Creepy Carnivores


Tarsier Eyes.

Tarsier (Photo credit, Ricky Garni)

Tarsier (Photo credit, Ricky Garni)

For the next couple weeks I am going to write about a very interesting subject, eyes.  First on the list we’ll head to the islands of Southeast Asia to take a look at the world’s only carnivorous primate.  The Tarsier.  The tarsier is a small animal with enormous eyes.  Each eyeball is as large as this creature’s entire brain.  The unique cranial anatomy of the tarsier results from the need to balance their large eyes and heavy head so they are able to wait silently for unsuspecting prey.  As you may have guessed, the tarsier has very acute eyesight, excellent night vision, and may also be able to see ultraviolet light!  The tarsier’s eyes are the largest of any mammal relative to body size. In fact, if a human’s eyes were proportionally as large as those of the tarsier, they would be the size of grapefruits. Its eyes are fixed to its skull and don’t turn in their sockets.  Fortunately, it has a very bendable neck and can rotate its head 180 degrees, just like an owl.  Not that that makes it any less creepy looking, but on the other hand it sort of looks like my dad so…  I guess it’s ok.

To watch my video, click here.

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Diagonal Digitigrades


Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws (Photo credit, Getty Images)

Cat paws

 It's the cats turn for the spotlight this week.  As we focus on cat paws.  Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades.  Which means they walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of the leg.  Felines are unique, they directly register; that is, they place each hind paw almost directly in the print of the corresponding forepaw, minimizing noise and visible tracks. This also provides sure footing for their hind paws when they navigate rough terrain.  And makes them capable of walking very precisely.  Also, the two back legs are muscular to allow falling and leaping far distances without injury.  There are seven pads on the front paws made up of five digital pads, one central or plantar pad that takes most of the weight, and a small wrist pad.  The hind paws on the other hand (or should I say "paw")  have only five pads, four are digital and there is one plantar pad.  Unlike most mammals, when cats walk, they use a "pacing" gait; that is, they move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. This trait is shared with camels and giraffes. As a walk speeds up into a trot, a cat's gait will change to be a "diagonal" gait, similar to that of most other mammals.  Cats are a lot more agile than dogs are, and much of this has to do with their paws and the way they walk.
To see paw anatomy, watch my video by clicking here