Science Question Potpourri 2: Coneys, Okapis, Mantis, Crayfish

Question:
What kind of animal is a coney?

Answer:
According to the arguments I’ve read concerning errors in some Biblical translations, the coney is apparently a ‘rock badger’ but has been confused with rabbits because of its size, coloring, and appearance. (Coney is an obsolete word for ‘rabbit’.) Syrian hyrax (Procama syriaca) or ‘rock badger’ is the common name for the animal.

I couldn’t find a photo of the Syrian hyrax (rock badger), but from reading physical descriptions it seems the snout is not as elongated and the black/white coloring lines aren’t as pronounced as the badgers North Americans are more familiar with. The size and appearance is more like a rabbit’s.

Question:
Breed of Zebra or hoax?

At the risk of sounding silly, or at best gullible, I have a question that I just can’t seem to find out if is true or not!

I was watching a Saturday morning kids “news” show where they cover a variety of news topics that kids would be interested in. The show is not intended to be funny or a joke, but more like a real news show hosted by and aimed at kids. During the animal segment, they did a story on an animal that is found in Africa (I think) that is like a zebra, but has the head resembling that of a giraffe. It has the stripes and body of a zebra, but the head looks more like a giraffe (with the two little horns, but not the long neck). They said that unlike zebras, it was not a herd animal, but rather a loner, that is why it is difficult to photograph or even find in the wild. They had video footage, and I swear it looked real. But I could not find anything about it on the Internet, and of course, when I mention it to friends they all laugh.

So, does such a creature meeting this description exist (or did it at one point) or am I the victim of a very well done hoax story??? (P.S. I did find information on the extinct Quagga, which is more of half horse/half zebra, and that was not the animal that I am referring to.)

Any information you can provide will put my mind at ease – one way or the other. Thank you for your time!!!!

Answer:
I think you might have heard about the okapi, scientific name Okapia johnstoni. According to The Encyclopedia of Mammals, edited by Dr. David Macdonald, it was ‘discovered’ in 1901 by Sir Harry Johnston, the British explorer. They live basically solitary lives, except when females are in heat; males will stay with a female for up to a month (in captivity). They live in the “rain forest of Northern Zaire, between the Oubangi and the Uele rivers in the west and north, and up to the Uganda border and the Semliki river in the east.”

They have typical giraffe-like appearance in their skin-covered horns (males have horns and females may have a horn sheath), teeth, and the long tongue used to pluck leaves from trees.

The legs and the back end are striped like zebras, the head is shaped like a giraffe’s, and the body is a reddish-brown color. Okapi are more closely related to the giraffe and may be the ancestors of present-day giraffes.

Question:
I heard the praying mantis “prays” when they are mating, is that true? What do they normally eat? Is it under the category “harmful” or “peaceful”?

Answer :
The mantids are definitely beneficial! They prey on insects that can be considered pests in the yard or garden. Some people purchase them from natural pest control companies.

Their name came from the first person to describe and identify them. He thought they looked like they were praying, but that position is actually simply a body posture. They are stealthy hunters and will camouflage themselves and sit very still for long periods of time. They catch their prey with their front legs. They also clean their front legs after eating; they rub their legs together then run a leg through their mouth then rub the legs together, etc.

Their name is sometimes spelled ‘preying’ mantis because there are so many insects they prey upon.

There is one species of mantid that has been observed to bite the head off its mate at any time during mating. This has been observed in the wild and in the laboratory. The current thoughts are that the female only does this when annoyed – something goes wrong or is distracted by the movement of a shadow for example – but this does not happen every time. (By the way, the male is able to mate even without a head – this is evidenced by the fact that this one type of mantis is the most common mantis in the world!)

The reputation that has come from this species has spread to other species of mantids! The state insect of South Carolina is the Carolina Mantis because it is so beneficial in pest control.

Question:
Would you tell me about crawdads?

**What type of vision does the crayfish have?
**How does the crayfish protect itself?
**You know how the gills are attached to the legs, well, how is this advantageous, and how do the gills operate when the legs aren’t in motion?
**Why does a crayfish have to molt?
**What enemies do crayfish have?
**Why do the flexor and extensor muscles, which are in the abdomen, differ in size?
**How does the blood get into the heart?
**Why are crayfish’s heads found downstream?

Answer :
1) They have compound eyes made of many photoreceptor units called ommatidia. Each ommatidia has pigment cells that move to adjust for differing amounts of light.

2) The outer covering is a cuticle made of chitin, protein, and calcareous material. The first pair of walking legs, chilipeds, are used to defend themselves.

3) The second maxilliped has a part called a ‘bailer’. The bailer draws water over the gill filaments. The advantage of having them on the legs would be for great surface area (greater opportunity to glean oxygen from the water).

4) The crayfish molts because as it grows the outer carapace becomes too small and tight. It grows a new carapace that hardens with time.

5) Humans, raccoons, bass and other big fish. The crayfish are especially vulnerable when their shell is soft.

6) The flexor and extensor muscles are different sizes because one group does more work than the other; swimming backwards takes more work than swimming forward. Swimming backwards is the best way a crayfish has to escape. The flexors draw the abdomen inward, causing the animal to swim backwards.

7) Blood leaves the heart in arteries, circulates through the hemocoel, then to open spaces before re-entering the heart.

8) I’m not clear on what you’re asking, but you may be referring to the fact that some predators don’t eat the crayfish heads and the heads wash downstream.

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