may sit in the shade of a bush with its ears erect, and radiate sufficient heat toward the cool portion of the sky (away from the sun) to prevent it from reaching uncomfortable temperatures. Studies on a number of large mammals possessing permanent horns with high blood circulation, have shown that these structures also are used for heat regulation.” [Quoting John Meyer & Kenneth Cumming, “Biology of Grand Canyon”, in GRAND CANYON: MONUMENT TO CATASTROPHE (Santee, CA: ICR, 1994), pages 158-159.]

Thankfully, those gigantic ears really take the heat off those desert jackrabbits!   ><> JJSJ


PHOTO CREDITS:

featured image of standing Black-tailed Jackrabbit: Pinterest

Black-tailed Jackrabbit at Big Bend Nat’l Park:  Fred Wasmer

Blacktailed-Jackrabbit-HugeEars.Pinterest

Woodchucks, Rockchucks, and a Shadowy Holiday

The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies  [i.e., the Rock Hyrax of Israel  —  a lagomorph mammal with a lifestyle ecologically similar to that of the “rockchuck” (marmot) rodents of America’s western mountain states].   (Psalm 104:18)

Woodchucks, Rockchucks, and a Shadowy Holiday

 Dr. James J. S. Johnson marmot-yellow-bellied-lowcrawling

What do we know, from the Holy Bible, about “marmots”, the herbivorous mammals we call “woodchucks” (or “groundhogs”) and “rockchucks”, other than that they were made on Day # 6, and that their ancestors were preserved during the global Flood by riding inside Noah’s Ark?

There is no specific mention in Holy Scripture, that designates the mammal family that we today call “marmots”, but the Scriptures do refer to rat-like rodents (‘achbarîm = “rats”) plaguing the idolatrous Philistines (see 1st Samuel chapters 5 & 6) —   plus another rodent (שָּׁפָן  = shaphan, the rock hyrax, less accurately known as “rock badger” or “coney”) that fills a marmot-like eco-niche in Israel:

 The rock hyraxes are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.  (Proverbs 30:26)

The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the rock hyraxes. (Psalm 104:18)

Israel’s rock hyrax (שָּׁפָן) is categorized with other “lagomorph” mammals – like rabbits, hares, and pikas, —  as a creature that practice hindgut fermentation digestion (involving a reingestion process variously called “cæcotrophy”, “refection”, “cecophagy”, “coprophagia”, or reingesting “night feces”) —  yet these small lagomorphs do not have divided hooves:

 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that only chew the cud, or of them that only have the hoof cloven: the camel, and the hare, and the rock hyrax, because they chew the cud [literally: they fetch up partially digested (“stirred”) food for re-chewing] but part not the hoof, they are unclean unto you.  (Deuteronomy 14:7). RockHyrax.on-rocks.png

These two Old Testament verses describe 3 important traits of the rock hyraxes — (1) physiologically, they practice hindgut fermentation “refection” (i.e., hindgut-facilitated re-digestion); (2) anatomically, they have undivided (i.e., un-split) hooves, and (3) ecologically, they make nests in rocky habitats. It is the third trait – making homes in rocky places – that is ecologically comparable to many “marmots” that inhabit rocky places outside of the Holy Land.[1]  However, as we shall see, some of the marmot family – groundhogs (a/k/a woodchucks or “whistle-pigs”) – are known to live in non-rocky habitats.

In fact, it is the groundhog (Marmota monax), under its nickname “woodchuck”, that gives rise to this tongue-twister:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could, if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

 Now, to introduce the “marmot” family, first consider that it is classified as a squirrel-like mammal (family Sciuridae), having many traits in common with various squirrel “cousins” (tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, etc.):

 SQUIRRELS:    Sciuridae    This [taxonomic] family includes a wide variety of [herbivorous] mammals. Marmots, woodchucks, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and tree squirrels all belong here.  They have 4 toes on front [feet], 5 on back [feet].  Tail is always covered with hair, [and] is sometimes bushy.  All are active during the daytime except the flying [i.e., gliding] squirrels, which come out only at night.  Marmots, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and chipmunks all nest in burrows in the ground or beneath rocks or logs.  Tree squirrels and flying squirrels nest in trees.  Most of the ground-living species have a habit of sitting up “picket pin” fashion on their haunches.  This enables them to see over low vegetation and avert danger.  Ground squirrels and chipmunks have internal cheek pouches; most of them store food.

Quoting William H. Burt, A Field Guide to the Mammals, North America North of Mexico (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980; Peterson Field Guide Series), pages 90-91. In other words, marmots are a special category of large ground squirrels.

  woodchuck-pic-encycbritannica

WOODCHUCK  (a/k/a Groundhog & Canada marmot —  Marmota monax)

This term is used to describe the “groundhog” – the smallest variety of marmot – that habituates the eastern half of the United States, as well as much of the boreal forest of Canada – as the range map [from Wikipedia] below shows.

Woodchuck.RangeMap-Wikipedia.png Canadian mammalogists have described the common Woodchuck as follows:

 The Woodchuck is our smallest marmot. It has brown dorsal fur grizzled with silver-grey, and a reddish-brown ventral pelage.  The head is dark brown with no white markings on the face; the fur on the sides of the neck does not contrast sharply in colour with the fur on the flanks and back.  The front legs are covered with reddish-brown hairs; the dorsal surface of the hind feet is dark brown to nearly black.  The short, nearly flat, bushy tail varies from dark brown to blackish.  …  The posterior pad on the sole of the hind foot is oval in shape.  …  [Ecologically speaking, it habituates] valley bottoms, lowlands and the lower slopes of the mountains, … [living in] open forests, recently cleared forests, agricultural fields, meadows, ravines associated with streams and rivers, road embankments, and campgrounds. In agricultural areas, Woodchuck burrows are most concentrated in edge habitats bordering fields and cleared areas.  Its elevational range in British Columbia is from 350 to 1,250 metres [i.e., ~1,150 feet to ~4,100 feet].

Quoting David W. Nagorsen, Rodents and Lagomorphs of British Columbia (Victoria, Canada: Royal British Columbia Museum, 2005; volume #4 in the Mammals of British Columbia series), page 136-137.

Groundhogs can reproduce quickly, like other rodents. That is helpful for maintaining Groundhog populations, because they are potential prey to several carnivorous predators, including wild canines (wolf, fox, coyote, dog), wild felines (cougar, bobcat, lynx), bears, and even large birds of prey (e.g., eagles).  Survival requires eating on a regular basis, of course, and groundhogs  — being mostly herbivorous – eat grasses of many types, as well as other lawn/meadow ground cover (e.g., clover, dandelions, alfalfa), berries, and even some agricultural crops.  Not completely herbivorous, Groundhogs will sometimes eat insects (grasshoppers, insect larvae, etc.), even snails or nuts.

woodchuck-aka-groundhog-by-tree  Groundhog burrows often have two (or more – maybe 5 or 10!) openings, a main entrance and a “spy hole”, as well as tunnels to the various entrances (to escape predatory home invaders). These underground dens serve various functions – climate control during winter hibernation months, safe haven form hungry carnivores, and various aspects of active family life.  Groundhogs even dig themselves an outhouse-like “excrement chamber”, separate from the “nest” quarters of the burrow.  Tunnelings near the surface can be annoying to human homeowners and farmers, depending upon the “environmental impact” of the Groundhog’s diggings.

The Groundhog has his own seasonal holiday in America (“Groundhog Day”), called Grundsaudaag or Murmeltiertag in Pennsylvania Dutch/German, and called Jour de la Marmotte in Canadian French.

Traditionally this special day is celebrated on February 2nd of each year – and its purpose is to predict whether spring will “come early” or not, i.e., to indicate if springtime-like weather will arrive before the vernal (spring) equinox, after which day the daylight hours “grow” and the nighttime hours “shrink”. So how do we “know” when spring weather will arrive?  If it is a cloudy day on February 2nd – when the groundhog emerges from his hibernation den – the woodchuck cannot see his shadow. For some (unexplained) reason the cloud-cover-prevented shadow is supposed to herald spring weather before the vernal equinox.  Contrariwise, if February 2nd is a sunny day – in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – the den-emerging groundhog should see his shadow (due to sunlight being intense enough to cast shadows), forecasting the marmot’s retreat-back-into-the-burrow, symbolizing that more winter weather is coming (and that spring weather will be delayed for another 6 more weeks). Some have said that this predictive “test” is accurate from 3/4 to 9/10 of the time – but others say this is accurate only about 4/10 of the time.  Groundhogs, being apolitical creatures (so far as we can tell), have indicated no official position about the truth or falsity of any supposed “global warming” crisis. groundhogday-cartoon-pic

(Interestingly this tradition was the inspiration for a uniquely Texas “holiday”, “Armadillo Day”, but that’s another “story” not to be covered here!)

In regions west, i.e., mostly west of the Groundhog’s usual habitat regions, many of its “cousins” live in higher elevations, in or near ranges of the Rocky Mountains (or Cascade Mountains). Rockchuck-aka-Marmot.in-rocks.jpg ROCKCHUCK  (various western marmots of North America  —  Marmota species, including the Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris), as well as its western “cousins, such as the Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata), the Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus), and the Vancouver Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). Unsurprisingly, the name “rockchuck” refers to the rodent’s observable habitat  —  this variety of marmot is found in America’s Great West, especially in (though not limited to) the rocky timberline elevations of America’s Rocky Mountains, where alpine meadow vegetation suffices for such herbivores.

marmot-colorado-on-rocks

Rockchucks are social creatures, living near one another, and the nickname “whistler” (or “whistle-pig”) refers to their practice of whistling alarm when danger approaches. The rockchuck prefers “flight” to “fight” – scurrying for cover inside a rocky hideaway, if a potential predator is perceived as too close.  Some rockchucks, however, have become accustomed to peaceful tourists — and may even approach humans in hope of food, such as a salty PAYDAY candy bar![2]

YELLOW-BELLIED MARMOT  (rockchuck mother and her nursing pups)

Of the western marmots the Yellow-bellied Marmot is the most populous. Its range stretches from as far south as the Sangre de Cristo Range (in New Mexico and Colorado) up into Canada.  Yellow-bellied Marmots reside as far east as parts of South Dakota and the western edge of Nebraska, and as far west as all but the coastal edge of Washington and Oregon, even inhabiting small edges of California. marmot-yellowbellied-rangemap

This variety of rockchuck lives near timberline in the western states of America, yet in Canada it lives at lower elevations (e.g., < 1300 meters in British Columbia).

HOARY MARMOT  (a/k/a “mountain whistler” — Marmota caligata)

Another variety of rockchuck is the Hoary Marmot, famous (as its name suggests) for its “senior citizen” hair color, i.e., its fur is dominated by silver-grey.  Hoary marmots tend to live in mountainous places  — but only in America’s northwest corner (i.e., Idaho, Montanan, and Washington), plus montane lands in western Canada and Alaska, north of that corner.  This is the “extra-large”-sized marmot. Marmot-on-rock.closeup.jpg

Perhaps this tongue-twister could be used for the Groundhog’s western cousins:

How much rock would a rockchuck rock, if a rockchuck could rock rock?

But marmots don’t “rock” rocks!  However, being rodents, with ever-growing front teeth, rockchucks might use a somewhat-flat rock as the equivalent of an emery board – to file down his teeth! Maybe doing so provides access to rock-borne minerals that the marmot needs.  Anyway, marmot teeth should be respected, especially by mountain hikers who take naps at timberline.   ><> JJSJ

marmot-front-teeth-closeup


[1] Notice that the Rock Hyrax of Israel is a lagomorph that behaves, ecologically speaking, like the rodents that we call marmots (i.e., rockchucks and woodchucks). This illustrates how animal ecology does not slavishly follow taxonomy.

 Biomes … have animals which occupy particular roles within the ecosystem, tapping particular environmental resources.  These may differ very considerably in their taxonomy from one part of the world to another, but are nevertheless ‘ecological equivalents’.  For example, the South American pampas is grazed by the guanaco [a camel-like mammal], which is the [ecological] equivalent to the Australian kangaroo [a marsupial mammal], the Asiatic ass [an equid mammal] and the North American bison [a bovine mammal] in that it is a relatively large, fast-moving herbivorous animal living in herds.

Quoting Peter D. Moore, “The World’s Biomes”, in The Encyclopedia of Animal Ecology (Oxford, England: Equinox Books, 1991; edited by Peter D. Moore), page 40.

[2] Many years ago this author was hiking up Horn Peak (in the Colorado portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost sub-range of the Rocky Mountains). Horn Peak’s elevation is listed as 13,450 feet (4100 meters), slightly above Little Horn Peak (elevation: 13,143 feet/4006 meters).  On a group hike I tired above Little Horn Peak but below the summit of Horn Peak.  Thoroughly exhausted – crawl, rest, crawl, rest, crawl, rest, rest some more – I lay down on the ground for a shut-eye/nap, covering my face with a sweaty (and therefore salty) cloth handkerchief, to avoid getting my face sun-burned while I dozed.  (Having told other hikers what I was doing, as they continued to ascend to the summit, I requested that I be awakened by them on their return trek, as I expected them to return to where I was on their descent, later.  After sleeping for an unknown amount of time I was awakened by someone removing the white handkerchief form my face – it was the up-close face of a Yellow-bellied Marmot!  (I screamed: “What are you doing?” – forgetting that marmots don’t speak English.)  I was rattled!  I had scared the marmot (who perhaps was attracted to the salt on my sweaty handkerchief), but only momentarily.  The marmot gingerly wandered back closer to me, looking at me expectantly – apparently other hikers had given snack food to this marmot, and he was expecting me to do the same.  All that I had remaining, then, of my trail snacks, was a PAYDAY candy bar – a treat composed of peanuts, caramel, and salt – which he gulped down instantly!

payday-candybar

 

SEA OTTERS: Marine Mustelids with an Appetite!

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  (Genesis 1:20-21)

Sea Otters:   Marine Mustelids with an Appetite!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

 SeaOtter.floating.png

Sea Otters are surely the cutest marine mammals who live in the seawaters off Alaska’s southern coastlines – they float on their backs, their whiskery faces look wise and kind, sometimes they hold hands (paws), and they care for each other.

The Northern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) is the only true “marine mustelid” – i.e., it is a member of the category of mammals called mustelids (the weasel super-family), all the other of which live mostly on land, even its “cousin” the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis).   It is the smallest of marine mammals – much smaller than cetaceans (such as whales) and pinnipeds (such as walrus and seals) – with male adults weighing from about 80 to 100 pounds, and female adults weighing about 50 to 70 pounds.  Unlike other weasel-like mammals, Sea Otters live in seawater – even giving birth in seawater!

Sea Otters, unlike blubbery whales and walruses, are relatively thin – yet they need to survive the super-cold waters that blubber-loaded marine mammals live in. How do the Sea Otters do it? Unlike pinnipeds and cetaceans, sea otters have no blubber, so their fur must keep them warm.

SeaOtter-fur.magnified-view.png

Sea otter fur is the densest of all mammals (almost 1,000,000 strands of hair/square inch!), consisting of waterproof exterior “guard hairs” over a dense layer of dry underfur, so it insulates from environmental temperature extremes:  “air trapped in its fine fur keeps it warm as well as buoyant.”  [Quoting John Whitaker, Jr., National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals (1998), page 786.] Unlike animals that periodically “molt” (like birds and reptiles), sea otter fur is shed gradually, year-round.  To stay warm in the super-cold waters off Alaska’s southern coasts, Sea Otters rely on more than their providentially thick fur, they also eat often and a lot – they have a high metabolism!

As a carnivore, the Sea Otter eats mostly animals – including clams, sea worms, squid, octopus, abalone, sea urchin, starfish, and crabs (especially Dungeness Crabs). However, Sea  Otters  consume  so  many  Dungeness crabs,  so  quickly, that  southern Alaska’s  crab  fishermen  are  losing  out – so not everyone thinks of Sea Otters as being “cute”.

JJSJ-with-DungenessCrab.png

Some shellfish are hard to eat, due to tough exoskeleton shells, but Sea Otters are up to the task – they use rocks to crack open clam shells, or abalone shells – sometimes using a rock as an anvil.  Diving Sea Otters also use rocks to dislodge shellfish (such as clams or mussels) that are firmly attached to an underwater substrate.

SeaOtter-eating-octopus.png

Sea Otters are so intelligent, learning to adapt to new information, that they have been observed ripping open metal drink cans, in search of juvenile octopus, because they have learned that small octopuses often use metal drink cans (discarded by human litterbugs in Alaska’s coastal waters) as hiding-places, similar to how hermit crabs will “recycle” uninhabited shells.

SeaOtter-with-RockAnvil.eating-SeaUrchin.png

In fact, God has designed anatomical “pockets” for carrying both rocks and food items, when a Sea Otter is diving underwater.   Sea  otters  have  loose  armpit  skin (a “pouch”),  for  carrying food, or rocks  (thus  freeing  up  their  “hand” paws)  to  use  as anvils  (when  they crack  open  sea urchins or bivalves, like  clams  and limpets and  mussels).  Webbed  hind  paws  are  useful  for  swimming  and  diving, sometimes  150 feet  deep,  to  collect  their  underwater  prey.

SeaOtters-in-underwater-kelp-forest.png

The underwater brown kelp “seaweed forest”  is  a favorite   habitat  for  hunting  food.  Sea Otters not only find food in the underwater kelp “forests”, they protect the kelp – by eating Sea Urchins, because Sea Urchins can quickly decimate kelp forests if no Sea Otters are available to keep the Sea Urchin population in check.  Sea Otters also make use of kelp seaweed in another way – they wrap themselves in the seaweed, and become secured in place as if wearing a floating “seatbelt”, while they float in tidewater, asleep.  Securely tied to the anchored seaweed, the Sea Otters (who are “belted” in for a nap) will not be washed out to deep seawaters by the tides.

In other words, the relationship of Sea Otters to giant kelp (i.e., brown algae seaweed) is one of “mutual aid”, because both kelp and otter populations benefit from their interactions with each other. SeaOtter-seaweed-seatbelt.png

Where does the Sea Otter usually live? Its primary range covers the coastal tidewaters of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands archipelago chain, plus its south-central and southeastern coastlines, down the Canada’s British Columbia coasts, even to the Pacific coastline of the State of Washington.         ><> JJSJ


Dr. James J. S. Johnson’s background includes a love for animal ecology and the colder climates of the world. In addition to his (current) creation science education-focused work for ICR-SOBA, he has taught bioscience/ecology courses for Dallas Christian College and ACSI, written ecology-related curriculum for LeTourneau University, and served as lecturer aboard 9 international cruise ships, including 4 cruise ships  visiting  Alaska  (Norwegian Wind, Norwegian Sky,  Radiance of the Seas,  Rhapsody of the Seas).

seaotter-pair-in-icy-water

 

MOLES: Digging for the Glory of God

In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats, … for fear of the Lord ….” (Isaiah 2:20-21a).

Mole.being-held-by-human-hand.jpg

MOLES:   DIGGING  FOR  THE  GLORY  OF  GOD

James J. S. Johnson

The day will come, before Messiah (Jesus) returns in power and judgment, when God-rejecting idolaters will cower in fear, trying to hide in the earth, knowing that their accountability is ripe: “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats, … for fear of the Lord ….” (Isaiah 2:20-21a). The English word “mole” (in KJV) is a translation of the Hebrew noun chapharpêrâh, derived from the verb châphar, meaning “to dig” – and digging is what moles are best known for doing.   (For illustrations of the Hebrew verb châphar, “to dig”, see Genesis 21:30 &  Ecclesiastes 10:8.)

How do moles dig?

“The mole excavates its burrow by backward strokes and lateral thrusts of the front feet.  Loose earth is moved and pushed to the surface by thrusts of the front feet.  In excavating shallow runs, the mole merely pushes up the earth to form a ridge, again by lateral thrusts of the front feet while the mole is turned partly on its side.” [Quoting David J. Schmidly, THE MAMMALS OF TEXAS (Univ. of Texas Press, 2004), page 60.]

Who taught the mole to do such underground digging, and to do it so successfully that moles live all over much of America? Who equipped the mole with the anatomy it needs to do this subterranean work?

molehill-diagram-showing-underground

Those who intelligently design and/or carefully operate oil-drilling equipment can appreciate the digging powers of moles, because digging underground is an art! Innovative petroleum engineers deserve to be appreciated for their underground earth-burrowing technology.  If you think serious underground digging is “simple” try drilling for oil  —  or try to mine out minerals from under the earth!

But oil-drilling equipment cannot reproduce itself into generation-after-generation families of their kind – yet moles reproduce successfully, all around America, and we don’t notice or appreciate it. God, however, deserves praise for equipping the humble mole for its down-to-earth (or rather, down-under-the-earth) station in life.

Moles are created to dig and they do – to God’s glory! Their Creator is worthy of worship (Revelation 4:11).  Idolatry is foolish; we should avoid it in whatever form it appears (1st John 5:21), as we seek to harness each day as a day of worshipping our soon-coming Lord Jesus, the Maker of Heaven and Earth (John 1:3).   ><> JJSJ

mole-with-earthworm


Dr. James J. S. Johnson, as a boy, learned to recognize the surface evidence of moles’ shallow burrowing.   Since his boyhood he has tried to appreciate the human life God gave him, and to recognize what God prioritizes  –  so as to avoid “making mountains out of molehills”.