Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Last Unicorn

Trying to get back into my science mind set lately, really looking forward to some great opportunities I have coming up in my life.  My goal has been and continues to be conservation of our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it.  My mind often wanders on how best to accomplish my mission, thus far my best answer has been to continue on my path.  So enough with the life goal talk, lets get to the animals! 

I often joke how cool it would be to have a unicorn or Pegasus but few people realize that there are animals that have been suspected of being mythical in earlier times.  The Oryx has been accused of being a unicorn by several civilizations and high authority figures.  Aristotle and Pliny the Elder both thought the Oryx was the unicorn prototype.   The unicorn belief was likely perpetuated because a Oryx's horn is made of bone, therefore when a Oryx looses one via injury it will not grow back.  Their profile also hides one horn behind the other.  This would likely lead to several unicorn "sightings". 

The Oryx resembles an antelope or large deer.  It is very large (400 lbs), white with dark markings around eyes and on shoulders, and their most prominent feature are their two long horns.  There are a few types including the Arabian Oryx and Scimitar Oryx.  They prefer grassy steppes or semi-desserts.  They used to roam over Eastern Africa, and North American, they are considered extinct in the wild.  Zoos across the country have untied to get a large breeding program together and they are making a comeback. 

The Oryx is extremely good at adapting their body for hot temperatures.  They can reduce the rate of evaporation from their body to conserve water.  They can modify their body to 46.5 degrees Celsius before perspiration, while also being able to lower their temperature to 36 degrees Celsius at night.  They have a network of very fine blood vessels that travel from heart to the brain that pass through the nasal passages.  This allows blood to cooled before it hits the brain.  Due to their special kidneys which can stop urination, an Oryx can survive 9-20 months without water.  They can get their water requirement met by eating water rich plants. 

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about a real life unicorn, the Oryx. 
That's it for now,

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